“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