Superstitions in the workplace

Eating some fruits and using chopsticks may bring bad luck.

September 2, 2022

One superstition in the workplace in Taiwan that few Filipino workers may have heard of is the Kuai Kuai culture.

Many of us may have experienced in the office that our computers or other gadgets act up, but once the IT guy comes, the computer suddenly runs normally. This doesn’t make much sense but the phenomenon does exist. That’s why some people come up with an idea that to make the electronics run smoothly, they can place a bag of Kuai Kuai, a Taiwanese snack whose name basically means well-behaved.

Interestingly, there are some rules with regard to how you place these good luck charms.

First of all, there are different flavors of Kuai Kuai, including five-spice, chocolate, peanut and coconut butter. The only flavor which works as amulet is coconut butter with green packaging. Don’t put five-spice or chocolate flavored Kuai Kuai, which are in yellow or red packages, on your computer or electronics. Instead of making your gadgets obedient, that may cause unwanted outcomes.

Secondly, you should not place a bag of Kuai Kuai on the computer without checking its expiration date. Once the snack expires, the magic of keeping your electronics well-behaved also goes away.

Except for the technology sector, there is a taboo for media workers, health workers, policemen and firefighters in Taiwan. Once you become a journalist, a doctor or a policeman, you’ll be reminded that it’s prohibited to eat pineapples or mangoes, at least not in front of your colleagues.

Why? Taiwanese call pineapples ong-lai, which sounds like “good fortune/prosperity comes” in Taiwanese, and in Mandarin Chinese, the pronunciation of mango is the same as “busyness.” While most industries love their businesses to be prosperous, it’s not a good thing for journalists, doctors or policemen because that means a big disaster, a serious accident may happen or many people may fall ill or be hurt.

Again, there is no scientific basis behind this blind faith and many health workers or policemen may find it ridiculous and never care about the taboo. But as a reporter, I’ve seen more than once that other journalists ate pineapples the day before and the next day, a big news broke out and everyone was overwhelmed in the newsroom. As a result, it’s considered better to believe the taboo than not in the news industry in Taiwan.

There are also some taboos not related to the workplace but to people’s daily lives.

I noticed that in the Philippines, a westernized society, that everybody uses forks and spoons when they are eating. Most Filipinos I met use chopsticks well. In Taiwan, everybody use chopsticks and almost every child has the experience of being scolded by their parents for sticking chopsticks into the rice.

The reason why it’s not allowed, according to my parents, is because it looks like we are worshipping our ancestors by sticking incense sticks in the incense burner bowl. In other words, it symbolizes someone in the family who passed away; hence, it is unpleasant seeing people doing that and those who do that will be considered ill-mannered.

Furthermore, it is rude to knock any plates or bowls with chopsticks. In Chinese culture, hitting dishes with chopsticks is the practice of beggars and the homeless, and it is very impolite to do so at the dinner table.

Last but not least, you’re not supposed to leave any bits of rice in the bowl when you’re finished. Taiwanese parents like to warn their kids that if they don’t cherish food and leave rice in their bowls, it’s very likely that they’ll marry someone with lots of pimples.

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