Within a nation that has been deemed “the melting pot” due to its wide array of inhabitants of various cultures, it may be difficult to believe that one might be truly shocked at the practices of other cultures. Though some beliefs are merely strange, others are astonishing, even difficult to believe. For your education and entertainment, we have compiled a list of the top five weird health beliefs of other cultures.
Though Americans display little concern for the size of one’s feet in relation to their attractiveness, other cultures like the Chinese directly associate smaller feet with a high level of beauty. Beginning as early as age six, Chinese women were forced to bind their feet with tight bandages which limited growth and development. This practice consisted of soaking feet in a mixture of herbs and animal blood, cutting the toenails to prevent infection, massaging the feet in preparation of breaking the toes, and pulling the toes toward the heel. As a prominent practice that was practiced for over a thousand years, foot binding causes disability in elderly Chinese women to this day.
Unusual Tooth Practices
While many American children lie awake at night in hopes that the tooth fairy will reward them for losing baby teeth, children in other cultures have different traditions that they follow when teeth are lost. For example, children of Greek heritage toss their teeth onto the roof for good luck. Afterwards, the children make a wish regarding their hope of healthy permanent teeth. However, Malaysian children bury their lost tooth. The theory behind this action is that their body will then be returned to the Earth.
In western cultures various forms of body language are viewed as offensive or inappropriate. Showing the middle finger, shaking with the left hand, and turning away from someone who is talking are signs of disrespect. Similarly, other culture also have forms of nonverbal communication that can speak as effectively as words themselves. In fact, in Argentina the “OK” and “thumbs up” sign are viewed as symbols of disrespect and vulgar language. Interestingly, in France, individuals greet each other with kisses, yet the number and side of the kiss reception differs depending upon the region.
Many traditions vary from country to country based on religious beliefs, old wives’ tales, and superstition. In Japan, children cover their belly buttons when they hear thunder. The story behind this practice stems from the God of Thunder, who will eat their belly buttons if they do not cover them. Similarly, shoes must always be removed before entering a Japanese home as a sign of respect.
Weddings contain the most vast and immense number of traditions that vary depending on religious and cultural beliefs. In western cultures, the bride is expected to be walked down the aisle by her father and the bride and groom often refrain from seeing each other the night before the wedding. Yet, Norwegian brides traditionally wear silver crowns that boast dangling charms to ward away evil spirits. In contrast, in the Middle East weddings often consist of a series of five parties, which begin with the engagement party and end with the wedding shower (approximately seven days after marriage).
Though many traditions that are relevant to individuals in other cultures may seem silly or unnecessary to others, these beliefs run deep in tradition. Retaining cultural beliefs and heritage are essential in maintaining connections and reliving history. Nothing is more beautiful than sharing century-old traditions and passing them onto future generations.
Jeff Messner is a trauma nurse and guest author at Top Nursing Programs, where you can read his latest article on the top 10 online MSN degree programs.