A sneeze can be a satisfying split second, for many. And just like a sneeze is an involuntary reflex by our body, sneezing around the world is often responded to by a similarly reflexive reply.
No matter where you go, responding to a sneeze with the proper customary remark will endear you to the locals. Here’s a great infographic on customary replies to sneezing around the world:
Sneezing Customs in Europe
“Responses to sneezing are often attributed to 6th century pope Gregory the Great, who instigated ‘God bless you’ as protection against the bubonic plague.
It is thought that the Greeks and Romans saw sneezing as a sign of wellness and expressed their good wishes by saying ‘live long,’ or ‘may Jupiter bless you.'”
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How South America Responds to a Sneeze
“In Latin American cultures, there are usually different responses for the first three sneezes: salud (health), dinero (money), and amor (love).
In 1687, the Dutch gained control over former English colonies in northeast South America, including Suriname. Dutch is still their official language, hence their use of gezondheid.”
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Sneeze Responses in North America
“Why are all but one of these Spanish- or English-speaking countries? European colonization of North America began in 1492, and by the beginning of the 17th century, Spain and England had both established major colonies in North America.
Spain ceded what was to become Haiti to France in 1697, resulting in the French-based Haitian Creole language. Due to Polynesian colonization, in Hawaii they say ‘kihe a mauli ola‘ which means ‘sneeze and you shall live.'”
Sneezing Customs in Africa
“In East Africa, it can be considered quite rude to sneeze loudly. If you do it in front of older people, you may receive a disdainful look.
The wide variety of sneeze responses on the continent can be attributed to colonization, which saw the rise of languages including English, French, Portuguese, and Arabic.”
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Customary Replies to a Sneeze in Asia
“It is not customary to respond to sneezes in China, Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, and India. Vietnamese don’t respond to adult sneezes, but say cơm muối (rice with salt) if a child sneezes.
One sneeze in China means someone is missing you, two means someone is criticizing you, and three means you’ve caught a cold. Islamic culture believes that sneezing lightens the mind, so when it happens, one should praise Allah. There is a superstition in many Asian countries that if you sneeze, it means someone, somewhere is talking about you.”
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How People React to Sneezing in Australia & Oceania
“Vanuata is host to over a hundred different languages. English and French are the most common, as the British and French jointly occupied the country back in the 1900s.
In the winter of 1791, the British colonization of Australia began. Before this brutal process, around 250 aboriginal languages were spoken.”