The Sign of Four (or 3A in China)

A Room with a View
This was the view from the main window of our old apartment, in the next block to the one we are in now. Inside, the apartment looked decidedly weird. Irena and I liked it immediately. We were so glad that none of the other new teachers (who were also looking at flats with us) liked it, so we grabbed the opportunity to live in such a splendidly eccentric flat. (The loo was electrically operated and the decor reminded you of a country cottage - or maybe a French bordello.)

Why does the lift in our apartment block (and in every other apartment block in Shenzhen) have a weird way of numbering the floors? 1, 2, 3 - yes, okay so far - 3A, 4, 5, 6 etc. So why 3A? Because the number "four" in Mandarin sounds very similar to the word for "death". No one wants to live on the fourth floor because it must be unlucky, even though the whole building is covered with reddish-pinkish tiles that are supposed to bring good luck. (As readers of my previous posts will already know, reddish-pinkish tiles also have ghostbusting properties.) So how do we solve this problem? By not calling it the "fourth" floor. No, number 4 gets re-branded as "floor 3A" and then everyone is happy. Those who live on the new fourth floor can smile and say, "Well, really the proper fourth floor is downstairs. Actually, this should be the fifth floor!" A very Chinese solution to an even more Chinese problem.


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