After strolling around for almost 2 months in the Russian Federation, I have learned so much about cultural differences. I have seen things that I never would have imagined I would witness here in Russia, and I would love to share these “stereotype-busters” with you in this post.
1. Russia does not have year-long winter: “You are studying abroad in Russia?! You will have to wear your winter coat ALL summer!”
While it may seem that almost every American film set in Russia involves freezing weather and fur coats and hats, brutal cold is not the only temperature. Sunshine does exist: I have seen beaches and people sunbathing in parks. There are fountains here that children play in and adults run through. On sunny days, my phonetics professor actually teaches our class outside on the green lawn!
To be completely honest, the weather is a little odd. The rain and wind here can get pretty funky. My host mom just informed me that there was a small tornado in St. Petersburg yesterday, and she said it was the first time ever. (This is also the record coldest summer since 1948, which is unfortunately ironic.) Nevertheless, even during an unusually windy and chilly summer, sunburns and sweat are still very much a reality.
2. I haven’t seen any bears roaming about in Russia. I haven’t even seen a pet bear on a leash. But I have seen stray dogs and more pigeons than I would ever like to see. And I have also seen pet monkeys in outfits and raccoons on leashes. Go figure.
3. All Russians are not as “serious” as one might have thought. Humor is a huge part of life here, and it is enjoyable to catch silly moments on the metro or marshrytka (like when an elderly woman starts laughing hysterically and blessing you repeatedly because she fell onto your lap during a sharp turn …or when it starts raining out of nowhere and the wind blows your umbrella inside-out and an elderly man finds it to be absolutely hysterical). Actually, a lot of these LOL moments happen at home. I woke up the other morning to some Russians teenagers singing “Hakuna Matata” outside my window.
And the other week, I bought a purse during a huge sale at the mall, and my host mom liked it so much that she went out and bought the same purse in a different color …and could not wait to tell me about it. Now she enjoys telling me “good job” every time I take it with me out the door in the morning.
And sometimes, when she knows I have been to the mall, she will ask me if I saw any good deals.
4. Fastfood is better abroad. There is just something about sitting in a Burger King with a ceiling fit for a cathedral and biting into the most plump burger that makes one start to compare…
And… Russian McFlurries are creamier than American ones, too.
5. Russia has roller coasters. I would know – for the Fourth of July, I went to a “Disney-like” theme park. Oh, and they are WILD. The advertisements for the particular roller coaster that I rode said it went from 0 to 100 km/hr in 2 seconds, but the fact that there was no bar over my shoulders during all the loops and corkscrews was slightly more terrifying. But for the split-second I had at the top before the plunge, I could see the most spectacular view.
6. Not all Russians drink. But when they do, according to my culture professor, they do it right. And it is normally vodka. “To warm Russians up because we are such cold people,” he would sarcastically explain.
7. The Minion movie in Russian is great. Without having really seen either Despicable Me movie, I can say that my friend and I laughed our pants off in a theater that only had a handful of other people in it… and they were all under 3 feet tall.
That reminds me…
8. Russian movie theaters have the comfiest seats ever. And probably the coolest refreshment options ever. A pint of Baskin Robbins? Sure. Refillable giant sugar sticks? So that’s why the little boy kept leaving the theater…
9. While it is advised to keep a straight, blank look on your face on the metro, some people are doing just fine without their “Metro Face”:
After this Russian man spontaneously hopped on the metro and started playing his electric clarinet after everyone had a long and tiring day (Navy Day celebrations – long travels, lots of walking, lots of exciting events)… he ran up and down the aisle – asking for money – and then hopped off at the next stop.
Never a dull moment.
^^^ Not even for him.
Location: st. petersburg, russia