Our directional reading habit seems to contribute to the widely reported association of small numbers with left space and larger numbers with right space (the spatial-numerical association of response codes, SNARC, effect). But how can this association be so flexible when reading habits are not? To address this question, we asked bilingual Russian-Hebrew readers to classify numbers by parity and alternated the number format from trial to trial between written words and Arabic digits. The number words were randomly printed in either Cyrillic or Hebrew script, thus inducing left-to-right or right-to-left reading, respectively. Classification performance indicated that the digits were spatially mapped when they followed a Russian word but not when they followed a Hebrew word. An auditory control experiment revealed left-to-right SNARC effects with different strengths in both languages. These results suggest that the SNARC effect reflects recent spatial experiences, cross-modal associations, and long-standing directional habits but not an attribute of the number concepts themselves.