Draft, bare feet, and wet hair: Why are Serbian people afraid of them?

A white lace curtain blowing in the wind through an open window

Zatvori taj prozor, ubiće nas promaja! 

Close that window or the draft will kill us!

You jump startled upon hearing these words on a cramped bus with no AC during the Belgrade rush hour on a scorching summer day. A furious Serbian granny has just saved everyone’s life by ordering you to close one window. What the hell is going on here?

Life-threatening situations are numerous according to grandmas in Serbia. We are superstitious, and we listen to our elders. You never know which invisible force is lurking and putting your life at risk when you’re in our country.

Let us introduce you to the top 3 menacing enemies of the state and guide you on how to protect yourselves if you encounter them.

Promaja - The Omnipresent Mystical Force

Drake disapproves of promaja and approves of non-vented rooms
Serbian people would do anything to avoid promaja

‘That’s why I thought it’d be good to cover up those stories about vampires, as a precautionary measure, to avoid panic. Because you know, Gruja, that panic is one of the greatest Serbian enemies alongside promaja.’

“Zato sam mislio da malo zataškamo te priče o vampirima, čisto iz preventivnih razloga, da ne bi došlo do panike. Jer ti znaš, Grujo, da je panika jedan od najvećih neprijatelja u Srba pored promaje.”

Vampires, panic, and promaja in the same sentence – sounds like a serious warning. Watch Crni Đorđe talking to Crni Gruja about notorious Serbian enemies in a famous Serbian sitcom based on the British Blackadder (Crna Guja, as translated in our country). You’re familiar with vampires and panic, but what is promaja?

Promaja (draft, draught) is the number one silent killer among Serbs. It’s a chilly air current that occurs when you open two opposite doors or windows in the same room. You’re allowed to choose one – open either a window or a door when you are in a room with Serbian people. If you feel adventurous and open more than one, beware of the death glares that’ll ensue. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Promaja - Pros And Cons

Od smrada još niko nije umro, ali od upale pluća jeste.

Stench can’t kill you, but pneumonia can. 

 

We know that disgusted look on your face, but this is something that you can hear around Serbia. You’re wondering now – is promaja real and dangerous? We know that all this sounds silly in some cultures, but promaja is real, even Urban Dictionary approves of the term. It has its benefits but also poses some health risks. Let’s weigh both sides and check if the granny from the beginning made a good point.

Pros

  • Promaja eliminates viruses and germs from the air
  • Free air conditioning during hot summer months
  • Cold air doesn’t cause respiratory infections, but non-vented space, trust Serbian doctors
  • Fresh air boosts immunity and energy levels

Cons

  • If you’re driving 100pmh with both your windows down, you may expect a stiff neck
  • If you’re sweaty and standing in front of a fan or under an AC on purpose for longer periods, you can catch a cold

 

Can you die from promaja? Not really, according to doctors. 

Is there a cure when it gets you? Serbian people will tell you to put some rakija (plum brandy, a universal cure in Serbia) on it, and you’re good to go.

Is There Promaja Around The World?

Believe it or not, Serbian people aren’t the only ones terrified of promaja. It also threatens people in the following countries hiding behind different names:

  • die Zugluft – Germany
  • curent – Romania
  • uno spiffero – Italy
  • сквозняк Russia
  • przeciąg – Poland
  • huzat – Hungary
  • průvan – Czech Republic
  • propuh – Croatia
  • провев – North Macedonia
  • течение – Bulgaria
  •  

What Is Promaja U Glavi?

If you want to learn Serbian, you need to know funny Serbian phrases and idioms. Promaja u glavi (draft in the head, literally) is used to describe some idle brooding daydreamer who does nothing but procrastinates.

Bare Feet - A Threat From Below

Two people walking barefoot on white tiles
Ne hodaj bos, razbolećeš se! Don’t walk barefoot, you’ll get sick!

Unless it’s at least 30 degrees (86°F) outside, don’t you dare walk around barefoot in Serbia. Concerned Serbian people will tell you to wear slippers even if you only want to go to the balcony. We know you’re confused now, but we care about your health.

You may be from the north and used to wearing lighter clothes and walking barefoot on tiles in your kitchens, but God forbid you should do that in Serbia. Have a look at a Norwegian’s impression of weird Serbian customs.

How Can Bare Feet Affect Your Health?

Čizma glavu čuva, šubara je krasi.

Boots protect your head, a fur hat adorns it.

 

Did you know that boots can protect your head? Yes, you read the saying correctly. 

Serbs may be right about one thing. It could be more important to protect your feet rather than wear a hat in winter. According to Dr. Ron Eccles, if the temperature of your feet lowers, it will lead to blood vessels in your nose constricting, and you’ll end up getting a cold or the flu. Simple as that.

We recommend you wear the most famous Serbian winter clothesvunene čarape (wool socks) in all harsh weather conditions to regulate blood circulation in your feet in the most natural way. The most important thing – is that’ll make a Serbian granny who’s knitted them happy and delighted. 

Don’t Take Your Slippers Off

Serbian people have a thing for slippers. As soon as we take our shoes off, slippers take over. Each family member has their own pair that they wear inside the house. If your Serbian hosts offer you slippers when you enter their home, say thanks and wear them. Don’t argue.

You’ll also notice one old one-size-fits-all pair of clogs outside the front door. Nobody knows whose they are, but everybody wears them outside on trips to the nearest shop.

Wet Hair - The Main Cause Of Headaches

A girl with wet hair standing outside on a balcony
Ne izlazi napolje mokre kose, dobićeš upalu mozga! Don’t go out with your wet hair, you’ll get brain inflammation!

Not going outside immediately after washing hair is a superstition deeply rooted in the Serbian genetic code thanks to our thoughtful mothers. It may be normal for you to leave your apartment with wet hair, but Serbian people recommend you stay inside for at least eight hours even after blow drying.

Are Serbian mums to be taken seriously? All the time, don’t question that. But you’d better listen to your doctor when it comes to the matter of wet hair.

Doctors Vs. Serbian Mums - The Clash Of The Titans

Let’s find out how wet hair can threaten your health:

  • A microorganism must be around for you to get sick
  • Doctors say that wet, sweaty, and warm hair could trigger a fungal infection
  • Wet hair and skin can lower your body temperature, which might affect your immune system
  • Sleeping with wet hair can cause hair damage (breakage, slower growth)

 

So wet hair itself doesn’t cause pneumonia or brain inflammation. There’s got to be other factors involved. So, who’s got the guts to tell a Serbian mum she’s not completely right? 

If your immune system fails you and you end up sick, make a doctor’s appointment in Serbian, before the mum notices you’re not feeling well. Expect one jesam li ti lepo rekla (I’ve told you so) from her in that case.

Avoid The Deadly Trio At All Costs

Are you used to rushing outside barefoot after washing your hair and leaving the front door open to quickly pick up your delivery? We recommend you avoid that combo when you’re surrounded by Serbian people in our country. If you want to talk about this topic in Serbian and find out more, our conversation lessons might be what you’re looking for.

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