- Money is one of the oldest aspects of human culture, likely predating the written word.
It's woven into the fabric of virtually all human activity, like food, family, work, religion, and celebration.
So it's not surprising that there is a wide variety of unique money customs around the world.
- Some of these may seem odd or superstitious, but for those who grow up with them, they're just a part of life.
They can be ceremonial traditions, symbols of prosperity or remembrance, or even functional practices that keep communities afloat.
- But they'll all make you realize how important money is to humans, not just economically, but psychologically and socially as well.
- And maybe they'll encourage you to look at your own weird money traditions in a new way.
(bright music) Our first stop is Africa, Kenya to be specific, where there is a long tradition of coming together to help community members who are in need.
"Harambee," a Swahili word which means "everyone pulling together," is actually the official motto of the country.
And yes, that is where the meme-tastic gorilla got his name.
- The word "harambee" can also refer to an organized community event that raises funds or help for a specific cause.
If someone in the community is facing a significant problem or life event, they can contact an elder family member or tribal leader, who will meet with other elders to determine whether the situation warrants a harambee.
If so, the word will go out to friends, family, and coworkers, who will come together to donate money, time, and emotional support to the person in need.
Kind of like an in-person GoFundMe.
- Maybe you're not in financial trouble, but you still find it difficult to save up money for important life goals.
If so, you might be interested in the tradition of sou-sou from West Africa and the Caribbean.
It's kind of like an informal group savings account.
A number of people agree to deposit a certain amount of money into a treasury at regular intervals.
Once the total has reached a set goal, the entirety is given to one member of the sou-sou, and a new recipient is chosen.
This cycle continues until everyone has been paid out.
- Though they don't pay any interest and you only get back what you put in, sou-sous offer group accountability, so they can be helpful to people who have trouble saving or don't have alternate access to a loan.
Similar arrangements exist in Central and South American communities, where they can be known as tandas, cundinas, juntas, or pandeiros.
However, these arrangements typically don't involve a formal contract or any regulation, so you have to be sure that you're saving with people you really trust.
- One of the biggest community events in any culture is the wedding, so it's not surprising that there are a lot of wedding customs that involve cash.
In Nigerian weddings, as the couple hits the dance floor, guests circle around, showering money over their heads.
In Filipino culture, the women attendees line up in front of the groom to pin money on him, while the men do the same for the bride.
And Italian brides sometimes wear a satin bag for guests to drop money in.
- In Japan, the bride and groom receive cash gifts, known as goshugi, in a special envelope called goshugi-bukuro, which says how much and from whom.
But you can't just put cash from your wallet into the goshugi-bukuro.
The bills must be new and crisp.
- Most of these customs involve generosity within a family or tight-knit community, but many cultural traditions look to expand that to charity.
One of the five pillars of Islam is zakat, which means to purify, and it's essentially a call to donate money to the needy.
How much and how often can differ, but it's usually around 2.5% of one's total wealth.
- In most Muslim countries, zakat is voluntary and up to the donor to decide who the recipient should be.
But in others, like Pakistan, Libya, and Malaysia, zakat is mandatory and collected by state representatives, essentially like a tax.
It functions not just to help those in need, but to reinforce the spirituality of the giver.
By donating a small percentage of your wealth, you purify the rest of it.
- In Turkey, one way to fulfill zakat is with a practice called askida ekmek, or "hanging bread."
When you go to the bakery, you can pay for an extra loaf, which the vendor is supposed to set aside for whoever can't afford to buy one.
The act of charity is considered to be more powerful, because the donor is anonymous.
- The Italians have a similar custom known as caffe sospeso, or "suspended coffee," which originated in the working-class cafes of Naples.
If someone had a good day, they can pay it forward with an anonymous free coffee to an unknown person.
You may have seen this practice pop up in some American coffee shops.
- Superstition and money go hand in hand in all cultures.
In China, cash given to children during the Lunar New Year shouldn't contain the number four, as it sounds a lot like "death" in Chinese and is, therefore, considered unlucky.
The Chinese also have a tradition of burning fake money at funerals, known as Joss paper, so that the souls of the deceased will have good fortune in the afterlife.
- In Turkey, it's said that sleeping with gold in your hand will bring you wealth and success.
In Greece, an empty wallet is considered bad luck, so be sure to put a bill or two inside before giving one as a gift.
At Christmastime in England, puddings are often baked with a coin in the mixture, bringing good fortune to whoever gets the piece with the coin in it.
And, of course, here in America, if you see a penny on the street and pick it up, all day long, you'll have good luck.
- You know, the more we talk about these different money customs, the more similar they feel.
They all seem to relate to family, community, charity, or good fortune.
- Yeah, even though money is a very functional tool, you can see there's a lot of human emotion tied up in it.
It's a symbol for prosperity and happiness and also the glue that holds families and communities together.
- Oh, I've got one more really weird money tradition for you.
Apparently in some Western countries, they believe in a magical creature who pays real money for, get this, children's teeth.
- Not a joke.
When the child loses a tooth, they put it under their pillow while they're sleeping, and then this elf or goblin or whatever sneaks in, takes the tooth, and leaves money behind.
- Ew, what does it do with all those teeth?
- I don't know.
Maybe that's the currency in Nightmare Land or something.
- Super creepy.