Cape Town - Ever got odd looks when you say 'bless you' after someone sneezes while travelling? Well, as it turns out a sneeze can mean very different things depending on where in the world you are.
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It is believed that 'bless you' originated in the 6th century when the Pope of that time said "God bless you" as a guard against the bubonic plague! The divine response proliferated throughout the world because of colonisation, and English-speaking South Africans also still say "bless you" alongside the Afrikaans "gesondheid" (health) and the Zulu "thuthuka" (grow).
Other African nations also go with various versions of "health" and "God bless", though some digress like Uganda - "bbuka" (recover) - and various countries colonised by the Portuguese say "santinho" (little saints) while those colonised by the French say "à tes/vos souhaits" (to your wishes). In North Africa they say "alhumdullilah" and Ethiopia is the odd one out with the judgey "yimarish" (may God forgive).
In Latin America, the first sneeze means "health", the second one "money" and the third one "love". Most of Northern America is similar to the English "bless you", while Asian countries like China, South and North Korea, Taiwan and Japan do not respond to sneezes at all. For them, it can also mean that someone somewhere is talking about you behind your back.
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This easy to read infographic below from Expedia will have you talking in sneeze language in no time at all. But maybe also grab a tissue first.