Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Open Umbrella: Etiquette or Superstition?

Sometimes there are those minuscule French/American cultural differences that pop up when you least expect them.

Today was a torrentially rainy day in New York City.  I arrived at work and immediately, as is the custom in our office, propped my umbrella wide open to dry it out, setting it in one of the few available corners of our unstructured office space by the conference table. I thought nothing of it.

Mid morning, I had a meeting with a French colleague.  We sat down and instantly I apologized for the now-dried umbrella crowding the floor of the conference room area, and hastily folded it up.  "One of the big/small cultural differences I've noted between Paris and the U.S.,"  I remarked, "is that no one in Paris ever leaves their umbrella wide-open for quicker drying.  There just isn't enough space. Cela ne se fait pas. [It is just not done.]"

"Ben, oui," she replied, "Cela ne se fait pas. But it's not a matter of space, though, Polly:  it's a question of superstition."

Aha.  Aha?

What do you think?  Do you leave your umbrella to dry open, or closed?

Don't laugh.  These things matter.


Susan B said...

My mother (not French) was superstitious about open umbrellas indoors, so it was ingrained in me to never open an umbrella indoors, or close it up before coming inside.

Not Scarlett said...

As a native of Louisiana and therefore being raised with the influence of French culture, indeed, an umbrella is never to be opened indoors. It is considered to be bad luck on parallel with the breaking of a mirror.

bevgrey said...

I have heard this all my life (lived in the Mid-Atlantic states). Most everyone I know has heard of the superstition, but not many actually believe it. Supposedly, if an umbrella is opened in the house, someone will die. A friend of mine swore this actually happened, but I think she just wanted to blame someone or something for the death of her relative.

Unknown said...

Dry, umbrella, dry!

CBLeigh said...

We always dried our umbrellas open in the house. Figured that a dry umbrella would last longer than putting one away wet. BUT we were told NEVER to put an open umbrella over your head when inside. That was bad luck. :)

Canedolia said...

In Scotland, the superstition is that if you open an umbrella indoors it brings on the rain.

Needless to say, this theory has been proven correct by countless times by experience!

Polly-Vous Francais said...

I had always heard that opening the umbrella to dry prevented weakening of the threads that attached the fabric to the frame; but that must be old news, now that we have polyester thread, right? And yes, never opening it over your head indoors: bad luck. But in France, wet umbrellas were routinely hung on door handles to dry, and that was such an eye-opener to me.
@ Canedolia, MDR!

Diane said...

Hi Polly,
Sadly today, I received a spam email from you (but not you). It had a link to a weight loss thingie.

Just thought you would like to know.


Autolycus said...

I don't use umbrellas because (a) they're one more encumbrance to carry around (b) I tend to lose them (these two facts may not be unconnected).


The superstition that it's unlucky to open an umbrella indoors isn't just French. My mother and part-Scottish father weren't too keen, either. Given that umbrellas aren't that old, in general usage, it may well be just a matter of space in the average home. A Victorian hallway wasn't complete without some receptacle (complete with drip tray) to stow your (closed) umbrella or walking-stick.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

My apologies to all if you got a spam email from me. Sadly, my account was hacked. O the internets! I have corrected the situation (I hope) and changed my password.


Anonymous said...

Opening an umbrella outside is OK in my South American birth country. But opening one inside any place is considered bad luck...
Have a great time in Paris, Polly!

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