SNEEZES Around the World

Translated by Akiko.Tsuji-san


A colleague from work had suggested that "sneezes" could be an interesting topic.

When somebody sneezed during my Japanese language class, usually an American or an European student who noticed the sneeze would say, "Bless you!" An alternate version would be "God bless you" so I am told, but since it happened during class, the shorter version "Bless you!" as I recall was probably mentioned. It had happened without exception, which quite amused me. I asked the reason for this, but I cannot remember it exactly. I think it was something like this.When you sneeze, something 'evil' could enter your body. So you say "Bless you!" to prevent this 'evil' from seizing you. How would a Westerner coming to Japan feel, if nobody around him said, "Bless you!" when he sneezed?


Germany 1

According to the person who offered me advice, "Gesundheit!" is exchanged in place of "Bless you!" in Germany. 'Gesundheit' means 'health' it is said. Does Germany have an original legend? I am very much eager to finding it out.

Canada 1

A person from Canada gives proof to the German version above. He shared various thoughts concerning the subject and added, "It's an interesting story that in Germany, instead of saying 'Bless you!,' they say 'Gesundheit!'" It amused me to hear a German word I had never heard before twice on the same day.

Australia 1

An Australian told me. A person who sneezed says 'Excuse me,' or 'Sorry,' and a person who happened to be there says either 'Bless you,' or 'God bless you.' And there are even cases when 'Gesundheit' is said. The feeling behind this is something similar to "Take care," I am told. Why is it that everybody knows this German expression? He went on to inform me about an even more interesting thing. According to his story, when someone in France sneezes, they say, "May your hopes (or dreams) come true!" This is just what we say in Japan, when somebody sees a shooting star before it disappears. I would certainly like to find it out from a French person.

France 1

And I did. In France, they also say 'Gesundheit!' And just as my Australian friend had taught me, they do say, "May your dreams come true!" Older people tend to prefer the latter version. It is amusing that a sneeze makes your dream come true. But why?


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Sneeze in France 2, Germany 2

Dear Diane-san,
Thank you for joining in making Multiculturalpedia. We deeply appreciated your precious comments. How witty he is! We all laughed. Soon we will add your commentary to the sneeze section. Please say hello to your students. Thank you again.

What a charming site! I've already bookmarked it to add tomy homepage, so my students can find it easily. I'm a high school teacher of French and German, and would like to add (further!) commentary to your already very rich page on sneezes.

I've lived in France for two years, and spent several summers in Germany, so here are my observations: The French "└ tes souhaits", which you correctly translate as "To your wishes" or "May your wishes/dreams come true", can sometimes be replaced by a more intimate version: "└ tes amours", if you know the person well. (= to your loves...)

A German friend of mine who thought himself quite witty once gave my friend the traditional "Gesundheit" "(Iwish you) health" after she sneezed. But when I did so a few minutes later, I got: "Gescheitheit -- gesund bist duja!" which means "I wish you cleverness -- you're already smart!" Not very nice, but still pretty funny.
Diane-san, Toronto, Ontario Canada

United Kingdom 1

I asked a person from the United Kingdom. 'Bless you' and 'God bless you' are mentioned to the person who sneezed. They also say the German 'Gesundheit!' I went on and asked him the reason for this 'Bless you.' He told me that within a person's body dwells a devil. When this devil is irritated, a person sneezes. To prevent it from worsening, 'Bless you' is exchanged.


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United Kingdom 2

hi, just read about sneezes, I am from uk and as far as I know "bless you" or "god bless you" came about because the plague started like a cold and the person who said bless you was sort of saying they hoped it was nothing worse....... and god bless you if it was

sam-san

Japan 1

In our country, it is often said that
1 sneeze is a sign that something favorable is being rumored about you;
 however,
2 or more sneezes indicate that a bad rumor is going around.



Japan 2

I asked a colleague from work. She told me that there is a Japanese saying as the following:

	1 sneeze - praise ('ichi home')
	2 sneezes - criticism ('ni-kusashi')
	3 sneezes - disparagement ('san-kenashi')
	4+ sneezes - sign of a cold ('yottsu-ijo wa kaze no moto')

She was wondering that why is the counting system different between 1 through 3 ('ichi ni san') and 4 ('yottsu'). What do you think?


Japan 3

I was taught from a long term resident of Tokyo what to say to somebody that sneezed once, twice, three times, or four times.
"Once being praised ('ichi homerare'),
Twice being detested ('ni nikumare'), 
Three times being admired ('san horerare'),
And four times, you are going to catch a cold ('shi kaze o hiku')."


Japan 4

A resident of Hyogo prefecture told me the following words expressed when there are sneezes once , twice, and three times.
"One to praise ('ichi home'),
Two to slander ('ni soshiri'),
And three to be laughed at ('san waraware')."	


Japan 5

I would like to thank Ms. Maejima who sent the following comment to the "Forum" (Japanese version):"I was born and raised in Tokyo. And we say,
Once being praised ('ichi homerarete'),
Twice being disparaged ('ni kenasare'),	
Three times being scolded ('san shikarare'),	
And four times catch a cold ('shi kaze hiku').	

In abroad and when you happen to sneeze for example on a train, even a total stranger will definitely say to you, 'Bless you!' So you always reply 'Thanks' without hesitation."

United States 2

The Americans care about health and well being of somebody else, in many cases complete strangers, so do they still follow this custom even in Japan? Or do they just forget about it since "When in Tokyo (Rome), do as the Tokyoites (Romans) do"? I asked an American, "Do you say 'Bless you!' when you hear sneezing in Japan?" The response was "It depends on the TPO. If it is a place where I will not be frowned upon, I will go ahead and say without any reserves; however, if the occasion does not call for it I just mumble to myself, or say it in my heart."

Korea 1

A Korean acquaintance shared with me their version. The following is our conversation on the topic.
"In Korea, sneeze is expressed by the onomatopoeic 'eichi''. If somebody happens to sneeze, you sai 'eichi'." "Why is it so?" "I am not really sure.""If you hear a stranger sneeze aboard a train, do you say 'eichi' to the person?" "No. You only say it to people you are close with."

(Spanish-speaking Societies, but not in Spain?) 1

A colleague of mine contributed to the following account. It is not certain whether a custom of expressing words with concern takes place in Spain or Spanish-speaking societies, but there is such a story.
If somebody sneezes:

once, you say 'Salud' (health),
twice, you say 'Salud y dinero' (health and money), 
or three times, you say 'Salud y dinero y amor'
                             (health and money and love).
Then you respond "Gracias" (thank you).

It is quite interesting that the Spanish version and the Japanese one are alike in that the number of sneezes is a factor. Although the languages are different, the caring and concern showed and expressed to a person that sneezes are similar no matter where you are. Of course, there are various ways in expressing the thoughts. I have a positive sense that more variations will be lying ahead.


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Sneeze in Spain 1

Dear Clara-Mie Canovas Rodriguez-san, thank you for visiting the Multiculturalpedia site.We really appreciate your valuable information.Your infomation is exactly what we'd like to know.And thank you for your kind encouragement.
Dear Friends of the Japan Forum: I am from Spain and I was quite interested in your culture aproach comparing different customs in each culture. But I was quite surprised about your information on spanish ways of reacting about sneazing. As far as I know, in Spain -I do not know about other spanish speaking countries- when someone sneazes everybody says "Jesus" inmediately. It seems to be that a terrible epidemy occurred some centuries ago and many people died of influenza. From that time on, the name of Jesus Christ was said aloud to ask for divine protection. And that is all. I enjoy your web page very much.
Please, keep on!
INSTITUTO DE JAPONOLOGIA
Clara-Mie Canovas Rodriguez-san

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Sneeze in Mexico 1

Dear Donnalee Blankenship-san, thank you for visiting the Multiculturalpedia site. Thanks for sharing your infomation.We enjoyed it very much.
Concerning Sneezes Around the World:I lived with a family in Mexico for a month and they would say the following after successive sneezes:
  1. sneeze = salud (health)
  2. sneezes = dinero (money)
  3. sneezes = amor (love)
  4. sneezes or more = alergÝas (allergies)
They would always laugh if anyone passed 3 sneezes because, of course, it is much more desireable to achieve health, money and love over allergies! It was their way of saying, "oops!"

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Sneeze in Brazil 1

Dear Rita Espeschit-san, thank you for visiting the Multiculturalpedia.We appreciate your valuable information.Thank you again for taking the time to forward info. Many people would read your article.
When someone sneezes here, we also say "sa˙de" (means "health")Older people can say "Deus te ajude" (something like "Godhelp you"), and the sneezing people have to answer "Amen".

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Sneeze in Brazil 2

Dear Rhonda Braz da Silva-san, thank you for joining in making the Multiculturalpedia.We appreciate your valuable information.Thank you again for taking the time to forward info. Many people would read your article.
My husband is from Brazil and I also lived there after we got married for 2 years. Besides saying "Deus te ajude" and "Sa˙de", his family also says "Deus te crie". This is like saying "God raise you", which sounds strange in English. My husband says this quite frequently to our little baby boy. I believe, however, that this expression may be particular to his family because I don't remember hearing it among my other friends.

Yugoslavia 1

A person from Yugoslavia was kind enough to share with me their version. The following is our exchange.

"When somebody sneezes, people around him says 'Na zdravlje! '"
"What does it mean?"
"Well, let's see... It is very similar to the English 'for your health'. I believe it implicates wishes to prevent the person who sneezed from possibly falling ill, or hoping for this person's health."
She went on and added, "You do not really think about the implication behind it, but it is expressed more spontaneously like a greeting or something."
"Quite amusing! So there should be a response in return, right?"
"Yes. When somebody tells you 'Na zdravlje!' you respond 'Hvala', right away."
"I guess that means 'Thank you,' doesn't it?"
"Wow! Do you understand Serbian?"
Well, anyone can understand this, I am sure.


Argentina 1

I had the following exchange concerning the subject with a Japanese expatriate in the field of Japanese language education transferred to Argentina .

"In Argentina, what do you say to a person who sneezed?"

" You say 'Salud!' It is exchanged when toasting as well. It means 'health' and 'happiness'.''


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Sneezes in Holland (The Netherlands) 1

Dear Jeff Mertens-san, thanks for sharing your infomation.We enjoyed it very much.And thank you for your kind encouragement.
Hello folks at the Japanese Forum.

I'm from Holland (The Netherlands) and I enjoyed your page! I would like to contribute to your "Seenez around the world". In Holland we would say: "gezondheid", wich means health.
Here it orginates from the middle ages where it was believed that you could sneeze out your soul.
In order to prevent that they said: gezondheid! The sneezer will reply with: "bedankt" (thanks).
We don't give any special meaning to the number of sneezes. That was totally new for me.
It's very interesting al these different cultures. Keep on!

Groetjes (greetings),

Jeff Mertens-san

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Sneezes in Holland (The Netherlands) 2

A quicky on sneezing. When you sneeze three times in a row, it means that tomorrow will be a sunny day! At least in Holland. :) Also, the response to someone sneezing overhere is "Gezondheid" or "Proost" where proost is also used when toasting with alcoholic drink.

Eduard Bock-san
Thank you very much.

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Poland 1
Dear Zosia-san,
Thank you for participating in making Multiculturalpedia. We will add this info to Multiculturalpedia. Many people would enjoy your precious comments.Thank you indeed.

I noticed that someone from the US was doing a report on Poland. I am from Poland (my family moved here in 1992), and my parents always try to make sure I don't forget our language, customs, etc. When somebody in my house sneezes, we say "Na zdrowie", which means "to your health", and "cheers" is the same. "Hello" can be different depending on what time of day it is, like "dzien dobry" for "good day" and "dobry wieczor" for "good evening", but kids say "czesc" more often, because it's less formal. 70% of people in Poland are devout Christians, so most marriages are in churches, with a "wesele" after them, which is a time when people dance and play games. Two of the three "rules" are true, but instead of "taxi" we say "taksowka". I hope this helps.

Zosia-san

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Lithuania 1
As far as Bless You when sneezing, in Lithuanian it is I Sveikata - to your health. This same "I Sveikata" is also used as a toast like "skoal" in scadinavian countries
Jurate Jensen-san Chicago, IL USA - Thursday, April 27, 2000

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English speaking people
Well in response to some other people's letters, although I am not religious at all and am not American or European, I still know why people say "Bless you" when you sneeze. When you sneeze, some people believe your soul would try to escape (from your nose no less), and saying "Bless you" quickly would keep your soul in. I don't believe in any of it, otherwise my soul would be gone several hundred times by now. :)
Sherman-san HK, Hong Kong - Monday, June 12, 2000 at 20:03:38 (JST)

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United Kingdom 3
I was always brought up to believe that when you sneezed your heart stopped - atwhich time your soul left your body - and therefore we say bles you to stop eveil spirits or the devil entering!
Helen Brzenczek-san United Kingdom - Thursday, August 10, 2000 (JST)

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India 1
In India too sneezing is considered an omen of badluck 'nd O yes, COLD!!The funny thing is ive heard many different people sneeze in various ways..A lady would sneeze like 'achum'..instantly dissolving her sneeze into her lace hankerchief..an office clerk would sneeze like 'aachooo' on a normal day and 'AAAchOOOn' 'aAAchooo oooo'if he has sympathetic audience.......while my favourite is the village simpleton who sneezes regardless of anyone ..in his own tune as if his nose is allowing the sneezes to escape freely....he goes.. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAcccccccHHHHHHHHHH HHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOn'...repeat ..once more..then repeat!!!!!!
sulekha-san Mumbai, HP INDIA - Sunday, November 26, 2000 (JST)

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Iran 1
Hi to all of you.
I'm from Iran. I enjoyed from your page. It's really intresting.

In my country when someone sneezes, we also say"afiyat bashe"(means I wish you good health).
And the sneezing people say "Elahi shokr"(means Thanks god for be health).

In my country the first sneeze means to wait for a few minutes and don't do the work that you was doing and if you was deciding to do somthing it's better don't do that thing.
Second sneeze means the first sneeze to be canceled.

(The first sneeze means to wait for a few minutes and stop your work and and whatever you were doing for a few minutes and then going on. And if you were deciding to do sth you'd better don't do that thing. If you do your work and don't pay atention to the sneeze maybe a bad thing happensto you.
If you have the 2nd sneeze at the same time it means not to pay atention to the first one and do whatever you want.)

Of course some people belive this manner and some people say this is just a superstition.
Somayyeh Ahmadi-san, Iran - Sunday, August 26, 2001 (JST)

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