Interested about Russia? If you expect to see bears, women, and political riots in here, sorry to disappoint you. There’s more to see and know about the Russian culture and you might find one that’ll interest you or even shock you more. You’ll even know why most Russians don’t smile. So read on to know the 10 things about Russia that shock first-time visitors. Cheers!
1. Customer Service
Russians are known for their almost nonexistent customer service. If you lived in a society wherein the saying “The customer is always right.” is always used, then better leave it for a while if you’re going to Russia because if Russians say they can’t help you – they really can’t help you. It’s said that it’s in the Russian culture to be pervasive and live daily with a “That’s not my problem.” attitude. If they don’t know the answer to your question, they’ll say it and that’s it. Don’t expect an apology.
2. Russian is Not the Only Language Spoken
Russia is so vast that it should probably be expected to have more than one official language. In fact, Russia has 35 official languages considered in various regions along with the Russian language. Even locals can be surprised by this fact.
3. The banya culture
The Russian bath or sauna which the locals call “banya” is an essential part of living in Russia. From Tsars to peasants, everyone use it for relaxation, health concerns, religious ceremonies and more. Unlike Finnish and Turkish Saunas, banyas have the same level of humidity as the air we breathe everyday with temperatures that don’t exceed 80C because Russians believe that hot and dry sauna will just dry your throat and skin.
Going to a banya includes drinking a few shots of vodka, sitting inside the steam room, having someone beat you with a broom-like thing called venik made of birch branches, diving into freezing-cold water, then going back to the steam room again, if you want to.
Russia is known for corruption and unfortunately, bribery is nothing but a common act that happens everyday. It’s not only limited to government officials for even university officials, nurses and doctors can also be given a bit of a “gift” in exchange of a favor. Bribery is widely practiced that for some people, it’s already morally acceptable.
5. The “N” word
The “N” word, negro (негр which sounds like negr) to be exact, is not a racist word in the Russian language. The scientific name of the the race is Negroid and thus, the word isn’t a big deal for Russians. Historically, Russia didn’t experience a big impact from the black slave trade unlike the USA and the black population in the country is extremely small. So, there’s no reason for them to be uncomfortable in saying the word.
6. Telling an Anecdote
Anecdotes in Russia are like the legends or myths that were told from a generation to another generation. So if you’re visiting some Russian friends, be prepared to have an anecdote – a Russian anecdote – with hopes that you can make your audience laugh.
Want to visit a friend but you forgot to call? If you’re in Russia, that isn’t a problem just go on and visit. But wait, remember to have something with you. Flowers (an odd number over 2 flowers and not yellow), a box of chocolates, a bottle of wine – it can be anything. Visiting someone’s home empty-handed may make the person or the family think that you don’t care at all.
When you’re in the house already, the host will offer you something to eat and drink. Try not to say “no” to this because doing so is considered rude. Not even drinking vodka with Russian friends is also considered rude. It might seem like you don’t want to be friends and you don’t trust the people you’re with.
8. Not Smiling
Russians often look cold because they aren’t used to smiling everyday. A smile isn’t a polite gesture for Russians. A smile revealing the top and bottom teeth may look vulgar and can be called a “horsey” smile. Also, a perpetual smile called an “attendant’s smile” is considered a negative feature that shows insincerity and secretiveness. A smile is a sign of personal affection that should be shown genuinely to people they know, not on random strangers.
Conversations about work, money, religion, and politics are normal and it isn’t rude to ask someone about any of these. Do not hesitate to talk about certain topics for these can be educational for all those who are involved in the conversation.
Vodka shouldn’t be on the list but then, as they all say, Russians and vodka are inseparable. It was reported that an average Russian adult drinks 20 liters of vodka per year that it became Russia’s top health killer.
How do Russians drink? First rule: If you’re going to drink vodka, you only drink vodka. No bottles of beer, wine, or carbonated drinks included. If you’re invited in a party, it’s rude if you reject an offer. It’s also rude if you, the host, forget to give someone a glass. A toast is often spoken for someone’s honor (be sure that you also know how to do this).
Once a bottle is opened, there’s nothing else that should be done but finish the whole bottle. You can take passes after three shots but that doesn’t mean you’re good to go. The drinking continues with servings of zakuski, or hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, like sliced beet vinaigrette, savory stuffed eggs, Beluga caviar, cheese, herrings, and more. Don’t also miss the “goryacheye” (hot dishes), and the tea and cakes at the end of the drinking session – if you’re still sober.