Do you plan to travel to Russia in the near future? Other than learning how to say daily phrases in local language or looking for a nice place to stay or mark attractions, it would be wise to understand the culture and customs, too. You should know that, among other interesting things, Russians believe in superstitions. These are some of them that you’d better not do while you’re having the visit.
1. Spit or knock on wood
Like many other nations, the Russians believe in the evil eye – the evil look that brings bad luck or trouble – and fear it. You will probably see more than once how, after someone praises someone else’s child, his parents will pretend that they spit three times over his left shoulder and knock on the wooden surface three times. Russians are afraid to jinx any good event, any praise and will knock on the tree so as not to miss prosperity.
2. Never go with an empty container
To see a person with any empty container – a bucket or a trolley – is considered a bad omen. Russians believe that if you meet a person with an empty basket, for example, in a village or a janitor with an empty cart in the city, the day will not be successful.
3. Don’t give money directly into others’ hands
For example, a taxi driver or salesperson may refuse to take money in hand and ask you to put it on a dashboard in a car or in a special tray near the cash register. This does not mean that they disdain to touch your hands. It is believed that the money transfers the energy of their owner, including the negative one. But once the money has touched other places, it is good to be picked up.
4. Do not put empty bottles, keys, and trifles on the table
The Russians believe all these are bad signs of monetary losses and tears. Moreover, this omen works not only in the home kitchen, but also in public places. So, when you are in a restaurant or a pub and have just finished a bottle of water, put it under the table or just ask a waiter to take it right away.
5. Do not give knives, watches and scarves
These things are not considered the best gift for a Russian person. Shawls, for example, are signs of tears, knives are for enemies, and watches are for parting. They would still fancy these things, but not as gifts.
6. Avoid spilling salt
Russians believe that this is one of the most common signs that promise quarrels and misfortune. Salt in many cultures is already quite an interesting and multifaceted symbol, but the Russian folk tradition has always attached it, first of all, with everyday significance. It is believed that this sign appeared during the riots and uprisings in Russia in the middle of the 17th century, when salt was literally worth its weight in gold. Hence the importance of spilling such a precious thing inevitably leads to a quarrel in the house. But the resourceful Russian people quickly found a way to avoid trouble. So if you believe in signs and yet spilled salt, that’s okay. Just laugh it off, or slap yourself on the forehead, or sprinkle your head with salt.
7. Do not whistle in the house
Besides the fact that whistling in a house can simply be impolite, whistling, according to popular beliefs, could bring different evil spirits into the house. With a whistle, the wind comes into the house, which can also take out all the wealth from the house. Not surprisingly, sailors were always afraid to whistle. In addition, if you whistle in the house, you can “blow away” not only money, but also memory.
8. Careful not to wear your clothes inside out
It could happen by accident, but checking yourself in the mirror before leaving the room would save you. Contrary to other nations, in the Russian tradition, clothes dressed inside out do not promise a person good luck. In ancient times, clothes performed a certain protective function. It is not for nothing that sometimes special amulets were depicted on clothes. In addition, it was almost always very expensive and only a careless person could dress inappropriately.
9. Do not step on the doorway
The most famous Russian variations on this subject, perhaps, are that you can’t say hello or pass things over the threshold. It is the borderland between the outer space and the inner, the territory where the spirits live. And this is not about all evil spirits, but specifically about spirits. The fact is that for the ancients the threshold of the house had some sacred meaning. This is the places where the spirits of the ancestors lived, who were supposed to protect their living relatives from all evil. Indeed, in the old days the ashes of the dead were often buried under the threshold. Hence, the special relation to this part of the house.
10. Avoid others’ footsteps, literally
In Russian superstitions, everything is relatively simple. If you follow someone else’s trail, you will pick up someone’s disease, or – even worse – fate. But in the old days, people sometimes seriously feared that the traces might be cursed. Even though today many superstitions seem ridiculous, when Russians see someone’s footprints in the sand, they would automatically pay attention to and avoid them at all costs.
For foreigners, the list may seem quite long and could be too overwhelming to be remembered only during a relatively short visit. But making notes of the important ones won’t hurt you – they might even save you from a lot of troubles. Just remember not to do the things considered bringing bad lucks to Russians, and you will do just fine.