I will probably die…

“I live on the fourth floor,” I said to her, rather unaware. Instantly her face became gravely amused. It seemed she was about to give me some rather poor news, and seemed rather excited about it.

“That is a very unlucky number in Korea…it means death.”


Apparently, living on the fourth floor in Korea is the equivalent to living on the 13th floor in the United States. The words for four (sa) sound very similar to the word for death. Like most American buildings that go up that high and just “skip” that floor, most buildings in Korea do likewise. Usually they replace the 4 with an F or something. For whatever reason though, my building did not.

I live on the “Death” floor.

There are similar fears in China and Japan where four also means death. There’s even a name for this fear, it’s called “Tetraphobia.”


As she moved past her fears of the number four and entered my apartment she again gasped. I had walked in ahead of her and turned to see her mouth agape and her body slowly inching out into the hall.

“You leave your air conditioner on with the windows closed?” She asked, this time in a not-amused grave way.

“Um yah…I also sleep with it like this, with a fan blowing,” I responded, “the noise helps me fall asleep.”

“But you could die!”


Apparently there’s another urban legend in Korea that I have been unaware of, and that is fan death. Basically the thought is that if you leave a fan on during the night it will replace all the oxygen with carbon dioxide and you will die; or it will send the sleeper into hypothermia; or if there is a fan blowing directly onto someone (something I do nightly) it will push all the air away from them, creating a vacuum.

She would not enter my apartment because she was legitimately afraid that she would be walking into a room filled with dioxide. I was leading her into a death trap on the death floor. She would only enter when I turned off the air conditioner and had opened all the windows for at least 3 minutes.

god…there is no way I’m making it out of this country alive…

If you stop hearing from me on April, 4th…just assume some Korean ring lady jumped out of my television and froze me to death with my box fan

Oh yeah, also I can’t use red ink to write student’s names or they will cry…apparently when I did that Monday it was the equivalent to me wishing death on all of them




Filed under Culture

12 responses to “I will probably die…

  1. V

    wow, this is the best news i’ve heard since you left…. 4

  2. V

    also, i hope that girl that posted on you facebook isn’t a teacher of englsih as well, since she doesn’t know how to use the word HEAR… haha

  3. i noticed that as well, but pretended not to notice

    also, as a teacher of English I should point out that it’s YOUR facebook…not YOU facebook

  4. V

    that’s known as a typo, not a usage issue

  5. I’d still mark you down…with red ink

  6. Dave

    Have you confirmed these urban legends with other Koreans? You sure she didn’t change her mind about coming back to your apartment, then needed a good excuse?

  7. Did she come in?
    please…I run this country 🙂

    but a quick internet lesson

    the red text is a link
    a link leads to another website
    in this case the links are about the aforementioned urban legends
    at websites that I did not write

    Also I heard both of these legends before from other, various sources…

  8. Dave

    I have a quick internet lesson for you. Wikipedia is a website that posts information that non-accredited writers can add at any time. Unlike traditional encyclopedias, in which editors have to validate the accuracy of information before anything is published, Wikipedia has no such control on the accuracy of its information. Case in point, I once read on Wikipedia that the population of African Elephants was rising at such a high rate it was endangering human beings, when in reality, the opposite is true. I am not trying to say that this girl was definitely lying to you, or that these articles are false, but to use Wikipedia as a definitive source of information is risky at best, and potentially perilous. Just remember, whether you are right next to me or across the world, no smart-ass comment you make will go uncountered. With that being said: Go state, go see Superbad if you can, fuck the yankees, I’m out!

  9. I agree, Wikipedia is an non-accredited source. In fact the links I posted are begging for citation

    however, I did not write those Wikipedia pages, neither did the girl. Somebody else did

    That’s at least 3 people who know this story, and I doubt we’re the only ones

    So while the stories may be somewhat inaccurate, the point is they exist

    also, superbad isn’t out here…the only movies of ours they get are action movies (bourne ultimatum) or love stories (recipe of love)…koreans have a habit of turning our comedies into sappy love stories (American Pie) i’ll probably talk about this more later

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