Superstition meets tradition: what not to do before an exam

By Hoang Hoang   July 1, 2016 | 04:40 am PT
The clock is ticking for high school seniors in Vietnam as they enter the last big test: the infamous college entrance exam. Admit it, studying alone will not get you a place at your dream school. But fear not, we Vietnamese students have plenty of ways to get lucky.

1. No egg, so do not beg for it

When you look at an egg, what do you think of? You bet, it looks like zero, the number. In Vietnam, students do not eat eggs prior and during their exam period for fear of… receiving a 0. There is an old Vietnamese idiom that says: “praying pays, avoiding pays.” It’s better to watch out than regret.

“My parents did not let me eat any eggs weeks before my exams, no sunny-side up, no scrambled, not even boiled egg because they think that eating eggs would result in bad grades. I missed those omelet sandwiches in the morning,” Phuong, reminisced about her revision time five years ago. 

2. Red beans, if you can, please have them for breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner and supper

Van, a former French major, still has goose bumps reflecting of the time when he had to deal with the red bean problem. “Imagine yourself drinking red beans smoothie for breakfast, occasionally having red bean sticky rice for lunch and red bean cake as dessert. Glad I made it to my school of choice. Otherwise, I would have to go through that one more time,” he laughed in tears.

As the main ingredient of many Vietnamese desserts, red bean is undisputedly tasty. But having your mom sneaking around trying to put it inside all the dishes she could is not something so pleasant. As the name suggests, red bean is red, the lucky color in many Asian cultures. Vietnam is not an exception. Eating red bean is believed to bring good fortune to you, meanwhile eating black bean is widely avoided because the color is equated with bad luck.

3. Squid and banana? How about “no” and “no”

Squid use their black ink to blind predators. And as you might guess, parents and students want their future to be bright and shiny. So surely, eating squid would be something to put in the “No” list.

But why banana? Benefits of this yellow fruit are undisputable. But no matter how healthy it is, banana’s skin is slippery. Eating a banana before an exam is believed to make students “trip” on their way to college.

4. Which foot should I set out first?

On the day of the exam, students do not simply leave the house as they normally do. There are tons of things they need to pay attention to before they go the door. The right foot has to be the first one to step outside, so that the students would get the answers right. If you are taking an exam, you have to leave before the 30th minute, say 1:27 p.m., leaving after that is considered bad luck. Rumor has it that if the first person you see outside is a woman, you should be careful because women are said to carry a “heavy spirit” that would drag you down.

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