No Number Four

A few years ago I lived in an old, enormous apartment block in Taiwan. I look the lift to my apartment every day, it was far too hot to climb fifteen floors. I do the same now in Kuala Lumpur, I live on the twenty-first floor and it’s even hotter which means you won’t find me in the stairwell.

What’s the point? Well, let me tell you.

In both these apartment blocks there are no number fours. No number fours? Yes, no number fours.

In Taiwan the fourth floor was completely missed out, the lift went from 3 to 5. In my current home in KL instead of floor 4 it’s floor 3a, floor 14 is replaced with 13a, 24 with 23a… and so on depending on how ridiculously high the building is.


In Taiwan this was a frequent feature of all buildings. In Kuala Lumpur it only seems to happen in the Chinese built buildings and my apartment block is one of those.

In Chinese culture number four (sì) is an unlucky number because it sounds very similar to the word for death (sǐ). Don’t even think about buying things in fours or giving a friend four of something, you’re dicing with death. That’s why you won’t find the number four in your lift, if you live in a Chinese building like me.


In Chinese culture similarities in tone or meaning can really affect the use of a number or word.

I researched (Googled) to see how common this is, if it’s taken very seriously (well, it must be if you can’t even live on floor 4). Apparently, according to Google, this is common place in a few East Asian countries including Japan and Korea.

Random and interesting fact alert courtesy of Today I Found Out:

In the early 2000s Alfa Romeo had to change a name for a new model 144 car in Singapore because people were afraid to buy it. For similar reasons, Nokia does not release any phone models that begin with the number “four”.

There you have it, be careful of the number four. Thankfully I’m quite lucky to live on the 21st floor  as the number 2 is a lucky number in Chinese. The number 2 suggests a harmonious existence and good things will be repeated, sounds promising! Despite this I’m considering moving to the 8th floor because I’ve now read that number 8 is another lucky number because 8 sounds like the Chinese word for wealth.

Random and interesting fact alert courtesy of Travel China Guide:

The popularity of 8 was obvious in relation to the Beijing Olympic Games which commenced at exactly eight minutes past eight o’clock on the eighth day of the eighth month in 2008. When people choose telephone numbers, mobile numbers, house numbers, car identification numbers and important dates, 8 is usually the first choice.

Don’t you just love cultural differences? In the west we’re scared of the number 13 and in the east it’s the number 4. After food (obviously) cultural differences are undoubtedly my favourite thing about travelling and living abroad.

Fingers crossed you don’t end up in hospital room 4, argh!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s