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It's Just Russia (Это Россия!)

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

This isn't really a traditional blog, but I thought maybe it was time for a little reprieve from all the serious stuff to have some fun. Here's some observations I've come up with after nearly 7 years of life here in this big, beautiful, CRAZY country! Please understand: this is only MY OPINION! Most of this is based on comparing American and Russian culture. Have fun and share with your Russian friends!

o Russians have about 12 women’s names and 8 men’s names in popular use. (Of course there are a lot more than that, but it feels like that’s it). And sometimes the nicknames for these are the SAME in both genders! When you walk into a crowded room and yell “Hey Genya! Hey Sasha!” about 20 people, men AND women, will turn their heads.

o And don’t even TRY to think about spelling any name “creatively.” There is one and only one way to spell every name. The Cyrillic alphabet seems phonetically superior to Latin and they pronounce every letter (with just a few exceptions). Makes it much easier to read!

o And speaking of the alphabet, unlike in English speaking countries, Russians don’t need the subject of “spelling” or have spelling bees. All our silent letters and strange vowels combinations don’t interfere in Russian.

o You should never wear shoes in a Russian home. It is considered the height of rudeness to walk into a home with shoes. When they see movies of Americans putting shoes on couches or tables, they are horrified.

o Russians are obsessed with getting sick and getting over sicknesses and all the things that might make them sick. Especially evil is “dutye,” or the draft. If they get a draft blowing on them, they are positive they will be sick by the next day. And often times, no surprise, they wake up with sore throats and stuffy noses. So turn off those air conditioners and fans when a Russian comes over!

o You can go outside in Russia in the freezing cold without gloves, because for some reason, keeping warm hands in optional. But to go out without a hat is like one of the seven deadly sins.

o Hardly anyone under 40 wears fur hats or coats. Don’t believe the movies. They wear down jackets and wool coats like everyone else. But the fur really is warmer.

o Russian girls really are some of the most beautiful in the world. And they take care of themselves. No one here is afraid to wear heels and red lipstick and a pretty dress.

o Russians put dill on almost everything. If you want to make a recipe seem Russian, just dump dill all over it. But beware, it often gets stuck in your teeth.

o Speaking of which, Russians have toothpicks at almost every table, in homes and restaurants. It’s part of the after dinner ritual to pick your teeth while you chat. It’s really quite enjoyable.

o Russians are terrible at giving and following directions (again, in my opinion). After nearly seven years living here, I still don’t know why. To say something like “Go down the street and turn left, you’ll see that market on your right side after 300 meters” is just too hard. Or too simple. I’m not sure which.

o Maybe this is TMI, but Russians cannot make toilets that you do not have to clean afterwards, if you get what I mean. I guess it’s about design and water levels and all that. But having a toilet brush next to each toilet is an absolute must in Russia.

o In Russia if someone is rich, you know they are rich. They make sure the entire world knows it. Fancy car, fancy clothes, fancy apartment. Everything has to be name brand and the highest price you could possibly pay. What may seem ostentatious or ridiculous to a “conservatively wealthy” American (there’s still a few of them out there I think) is totally normal to them.

o Russian hospitality is a real thing. They will serve their very best to their guests. They don’t serve chicken if they have steak. (Although no one I know buys steak, so maybe not a good comparison). They’ll give you the shirt off their back and bend over backwards to make you feel welcome in their homes.

o In Russia, if you are coming as a first time guest to someone’s home, you should always bring a gift, even if it’s just a bar of chocolate.

o In Russia, birthdays are a really big deal. They call each other all day long and friends recite a list of “wishes” for the coming year (“I wish you great happiness, I wish you great health, I wish you will find a husband and have many babies…” Like that.) Also the birthday person often invites friends and family out to a restaurant or to their home for a party, where they make all the food OR pay for the entire meal. Seems kind of unfair, but that’s the way they do it. To make up for the birthday person’s effort, you should bring a really great gift!

o Do not believe the stereotype about Russian thugs you see in all the American films. It’s ridiculous to think people are like that here. Yes, they do have a rather cold demeanor in public (there’s many reasons for that), but once you get to know them, you find them some of the warmest, most sensitive, and really quite hilarious people on earth. If you make a true friend here, you have one for life.

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