First of all, happy May holidays for those in countries who celebrate it! This is the first day of my holiday so I’m freeeeee as a bird for a hot minute!
Now, on to the topic at hand:
There are some things that we take for granted, having grown up in our native societies. As a small-town American, I don’t find it strange that people obey traffic laws or greet everyone with a smile and hello. Living in Moscow for three years has given me some (some) insight into the Russia mind and their particular habits (привычки privychki). So if you’re thinking of popping over to Russia for a stay or just plain nosey, here’s some cultural habits you can prepare yourself for that go beyond what you might find in travel guides:
001. Carrying plastic bags. Universally Russians carry both a purse (or murse) and a plastic bag filled with things. This is always confounding to me, as I’d rather just carry a slightly larger handbag or fewer possessions. Here, though, the plastic bag is ubiquitous. Walk through any market and you’ll see tons of shops offering all manner of plastic bags. There are even “status” plastic bags. Take a stroll through the metro and see the classiest ladies carrying a Chanel bag (which they probably bought at said market).
002. Spitting and snot rocketing in public. 1000% culturally unacceptable in America, but the norm here. Learn to suppress your gag reflex. (And read this
vile brilliant post by an expat in Latvia if you really want to be grossed out.)
003. Telling someone near your in line to save your spot and then disappear for a long time to get some extra products. Maybe this is just not done where I’m from, but I hold to the opinion that you can only get in line when you’ve gotten everything you need. OK, maybe you forgot something. Fine. But you can’t tell me these grandmothers who hustle off through the store just happened to forget milk, vegetables, and bread.
004. Shaking hands, but only among men. Seeing tiny five-year-olds walking into my class and shaking each others hands is adorable. Walking into an English class and everyone shaking each others’ hands while ignoring me and every other woman… Infuriating.
005. Walking culture. The stereotype of lazy, fat Americans is kind of true in this case. No matter the time or weather, people will be walking in the park. -50? Grandma’s going for a stroll! 4AM? Perfect time for a romantic walk through the park! This is particularly apparent with children. Parents or grandparents will wheel around babies in strollers for HOURS, even in the dead of winter. I’m not sure if it’s an attempt to give the child some fresh air, or just a sanity saver for Russians who are cramped into tiny apartments with their whole families.
So. There are my five. I’ve got some more rattling around in my head, but can you think of any for Russia? Or any other countries where you’ve been an expat? Or, hell, any from your native land (Americans are weird, so I can definitely think of some)?
Anyway, enjoy your week, even if you’re not in a former soviet state that recognizes socialist-based holidays!