British and Polish superstitions – similar and different at the same time

Jun 16, 2020

There are some obvious superstitions like Friday the 13th, black cat or the four-leaf clover that we’re all familiar with, even though only some of us believe in them. However, there are also some that aren’t as popular and might be confusing. Actually, not many of us realise how baffling some of the British and Polish superstitions can be!

‘Touch wood’ equals ‘knock on unpainted wood’?

In Poland when someone thinks of a scary, risky idea or assumption and says it out loud not wanting it to come true, they quickly find a bit of unpainted wood around them and knock on it. What happens with British people when they don’t want to jinx something is they just simply touch any bit of wood around them. 

What do shoes on a table mean?

Both the UK and Poland agree that you should never put shoes on a table, the reasons are different though. For British people shoes put on a table symbolise death and indicate that someone will die soon. In Poland the meaning of putting shoes on a table is as simple as bad luck.

What should you do with a penny you find on a street?

British people would say that if you spot a penny on a street, you should pick it up and that’s going to give you some good luck. However, Polish people made things more complicated, so in order to have good luck after picking up a penny (‘1 grosz’) on a street, you have to blow on it and hide it quickly in your pocket.

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue… or red?

These superstitions sound similar but are actually very different. When a British person is getting married they make sure to wear 4 of the following things: something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue – all of that in order to make sure they live the happiest life possible afterwards. However, in Poland the items you should wear are: something borrowed and something red – you’re supposed to have these two on you on the day of your important exam. 

Bad luck comes in pairs… or in threes?

This difference is very simple… and very surprising. In Poland it is common to say that if one unlucky thing happens to you, another one will follow. In the UK though, people seem to be more pessimistic – it is believed that not one, but two bad things will happen after the first one, unfortunately.

Wiktoria Lewandowska

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