10 common Russian superstitions

If you are visiting someone or going on a date, make sure that your bouquet has an odd number of flowers.

If you are visiting someone or going on a date, make sure that your bouquet has an odd number of flowers.

Alamy / Legion-Media
Russians are a very superstitious people. According to a recent Russian Public Opinion Research Center’s (VTsIOM) survey in October 2015, 50 percent of Russians conform their behavior to their beliefs in superstitions. Here are the most popular ones that could help you while travelling in Russia.

1. Give flowers only in odd numbers

If you are visiting someone or going on a date, make sure that your bouquet has an odd number of flowers. Otherwise, you will put the woman you are trying to cheer up or impress in a bad mood since Russians bring flowers in even numbers only to cemeteries. 

2. Do not put on clothes inside out

According to superstition, if you put on an item of clothing inside out there is a high probability that you will be beaten. Nevertheless if this happens, you should immediately get dressed in the right way and ask someone to beat your back – this symbolic gesture should save you from a real thrashing.

3. Do not turn back if you are halfway there

Do not turn back if you realize that you have forgotten something at home or else something bad could happen to you. However, if you really must go back take a look in the mirror before you leave the house again.

4. Do not shake hands over a threshold

When you visit someone and they open the door, even if your emotions overtake you, you should enter first and only then offer your hand or embrace the host. You must not shake hands, hug or kiss them over a threshold – you may disturb a house spirit that lives over it, which could create problems for you afterwards.

5. Do not give a “sharp” gift

You should not give scissors or knives as a present to Russian friends, otherwise you will argue with them. If you still really want to give a knife, you should take a small fee for it such as a ruble. That will change its metaphysical status from a present to a purchase. A handkerchief would be a bad idea as well as it is believed to bring tears. If you decide to give a purse, place a coin inside, so that it will never be empty.

6. If you find yourself between two people with the same name – make a wish

After meeting all the guests at a party, try to sit down to the table between two people with the same name. It shouldn’t be too difficult in Russia since the most popular names are incredibly common. Take a seat between two Sashas, Lenas or Mashas and make a wish. However, do not tell your wish to anyone – otherwise it will not come true.

7. Be careful with salt

When passing the salt at the dinner table, try to not spill it, or else it could lead to an argument. In case this happens you should throw a pinch of the spilled salt over your left shoulder and do it with a laugh, then everything should turn out just fine. At the same time, if you find that the food is too salty, try not to be disappointed since it means that the mistress has fallen in love. Perhaps with you?

8. Do not eat food off of a knife

It is doubtful that you would do this at someone else’s house, but even at home you shouldn’t lick a knife. According to Russian lore this will make you evil. And besides you could cut yourself.

9. If someone wishes you luck, do not thank the person

In response to the traditional Russian wishing of “ni pukha ni pera!” (“Good luck!”), for example, before an exam, interview or important performance, never say, “thank you.” The only correct answer is “k chyortu!” (“To hell with it!”), otherwise you could experience a reversal of fortune.

10. Do not leave empty bottles on the table

A soon as all the liquid is poured out into shot and wine glasses, you should immediately remove the bottle from the table. It is said that this tradition comes from the time of the Napoleonic Wars. After the Battle of Paris in 1814, Russian Cossacks noticed that the number of drinks people were charged for were calculated by the number of bottles left on the table in local restaurants. Supposedly this is why Cossacks cleverly placed the bottles under the table. We cannot verify the truth of this legend but this tip will be useful anyway, since another Russian tradition states that all open bottles must be finished. So, good luck!

Read more: Unrolling the Russian carpet>>>

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