Russian superstitions: Not half way there!

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 very superstitious. Do not think of giving your hostess or date a dozen roses! A recent Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (VTsIOM) survey found that 50 percent of Russians conform their behaviour to their belief in superstitions. We outline some of the most popular ones, that could save you while travelling in Russia.

Give flowers only in odd numbers

While visiting someone or going on a date, ensure that your bouquet has an odd number of flowers. Or else you will put the woman you are trying to cheer up or impress in a bad mood, because Russians bring flowers in even numbers only to cemeteries. 

Do not wear clothes inside out

According to popular superstition, wearing an item of clothing inside out indicates there is a high probability that you will be beaten. However, if this does happen, you should immediately get dressed the right way and ask someone to beat your back; this symbolic gesture should save you from a real thrashing.

Do not turn back if 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.

Do not shake hands over the threshold

When you visit someone and they open the door, do not let your emotions overtake you. First, go through the door and enter, and only then offer your hand or embrace the host. You must not shake hands, hug or kiss them over a threshold; the belief is that you may disturb a house spirit that lives over it, which could create problems for you afterwards.

Do not give a “sharp” gift

As in many cultures, scissors or knives should not be given as a present to Russian friends, otherwise you will argue with them. If you still really wish to give a knife, make sure you ask for a small token fee for it, like a ruble. That will change its metaphysical status from a present to a purchase. A handkerchief would be a bad idea for a gift as well, because they are believed to bring tears. If you want to give a purse, place a coin inside, so it will never be empty.

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 at the table between two people with the same name. This 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.

Be careful with salt

While 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, and everything should turn out just fine. If you should find the food too salty, try not to be disappointed or critical, since it means that the mistress has fallen in love. With you, perhaps?

Do not eat food off of a knife

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

If someone wishes you luck, do not thank the person

When responding to the traditional Russian wish, “ni pukha ni pera!” or “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.

Do not leave empty bottles on the table

As soon as all the liquid is poured out into shot and wine glasses, the empty bottle should immediately be removed from the table. It is said this tradition comes from the era 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. While it is not possible to verify the origins or truth of this legend, this tip will be useful anyway, since another Russian custom states that all open bottles must be finished.

So, good luck!

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