Things you should never do in Russia
Updated: Sep 26
Russia is a beautiful country with rich culture and deep-rooted customs. However, not all of them are known to Westerns, which may get foreign tourists in pretty uncomfortable situations. To save yourself the embarrassment, make sure to check out the article below so that you can avoid these mistakes and have the best possible experience in Russia.
Shaking hands over a doorway
Something as simple as shaking hands can actually be considered unlucky in some cultures. For Russians, one of such things is shaking hands over a doorway, because well we think that your luck may slip away under the door. In the same vein, you shouldn’t give or take anything this way to avoid any mischance. Instead, ask the person to come in and then make a handshake.
Not taking off your shoes when inside
Well, this is pretty different from Western culture. In Russia, it is considered rude to not take off your shoes when invited into someone’s house, because here nobody wears them inside. You might be offered a pair of slippers, or you can stay in your socks, just make sure to leave your street footwear in the entrance hall.
There are some things considered tough-luck, and whistling inside is one of them. If you go to Russia and hang out with some people indoors, remember not to whistle or you might get scolded. Russians believe this gesture might lead to owners of the place losing money, and you don’t want that happening to your hosts, right?
Smiling too much
A simple gesture of friendliness everywhere else, smiles are something you reserve for your special one in Russia. Smiling at strangers might not be well received by people around or even raise some questions. They might think you’re sketchy or creepy. What’s more, Russians believe that smiling for no reason only shows foolishness. That doesn’t mean you should walk around with a long face, and if you travel to Moscow or some other big city, people there tend to smile more often. However, remember in general you exchange smiles here mostly after reaching some level of proximity with people.
Sitting by the corner of the table
One of the Russian superstitions is that sitting by the table corner might result in never falling in love and getting married. This especially concerns young single ladies. You might notice that in big groups, girls usually try to sit in the middle. If they are superstitious.
Shaking hands with gloves on
Shaking hands without taking off your gloves is doomed to be super impolite. When introduced to new acquaintances, be sure to remove your gloves.
Being rude with babushki
Old ladies have a pretty hard live in Russia, unfortunately. In addition to being a vulnerable social group, they are also given a lot of respect by the younger population. Especially ones who have survived World War II, but that’s a whole another conversation. Showing respect to them by giving up your seat or holding the door will not only be morally correct but also help understand the culture.
Paying a visit empty-handed
If you make friends and get invited to someone’s house, which is very common in Russia, don’t show up without a small present. Otherwise, it’ll be seen rude. For example, you can buy a chocolate bar, a bottle of wine or a bunch of flowers for the lady of the house. The thing is Russian people are very hospitable and it’s a common tradition to serve a table for each guest. So you can return the favor by bringing a small present.
Giving flowers in even numbers
This is a hard no. Bringing flowers in even numbers is only common at funerals in Russia. So, if you’re choosing a bouquet for your Russian friend, make sure to buy an uneven amount of flowers.
Asking someone’s age or income
Such questions are impolite in general, and Russian people, known to be quite reserved, don’t appreciate them as well. If you go out with a Russian woman, openly asking for her age might be very rude. The same goes for salaries, whoever you talk to (expect for interviews, naturally).