• Vol. 36 No. 3, 217–220
  • 15 March 2007

Take a Bao if You Are Not Superstitious



Introduction: Singaporeans are superstitious, and medical staff are no exception to the rule. We conducted a survey to determine the prevalence of superstitious beliefs and practices amongst doctors, nurses and medical students in Singapore. Methods: Internet and face-to-face surveys of 68 respondents, all of whom completed the survey after being threatened with curses and hexes. Results: Sixty-eight doctors, nurses and medical students responded to our survey. Only 11 admitted to being superstitious, yet 31 believed in the ill-fortune associated with eating bao or meat dumplings, 6 in the nefarious powers of black (5) or red (1) outfits on call, and 14 believed that bathing (6 insisting on the powers of the seven-flower bath) prior to the onset of a call portended good fortune, in terms of busy-ness of a call. Twenty-four believed in “black clouds”, i.e. people who attracted bad luck whilst on call, and 32 refused to mouth the words “having a good call” until the day after the event. We discovered 2 hitherto undescribed and undiscovered superstitions, namely the benefits of eating bread and the need to avoid beef, for the good and ill fortune associated with their ingestion. Discussion: Superstitious practices are alive and well in modern-day Singapore, the practice not necessarily being restricted to the poorly-educated or foolish.

Superstition, defined by Webster’s dictionary as “a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation”, has not, even now, been eradicated, despite the best efforts of our missionary founders. Predicated on the belief that unseen forces take an active part in our lives, superstitions lead to quaint, sometimes bizarre practices in an (often futile) attempt to wrest control of our destinies.

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