Supernatural and mystical things have been of interest to humanity for centuries and there’s no surprise that various superstitions exist all around the globe. Modern Russians may not believe in many, yet some have become so permanent in the culture of Russia that they’re an intrinsic part of everyday life today.
We have put together some Russian superstitions, beliefs and traditions connected with at the table behavior which you might find odd or out of the ordinary but which can help avoid some shocking surprises during your tour to Russia! In this article find out why you shouldn’t leave an empty bottle on top of the table when in Russia, where to sit, and more.
Sitting on the corner of a table
According to Russian beliefs, if you are a woman who isn’t married, sitting on the corner of a table is not a good idea. The story runs that this spot at a dinner table will prevent young women who sit there from getting married. So, bachelorettes planning to travel to Russia, choose your seats during meals wisely!
And another quick remark, sitting on a tabletop isn’t a good option either, Russians think it’ll lead to bankruptcy.
When in Russia don’t be surprised that bread is served with everything: soup, salad, potatoes or even spaghetti.
Bread holds a special place in Russian cuisine and has for centuries been the major hog and hominy of Russians.
Throwing out or leaving your piece of bread unfinished is considered impolite, so make sure to eat up your slices to the last bite.
If you knock down a salt shaker and spill salt, say, during a meal, a Russian will most likely not react positively. It is believed that this can lead to a quarrel with your loved ones and that someone will shed tears. This superstition goes way back to Ancient Rus when salt cost a fortune and its waste lead to fights.
Dishes and utensils
In case you’re a clumsy eater there’s nothing to be shy about, Russians have many beliefs in this respect.
Case in point: if you drop a fork during a meal you’ll most likely hear a comment like, “Looks like someone is hurrying to meet with us”.
And if you accidentally break a dish or glass, have no worries as locals say this will only bring luck and happiness.
Ask any Russian during your Russia tour whether you can place an empty bottle on the tabletop and you’ll hear a loud “No way!” in reply. Empty bottles are usually put under the table or thrown out right away. Wierd, right?
People say that this tradition derived during Napoleonic times when it was common to be charged solely for the empty bottles left sitting on the table in restaurants in Paris. Thus sly Russians intentionally placed them under the table during a feast to avoid the long bill. And the tradition clung!
Eating off a knife
Big “no-no” in Russia. For starters, eating off a knife is a breach of etiquette and you can simply hurt yourself, but if we’re talking superstition, in Russia it is thought that you will become angry and aggressive if you do so.
Since olden times Russian people considered a knife to be not only a tool of the trade but also something obtaining a power of magic for rituals, so using it instead of proper utensils was a form of disrespect.
Vodka drinking traditions
Last but not least, you most likely won’t leave Russia without tasting the national spirit drink. Don’t be surprised if you see people wrinkling their faces after having a shot of vodka and sniffing a piece of black bread instead of eating it, this behavior is quite customary, vodka drinking “rules” state: “no snacks after your first vodka shot”.
Other “rules” may eventually sweep you off your feet. That said, you may encounter phrases such as “there’s a small period of time between the first and the second”, meaning your second shot will follow really quickly. Have fun but we advise you not to get too carried away!
It goes without saying that table manners are more or less universal around the globe but the differences are what makes it interesting. Enjoy tours to Russia and immerse yourself in the exciting traditions of this country during your stay!