Useful “do’s” and “don’t’s” for some of the most common superstitions you’re likely to encounter in Russia.
1. Don’t shake hands over a threshold
Russians believe that shaking hands or kissing a guest across a doorway is a big no-no. In Russian folklore, the threshold is where the “house spirit” is believed to reside, and bridging this gap with a handshake is therefore extremely bad luck.
Instead, you should wait until completely entering a Russian home before shaking hands, or have the person inside the home come completely out before you greet them.
2. Buy an odd number of flowers
It’s never a mistake to take a bouquet of flowers when invited to someone’s home or for a birthday or other celebration. However, make sure that bouquets for such festive occasions are filled with an odd number of flowers. Bouquets with an even number of flowers are reserved for funerals.
3. Don’t whistle indoors
Whistling indoors in Russia is considered bad luck and will lead to financial problems — or so superstition has it. Better to avoid those annoying but catchy tunes on your way home then.
4. Don’t sit at a table corner if you’re not married
Unmarried people should avoid sitting at the corner of a table otherwise they will never get married, according to Russian superstition. Others believe that this will only hold true for seven years, making it possible for younger children to sit at the table corner.
5. Put empty bottles on the floor
It doesn’t matter if your drink of choice is wine or vodka — to avoid bad luck, you should always put the empties on the floor.
Legend has it that the practice started when Cossack soldiers drove Napoleon back to France in 1814. The soldiers worked out that Parisian restaurateurs charged customers per empty bottle left on the table rather than per bottle ordered, and so the Cossacks cunningly hid them under the table. When the soldiers returned to Russia, they brought the custom with them.
You can read more about these and other superstitions in this article from the Moscow Times.