Inside Job: I tried predicting the future with a Shanghai fortune teller

Miss fortune...

Photographs: Yang Xiaozhe

I’ve never been super convinced by how accurate predictions of the future can be. It’s all just guesswork, right? The only prophetic things I truly believe in are the expiration dates on the side of milk cartons and when characters on Game of Thrones say ‘winter is coming.’

I arrive at Daliah to meet fortune teller Tiffany Pattinson and am immediately skeptical about the whole thing as she is running late. It’s not her fault – the traffic is unusually bad for a Thursday afternoon – but would a true soothsayer not have foreseen this? Or is it a test? Is she making me doubt her in order to really impress me later? Who knows? Well, Tiffany might…


She arrives and definitely looks the part: hair dyed icy grey, a long, flowing skirt, elegant red gloves and a furry beret jauntily positioned atop her head. Her whole aesthetic oozes something spiritual and curious. I am instantly fascinated by her and have long forgotten about her lateness.

Tiffany has been telling fortunes through tarot cards and palmistry (palm reading) for nine years, having started back at high school in her native Hong Kong. Tarot is a method of predicting what will happen to people in the future using a deck of cards with pictures on them. You can ask questions to get a fortune about specific aspects of your life or get a less specific reading that relates to you more generally. The cards represent different parts of your life, such as relationships, health and career.


Tiffany gives me a reading and everything in my life seems to be going pretty smoothly, which in terms of this article, isn’t particularly exciting. Far from the intimidating sorceress character I was expecting, her reading seems more like a casual chat about life with a friend rather than a scary glimpse into the future or the bearing of bad news. If my upcoming visa renewal is rejected, I’d like Tiffany to be the one who breaks it to me.

Ever the pessimist, I check the deck to see if the cards with negative connotations like ‘Death’ (signifying something is coming to an end) and ‘The Devil’ (denoting oppression and/or depression) are in there. Of course, they are.


I next ask to learn about palmistry. I open my palm wide (think the ‘paper’ move in rock, paper, scissors) and am told this symbolises carelessness with money but also generosity. As a Yorkshireman, a people generally stereotyped with being tight with funds and far from generous, this somewhat surprises me, but, to be fair, I’ve always considered myself as a bit of a giver…

Tiffany also tells me that my palm is of average thickness. I am not sure if this is a compliment, an attack, or merely a general observation. I try not to think too much into it.


Palmistry is all about reading the lines on your hand. According to my palm, my career path is trouble-free and my lifeline is long and on the most part smooth, although a small line indicates I may be briefly, but not seriously, hospitalized around middle age – enlarged prostate here I come…

While I may now know how to read fortunes, it doesn’t necessarily mean I can do it very well. I look at Tiffany’s palm (which isn’t as thick as mine, not that I’m still thinking about my hand girth…) and can identify her life and heart lines, but due to inexperience, can’t really tell her what they mean. I instead opt to predict her future more generally. She may experience back pain in later life and one day she might have to think about mortgage repayments. Nailed it.


Tiffany admits that nothing is set in stone, but says a lot of her predictions tend to come true. As for my readings about her, we’ll have to wait and see…

If you're interested in booking a session with Tiffany, add her on WeChat (search ID 'tiffanypattinson'). Her rates are 180RMB per question or 1,200RMB for an hour booking. She's also a talented eco-friendly fashion designer: check out her website here.

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