How Do You Sneeze in Your Country?

Today Devon over at Head, Shoulders, Knees and all that wrote a blog post about sneezing in Japan. He said in Japan they say hak-shun when they sneeze. In English we say a-choo.

After Japanese people sneeze, no one says anything special.

In English we say God bless you or Gesundheit. Gesundheit is a German word that literally means health. In German, and also in Yiddish, it’s also said after someone sneezes.

In Italian, they say Felicita (Happiness) after someone sneezes. In French they say Que Dieu vous bénisse (May god bless you) or A tes/vos souhaits (lit. To your wishes).

I’ve been told, and would love a verification, that in China, when someone sneezes, the others in the room bow.

Even the Romans said, Absit omen! (which I believe meant something like, God forbid this from being an omen), after someone sneezed.

It’s believed that the custom of saying “God bless you” comes from the time of a plague, when sneezing was a symptom that you were ill with the sickness.

In some cultures sneezing has been seen as a sign that evil is around. In others, it’s been believed that part of the soul can be expelled by a sneeze.

Of course, with all these beliefs about what happens when you sneeze, some proverbs have arisen about the subject. In Japan, according to Devon, there’s one that has to do with how many times you sneeze…

It says if you sneeze once, it means someone is praising you;
If you sneeze twice, it means someone is criticizing you/saying bad things about you;
If you sneeze three times, it means you are being scolded;
And if you sneeze four times or more, well, it means you have a cold.

In English there’s a saying about the number of times you sneeze and what it means too. It goes…

Once, a wish,
Twice a kiss,
Three times a letter,
Four times something better.

Here’s an English proverb about the day you sneeze on, and what that means…

If you sneeze on Monday, you sneeze for danger;
Sneeze on Tuesday, you kiss a stranger;
Sneeze on Wednesday, you sneeze for a letter;
Sneeze on a Thursday, for something better;
Sneeze on a Friday, you sneeze for sorrow;
Sneeze on a Saturday, your sweetheart tomorrow;
Sneeze on a Sunday, your safety seek,
The devil will have you the whole of the week.

Here’s a last proverb that tells about what it means if you sneeze at different times of day…

Sneeze before you eat,
See your sweetheart before you sleep.
Sneeze between twelve and one,
Sure sign somebody’ll come.
Sneeze between one and two,
Come to see you.
Sneeze between two and three,
Come to see me.
Sneeze between three and four,
Somebody’s at the door.

Please comment below let us know about sneezing in your culture… it’d be interesting to know what sound a person makes when they sneeze, what you say afterwards and anything else you’d like to share about sneezing.

May you all sneeze the right number of times, at the right time, and on the right day! Or perhaps even better, may you not sneeze at all!


This article was posted on Friday, June 2nd, 2006 at 4:39 pm and is filed under Countries & Cultures, Customs and Traditions, English, English Nursery Rhymes, English Proverbs, France, French, German, Gesundheit, Italian, Italy, Japan, Japanese, Languages, Latin, Nursery Rhymes, Proverbs, Proverbs about Sneezing, Sneezing, United Kingdom, USA, Words & Phrases, Yiddish. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

60 Responses to “How Do You Sneeze in Your Country?”

  1. shimke Says:

    I’m not sure whether this also applies to sneezing, but at least when one yawns, I have read that originally you covered your mouth out of fear that your soul may escape and not find the way back. Anyone have further info on this?

  2. Jean Says:

    In breton, i can’t remember what my grandmother would say but translated, it would be “God bless you” and on the second sneeze “The Devil roasts you”…

  3. karen Says:

    When I sneeze, I say, “Excuse Me”….because I am making a disturbance and spreading my germs!!

  4. Gerima Says:

    In Eritrean (Tigrigna), if someone sneezes, people around will say “Yimharka” literally means “God bless you”.

  5. carmen Says:

    Where I was born in Italy, we usually say Salute, which means (to your health) And in some parts of france (where I studied) when someone sneezes they say a tes soins which means to your recovery or health. Soins is pronounces almost the same as souhait. I’ve also heard relatives in France say Salut, which means (health).

  6. Jetca Says:

    in the philippines, many people’s reaction to a sneeze is to assume that someone near the sneezer smells bad. sometimes when i sneeze near my wife, who is pilipina, she’ll say ‘hey i took a bath already!’ the same thing happens among her filipino friends and relatives.

  7. Charlotte Says:

    I’am a Chinese and I live in China. Actuqlly, we say nothing after someone sneezes.
    And here in China if you sneeze once, it means someone is missing you;
    If you sneeze twice, it means someone is criticizing you/saying bad things abou you; If you sneeze three times, it means you have caught a cold and you should take some medicines.^_^

  8. Amazona Says:

    I’m Albanian, and in Albanian when somebody sneezes, we say “Shendet” (shun-det) which means “Health”.

    If your nose itches it means you’re going to get in a fight/argue with someone.

    If your right palm itches, you’re going to give.
    If your left palm itches, you’re going to get.
    (Whether it’s money or something else, doesn’t matter.)

  9. Amazona Says:

    ^shimke, when you yawn, closing your mouth is so your soul doesn’t escape. You want your soul for life and closing your mouth when you yawn , cages it in to keep it from escaping. (Traditional beliefs)

  10. Kevin Says:

    When I was learning French, we said either bonne santé or just santé, which mean “good health” and just “health,” respectively. My teachers have not been in France in over a decade.

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