Lucky Numbers

In Vietnam, there is an obsession with lucky numbers, unlucky numbers, bad dates and good dates. Derek Milroy admits he is also bewitched. Photo by Kyle Phanroy


From the moment I uttered the phrase, “Oh my god, what an ugly number,” I knew then that I was hooked and wondered — how the hell did this happen?

I remember I first encountered this national phenomena of ‘beautiful’ phone numbers when I met the unlucky woman who is now my wife. She said: “Oh no, you will have to change this number. It is very ugly.”

Apparently any mobile phone number starting 012 just will not do, so if you own one of these types you should invest in a more attractive number, or else you will lose face — especially in front of Vietnamese friends who will tut accordingly.

So I had a spanking new number, which I admit is a little more attractive on the eye — one digit shorter and much easier to remember — but what makes it so beautiful?


The Eye of the Beholder

Everyone has their own rules on this thing. “Many people love a beautiful phone number,” explains Nga Phan. “If they have a certain pattern like 99999 or 898989, a phone number like that could cost billions of VND. But the lucky number to have for your phone number is 393939. So it is not only a lucky number, it is easy to remember.”

Talking of investing in a new number, it might seem a strange concept to a foreigner just arriving in Vietnam, but that’s what you have to do. Some numbers are cheap, though, at about VND100,000, but at the other extreme a large number of VIPs pay billions of VND. Yep, over VND1 billion for a bloody phone number. That is correct. I wondered why all phone shops list their numbers so invitingly.

And Vietnam’s high-rollers are snapping up many of the billion-dong numbers from the nation’s big phone providers.

“There are different ranges of Vertu mobile phones and luxury cars, but a VIP mobile phone number is unique. I wouldn’t mind paying more for a phone number than a car as long as it brought me luck,” said one mobile phone owner with more money than sense.

The owner of the most expensive and coveted mobile phone number in Vietnam — 0988 888888 — which Chinese superstition would have us believe is a symbol of wealth, prosperity, development and perpetuity claims his number is worth a cool US$1 million.

According to businessman Dang Minh Duc, he has been approached with lavish offers to buy his number, but those lucky enough to have a number with sixes and eights hold onto them for dear life. One mobile phone owner apparently turned down an offer of VND2 billion for his lucky number because he believes in the good fortune of the digits — his business is thriving.


Luck be a Lady

It’s not just lucky cell phone numbers that drives this numerical obsession. It also extends to special events such as weddings. Instead of going for the traditional Friday or Saturday dates, Vietnamese families go through all sorts of traditional sources to find out what will be the lucky day. They look at the birth years of the groom and spouse, the date and time, and once they have collected all that data, they can then determine what year, month and day is lucky for the couple’s wedding.

Even the wedding photo shoot has to be on a lucky day. Next up after marriage for most people are babies, and your horoscope animal is very important to your chances of a successful bond. When the baby is born is also important.

“For example, if a dragon marries a mouse [she means rat],” adds Nga, “they are very lucky in love and they have a strong marriage for life. If they want to have children, it is lucky for the man if the child is a dragon but not so lucky for the wife. There is no such thing as a perfect ‘animal’ for that couple, but these are some things you can look at.”

Moving into a new flat is also important date-wise, and if you get a spot of rain on that day, it is a good sign that you will be happy in your new home. So best stick to signing leases during the rainy season.

For many the obsession with luck makes as much sense as keeping a raincoat in the boot of your motorbike — the flood might not be coming, but why not be prepared if it does?


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