11 Superstitions Russians Still Believe

Natasha Dzhola / 
Natasha Dzhola /  | © Culture Trip
Anastasiia Ilina

Russians are a superstitious lot – there’s no denying it. As outdated and laughable some beliefs may seem, they still linger in everyday life and we all cautiously follow them. Just in case.

Loved by over 40s

It’s bad luck to return if you just left

It’s not uncommon to step out the front door and to almost immediately realise something was left behind. Returning to fetch it can make the whole day turn in the wrong direction, because when a person leaves the house the spirits bless him for the journey ahead. Returning and leaving again will bring along misfortune. Think twice before returning. If it’s inevitable then make sure to look into the mirror – any evil spirits trying to follow will be reflected.

Don’t give an empty wallet as a gift

A wallet is a universally appreciated gift and therefore a common one. Caution should be exercised when presenting somebody with one. Gifting an empty wallet is still considered poor taste. An empty wallet attracts poverty, so to be on the safe side a symbolic amount of money should be placed inside before giving it.

Before you travel, sit down for a minute

Traditionally the last thing travellers-to-be do before leaving the house for an extended period of time is sit down just outside of the door with all their bags or suitcases. It may seem a rational decision to take the last minutes before leaving to gather your thoughts and make sure everything is ready, but this time of silence is also dedicated to the spirit of the house, allowing him to give his final blessings for the road and to share any final advice.

Natasha Dzhola /

If your cheeks are burning…

Cheeks burning are a natural response to embarrassment or just a very hot day, but when your face starts burning up for no apparent reason there are other things to consider. The right cheek burning is a good omen and means that a beloved or close person is thinking about you. The left cheek on the other hand means enemies are spreading lies and gossip about you. The worst is when your whole face is burning – this means tears will soon be burning your cheeks.

Don’t whistle indoors

A very specific and strange superstition that remains alive today. Whistling in the house can lead to ‘whistling away your money’ and to other misfortunes. The explanation is quite reasonable. It was believed that evil spirits would communicate with each other by whistling, so a person whistling would call them into the house, bringing along all sorts of misfortunes.

Don’t open an umbrella indoors

It is believed that opening an umbrella indoors will literally make misfortune rain on you. Some link the belief to the more ancient use of umbrellas – protection from the sun. Thus opening an umbrella inside was considered an insult to the sun god. Others give a more practical explanation. In a small space an open umbrella could be a potential trip hazard. The superstition lives on and Russians try to dry their umbrellas outside the front door when possible.

Natasha Dzhola /

Don’t let a black cat cross your path

A superstition as old as time, but still one to make somebody on the road uncomfortable. Although no need to panic unless the cat is completely black and crossing from left to right. A reasonable nuisance on the road – a black cat was hard to see in the dark and horses would often stumble on one causing havoc along the way. We may not ride horses anymore, but still cautiously await a cat to cross the road ahead.

If you drop a knife…

When cutlery falls off a table, most people would dismiss the situation or at most curse their clumsiness. Russians believe dropping a knife means that an unexpected guest will arrive in the house. Knifes are traditionally objects related to men, so it was natural to make the masculine connection. The belief has now extended to linking female visitors to forks, but only as an extension of the old tradition.

Don’t shake hands over the porch

This superstitions links back to the belief that the porch was a dangerous place in the house – it was a border between the outside world and the household. Therefore having any sort of interaction would be disturbing to the spirits of the outside world. The custom lives on and any form of greetings, exchange of items or even conversation is not acceptable when the parties involved are standing on either side of the porch.

Natasha Dzhola /

Don’t throw out the trash in the evening

According to old Slavic beliefs, after the sun has set, supernatural beings begin to roam freely. If you bring your trash out at night, these beings can use it in their evil rituals that will bring bad luck to the family. Another less fantastical explanation is that bringing trash out of the house in the dark means hiding secrets and will cause the neighbours to spread gossip about the household.

If salt is spilled…

Salt is said to protect against evil spirits. Moreover it used to be an expensive commodity and therefore spilling it would be a loss to a household, thus the negative sentiments associated with its loss. Luckily there is a way to reverse the negative effect – the spit over your left shoulder thrice and to laugh out loud.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.