Russian Traditions (or Superstitions): Read This Before Visiting

15 September, 2020

Here are some “do’s” and “don’ts” while in Russia to hopefully avoid any awkward encounters. 

Number of Flowers in a Bouquet

Last year, while I was in St. Petersburg, I went to buy flowers for my teacher on my last day. Not knowing that even number bouquets are reserved for funerals, I bought a bouquet of six flowers. Thankfully when I got to the school a friend quickly corrected my mistake, and I didn’t gift my teacher a bouquet reserved for a burial. Pro tip: when buying a bouquet in Russia you will usually want to stick to an odd number of flowers.

Sitting Down Before a Trip or посидим на дорожку

This tradition I frequently run into when visiting my grandparents. Every time before I leave we sit for a minute in the entryway, shoes on and all. I don’t know how the tradition (or superstition) came to be, but it is seen as a sign of safe travels. Everyone (even those not traveling) sit together for 60 seconds or so. It is also a great time to double-check that nothing was left behind.

Empty Bottles on the Floor

If you are going to be attending a dinner party, you will probably observe this phenomenon. An empty bottle is never left on the table; they are always moved to the floor. As the legend goes, some time in the past people were charged by the number of bottles on the table. Naturally, in order to avoid paying for all the drinks, people would move the bottles under the table. Through the years this has developed into somewhat of a superstition, and everywhere I go the empty bottles are always under the table.

Not Sitting on Cold Floor

I remember my parents telling me growing up not to sit on the cold floor. I never understood why because it is perfectly acceptable in American culture. I thought maybe they just didn’t want me to get cold. I later found out that Russians believe sitting on cold floor will lead to infertility. I haven’t read the science behind it to know if it is true or not, but, if you are a girl, save yourself a lecture and just don’t sit on the cold floor.

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