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The Dreaded, Deadly Promaja

by Laura on July 29th, 2013

The word, promaja, literally “draft,” is feared across Serbia.

Before moving here, I assumed it was “merely” that annoying air that whisks under the crack in the front door in the wintertime.

Um … No.

The joke goes that  promaja has felled even the heartiest of Serbian soldiers. (Maybe it’s a “saying,” and it’s only me who thinks it’s funny. Yeah, probably that.)

In the Balkans, promaja is taken to the extreme. Or perhaps this is not extreme, this is normal, depends on how you look at it. From what I’ve observed, promaja is actually considered … Any. moving. air. whatsoever.

No, I’m not kidding. If there is even the slightest summer breeze, like from the ocean, everyone must be covered quickly and entirely.

I have literally seen grown men, sitting inside a properly heated Belgrade restaurant in early winter, glare at the front door when new patrons enter, letting in mildly cold gush of air. Cursing and shaking their heads, these grown men immediately cover themselves with a scarf or sweater like a little old lady.

Crisis averted, these men resume chain-smoking. … While I watch the irony escape into the wind.

Warm wind in the afternoon

Then there’s the confusing conundrum of what to do when a child is outside in perfectly lovely weather (let’s say, 75F/24C and sunny, but yes, breezy) and exercising. The child is warm, but the wind is blowing.

According to “promaja rules,” a sweatshirt is now required.

Said child continues to run around, and then said child begins to sweat.


The wind is blowing! But the child is sweating, so we can’t remove the sweatshirt, because that right there is a recipe for immediate sickness!

This happened to my daughter (I wasn’t there). When I arrived, I heard from the adults about the confusing conundrum that was my child:

“But the wind is blowing!”

“But she’s sweating!”

“But it’s not cold!”

“But now her undershirt is wet, so we couldn’t take off her sweatshirt!”

“Oh goodness what to do?”

As we walked home, I saw her about to wilt (from the weight of compliance? from overheating? probably both, she’s pretty stubborn) and asked her if she’d like to take off her sweatshirt.

“Oh, thank you Momma, yes!”

(Hey, at least I get to be the nice guy sometimes with my kids. It feels pretty good.)


From → Expat Mommy

  1. Mrs. Bo permalink

    Lovely description of the sweat vs. sweatshirt dilema! I see it in the park all the time! Even putting it on at first sign of wind, taking it off when it lets up so they don’t become sweaty, chasing them around taking it off and putting it back on. A rather amusing dance.
    Perhaps if they didn’t fear wind so much (always rushing to add additional layers) then they wouldn’t be sweaty- therefore catching colds (and blaming the wind).

  2. I love reading your blog in the mornings because I am always guaranteed to laugh out loud! I hope I don't get arrested for child abuse because I allowed my daughter a fan in her room!! My husband and I keep ours on full blast all night long. We are such rebels!

  3. zilex permalink

    I can't believe that Americans find PROMAJA (Draft) to be a superstition ,it¨s something easily testable ,after long exposure to a draft your head will start to hurt,your back will start to hurt ,all in all every bone in your body will start to hurt,Experienced it few times ,worst time was when i wasn't able to open my eyes ,my eyeballs were hurting so much and after a while the pain started to spread,first my head then all the way to the lower back.Pain lasted for 2 days,so my advice to you is minimal exposure to a draft.

    • dodje permalink

      ajde ne seri molim te :) of course if you stay in front of a full blowing fan for HOURS you can have a headache and what not, but we're literally speaking of gushes of wind here. What about all the people (me included) who sleep with a fan on at night, how come we're still here omg?! – all those long car rides from France to Serbia where we weren't allowed to open the car's windows (and no AC of course – this was the 80s) because it causes promaja…all that for a mere stupid belief. Yes, I'm mad at promaja!

    • Thats if you sleep next to the AC on full blast for 12 hours dummy.

  4. This is over exaggerated. Promaja is the belief that you will get sick, a head ache, or pain in the bones if you leave windows (usually opposite walls of each other) so that it causes a draft. An ocean breeze isn’t promaja and people don’t cover from a normal windy day.
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  5. Ajamorp permalink

    Promaja is the Slavic demon of wind. As paganism wilted away and got replaced with Christianity the belief in some of the demons/gods/beings remained. When people say "Close that window, I'm getting killed by promaja!", they actually refer to the demon unknowingly, and it does make perfect sense with a sentence like that. Creating a draft would enable Promaja to blow through your household and bring illness.
    If you ask 99% of the Serbs about this they'll have no idea about it's origin though.

    • Dida permalink

      Hahahaaa. of course we Serbs (nor anybody for that matter) don't know the origin of "promaja". We don't go and Google the "promaja" phenomenon… no need to, as we know all about it :) from our ancestor's tales taught from generation to generation. A lot of the science today has its origins in all the knowledge from the ancient Pagan traditions, because back then people observed and learned from what nature was teaching them.

  6. Ardi permalink

    Promaja or korent (current) as we say in Albania is not a legend nor a belief. It is true and tested over and over again buy thousands of people. It doesnt affect everyone the same though and not every day of the year. It does depend on the weather conditions also.

    Come out of the shower and stand in fron of a fan and you’ll see. You’ll start to cough, or your head will ache or your neck will get stiffen or you’ll go straight for diarrhoea. Sleep with an open window above your naked body. Tomorrow you’ll probably not be able to move a muscles. Leave kids sweating in a cold summer breeze, caughing and even fever is inevitable. I’ve suffered from these a bazillion times.

    But not all are affected the same. It depends also on your immune systems toughness, common chronic health problems like spondiliartrozis, bowel conditions, etc. In general it afects most people of all ages.

    • Lauren permalink

      Haha Ardi. I grew up in New Zeland and we left the window open in winter while sleeping. My boyfriend who is Albanian thinks he'll die if we leave the window open at night.

  7. Dida permalink

    Promaja (draft) is usually an artificial wind channel. It is the wind between two windows, two doors, two buildings, or caused by a fan or AC directly blowing on you. It's not a paganism nor a superstition; it's based in science, but mostly well known in a traditional medicine, from Eastern… to native American… to Western

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  10. Wtf are you people talking about? Breezes can’t make you sick, only germs can. This is why you all eat nothing but rotten fish and paint thinner-you don’t even have no intronet. I knew how the human immune system worked when I was 6YRS OLD. I may not undastand time zone but they not even real-the sun is just a flashlight that Zargon is shining on Discworld. The gypsies, the tramps and thieves; the butcher, the baker, the fuckin candlestick maker- they’re all in on it, and they’re not gonna stop unless we can put the rightful Pagemaster on the throne

  11. Chris permalink

    I like to read your blog when go to the work (i work here You write many funny stories . The wind is blowing! – main idea of this post))

  12. Chandra8 permalink

    I like your post thanks to sharing best information keep it up.


  13. ckbgig
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