Response to a Sneeze: Cultural Differences
Written by Justin Jin Woo Won
There are many cultures around the world. Thousands of languages, cultures, and religions dominate each continents, nations, and even a local towns or villages. Among the many aspects that reflect the cultural differences, the response to a sneeze throughout the various cultures is very intriguing one. Here are some very interesting differences among different cultures in the respect to the response to a sneeze.
Prevailing majority of this culture of responding to a sneeze is saying words like “God bless you,” or “Health.” European and Arabian cultures have the culture of responding to a sneeze with the aforementioned words. “Bless you,” or “Gesundheit” (an obscure way of responding to a sneeze; means “health” in German) is used in English-speaking nations such as United States, Great Britain, and Australia. Other European countries have similar practices. For example, the Dutch sneeze-listeners say, “Gezondheid” (“health” in dutch), the French “vos souhaits” (“To your loves” in French), the Georgian “Itsotskhle” (“live long” in Georgian), the Italian “Salute” (“Health” in Italian). European cultures are among the cultures that do respond to a sneeze.
Middle Eastern and Indus cultures also do have the practice of responding to a sneeze. Persian speakers say “Afiat Bahsheh” (“May purity be bestowed upon you”). Arabic speakers say “Sahna” (“Health”). Though considered different languages, the members of Arabic language group overall have it a norm to respond to a sneeze. Similarly, Indian cultures such as Gujarati, Punjabi, and Hindi customarily respond to a sneeze with words meaning “Truth,” “May you be blessed,” etc. Indian, Middle Eastern, European, and American cultures all customarily respond to a sneeze, revealing people’s good will to wish good of others.
Although most cultures have a response to a sneeze, East Asian cultures, which consists of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Taiwanese cultures, do not have such custom. For instance, in Japanese culture, it is a norm not to respond to a sneeze and it is normal to have an “awkward (to the Westerners)” silence after a sneeze. Chinese and Korean cultures similarly do not have the practice of responding to a sneeze. It is one of the possible reasons why Asians seem to people from other cultures emotionally detached and indifferent. It is very fascinating how what some people of a culture feel it necessary to say something to a person who sneezes and another people from a different culture feel it weird to respond to other person’s sneeze.
Distinct, different, and varied, cultures around the world are extremely engrossing subjects. A culture of responding a sneeze reveals a seemingly trivial but very entertaining example of cultural differences. Don’t you have an experience of feeling awkward and uneasy to sneeze because you feared somebody will say bless to you? I figure you do if you have traveled abroad, exploring an exotic culture of other countries of not your own.