Death and a Ten Kuai Discount


Putting our lives together in Beijing of course entails getting a couple of cell phones.  Today when I was at a street kiosk with our friend, Gloria, attempting to purchase a new SIM card, I was given the chance to choose whether to buy a number for 75 RMB (approx. $12.50), or a different number for a discounted 65 RMB. It turns out that the discounted phone number starts with the number “4,” which no Chinese person would choose : sì (four) is a homonym for sǐ (death) – there’s just a slight difference in tone.

Just like in the West when the 13th floor often doesn’t exist in the elevators of hospital and office buildings, Chinese (and many East Asians) do the same with the 4th floor. However, if you do live in a 4th floor apartment, there’s a good chance there was a nice discount when the deal was made to move in. Now that I know this, as we look for a place, I’m going to hope we get shown a 4th floor apartment, because I can’t think of a better reason to get a bargain!



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