Things that will shock you in Russia. Part 1

People

Russian people are notorious for not smiling a lot. At first, you might think they are all unfriendly or plain miserable, but it is actually not true at all. Yes, it is a cultural difference as smiles in Russia are reserved for the special occasions, friends, family and so on. Furthermore, it is not entirely true that Russians do not smile. Russian people have a great sense of humour, they just prefer not to share it with strangers, and smile for no reason. After all, Russians believe that only a fool smiles without a reason. That is why when a Russian person smiles at you, he does it genuinely and there is a good reason for it rather than just being polite.

Not as grey as expected

Some tourists to Russia still believe that Russia is a wild territory where it is possible to meet a bear on the street or a KGB agent around the corner, whilst the county itself is grey and gloomy. Yet, it cannot be further from the truth. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and introduction of a free market, the country has changed immensely. In big cities you can now find everything from Starbucks, Costa and Pizza Hut to H&M, Zara, Apple merchandise and so on. There are vegan places, Pilates studios, state-of-the-art cinemas… The life is buzzing and the streets are generally very clean.

24/7

In Russia you are likely to see a lot of «24» signs: florist shops, pharmacies, cafes, supermarkets… Yes, they are all open for 24 hours a day! Because life does not stop at night time! How convenient is that?

Distances

Russia is enormous, and distances within the country are mind-blowing! Not only between the cities but within the cities as well. If you are looking at the map and something appears to be of a ‘walking distance’, look again. It is likely that it will take you twice as long than anticipated to get there.

Traffic

Moscow’s rush hour traffic is amongst the worst in the world. It is also a nightmare when the first snow of the year falls and not everyone is prepared for it. St Petersburg and other smaller cities are generally more bearable but do not fall far behind. Despite traffic jams on the roads, big Russian cities tend to have a very decent public transport: quick and efficient metro systems, trains including airport express trains, and to lesser extend trams and buses.

Russian homes

Living in a Russian apartment can be quite a cultural shock for some:

-Majority of Russians live in tall, slightly gloomy-looking concrete blocks, but they usually much nicer inside than on the outside.

-In Russia the heating is centralized and there is no control over the room temperature. Usually it is pretty hot during the winter months, but can get pretty chilly in mid-October or mid-May when the heating is yet not on or was already cut off.

– Russians count number of rooms rather than number of bedrooms. It can be quite confusing to foreigners.

– Neighbours are ALWAYS in the process of refurbishment their flats. Be prepared for the constant drilling! The reason is quite simple: it is cheaper to buy an old apartment and do it up yourself (but it might take a few years).

– Entrance doors to Russian’s apartments are fit for a high-security ward. Better be safe than sorry!

– Buzzers do not have names on them.

– Everyone has a balcony, which they usually use to store old things (especially if balconies have the roofs).

To be continued in Part 2…

Team EBC