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russian-people-are-aliens

I woke up this morning on the wrong side of bed, in an incredibly bad mood. Everyone in my family is ill with the flu and my sister and her husband both recently hospitalized for unexpected sickness. Then I got to work and opened my favorite mindless website to see an article about my beloved Russians. Immediate smiles and laughter! The article is entitled "16 Things Russians Do That Americans Might Find Weird." You can view the original article here and copyright credit for most of the content below belongs to BuzzFeed. We've already discussed many of these behaviors in various posts, and some of them I've personally witnessed but not all. Let's take a look at some Russian behaviors that are odd to Americans.

1. Dressing up to go to the store.

girl

"Russians, especially Russians living in cities, love dressing up. For example, a nice dress and some heels are perfect attire for a casual walk."

There's no doubt Russian women are more fancy than their American counterparts. Yes, plenty of American women dress up to go out to clubs, dates or nice dinners but in daily life we are more casual in appearance. Also true that you can go into many American supermarkets or retail stores and see at least one or two people walking around in pajama pants. This behavior I really hate! I love pajamas more than anyone, but who is so lazy that they can't take one minute to put on a pair of pants? Shameful.

2. Sitting down for a minute before heading on a trip.

sit

"Once the suitcase is packed, most Russians typically pause and sit quietly for a minute before leaving."

This one I've never experienced, in fact the opposite. The Russian I normally travel with doesn't waste one second during travels.

3. Making really long and complicated toasts.

toasts

"Only the laziest of the laziest Russians will make a toast of "To Health" or something short like that. Seriously. Expect to hear anecdotes..."

All of my Russian friends tell me about these legendary long toasts, but I've never experienced one in person. In America, long toasts or speeches are typically reserved for weddings or other formal events. At a bar with friends, we say only one word - "Cheers" - before downing alcohol.

4. Telling anecdotes as often as possible.

sheldon

"Russians might be in the middle of telling a story and then say, with relish, 'And, you know, this reminds me of an anecdote...' and then proceed to tell it, even if it's completely irrelevant.

See a common theme? Apparently Russians like to tell stories. :))

5. Congratulating one another on getting out of a shower or sauna.

kramer

"Russians say "S lyogkim parom!" (Basically "congratulations on a light steam")."

Unfortunately, I've never visited a Russian banya or sauna, but it's on my "to do" list. I like to be whipped with twigs. ;)) Is this true? You really congratulate each other in such a manner?

6. Answering "How are you?" honestly and fully.

spacey

"How are you?" in Russian demands an actual answer, not just "Great, thanks!"

7. Not smiling at strangers.

bitch

"In Russia, smiling at people you randomly make eye contact with is not a thing. Smiles are supposed to be genuine, to be shared only with friends."

We've discussed many times the cultural differences between the way Americans and Russians interact with strangers. This is the biggest culture shock for an American when they step foot in Russia. Rare to see people smiling at each other or exchanging friendly "hellos" on the streets. When you come from a country like America where it is common place, you get the immediate perception that Russians are cold and unfriendly toward one another when visiting.

8. Celebrating New Year's more enthusiastically than Christmas.

nye

"The tree is for New Year's. Presents are for New Year's. Forget Christmas. New Year's is THE winter holiday in Russia."

This is completely different from America, where family gatherings and gift exchanges take place on 24 and 25 December (Christmas Eve and Christmas day). It's the main holiday of the year and New Year's Eve is party day, not family or gift day. One reader recently told me that the 7 January Christmas holiday in Russia is "just another day off for most people."

9. Constantly rewatching old Soviet cartoons.

soviet

"Nu, Pogodi!," "Bremenskiye Muzykanty" and "Snezhnaya Koroleva" are among Russia's favorites."

Now, this I've personally experienced! :)) My Russian friend has shown me several Soviet cartoons, and readers sometimes send them to me. I like them!

10. Calling all females "girl."

ryan

"If you want to call your female waitress, you yell 'girl!.' If you want to address a 50 year old woman, you can call her 'girl.' If you want to address an actual girl, you call her 'girl.' Any woman sort of a babushka is 'girl.'

Hmmm...don't know if this is true? Honestly I rarely understand anything native Russian men say to me when I'm on the streets or public places in Russia, and I speak English with all my Russian guy friends. In Poland, a bunch of drunkards attempted to speak to me in Russian when left alone for a second. Maybe they were calling me 'girl,' or something much more creative. :) I have no idea what they said to me.

11. Sitting down at the table for a meal and staying there for hours.

meal

"When groups of Russians get together for dinner, they will sit down, have dinner and talk. Then they will talk some more."

I've never been to a formal Russian feast, only casual parties involving a lot of drinking. However, my friends tell me about these long, formal gatherings. Americans also sit and have dinner together on occasion, but it's rare that such events last hours. We're more mobile and casual. For example, you can read about my large family's Thanksgiving gathering and feast. We move around and talk to numerous people, not staying in the same seat for extended periods.

12. Always keeping your bags.

bags

"Seriously, Russians never, ever throw away any bags just cause you never know when you might need one."

Okay, this one is strange for me. I've stayed in a Russian apartment twice and never noticed a lot of extra bags.

13. Preparing way more food than is necessary for guests.

food

"And most will have tons of mayo."

No difference here between Russians and Americans. My family always prepares enough food to feed an army. We like to eat, but I hate mayonnaise!!

14. Living with their parents.

living

"It is often that an entire Russian family - parents, children and grandparents - will live together in one apartment."

I can't say I've witnessed this either. Maybe it was true in other eras, but not modern day Russia? What about women? Is it typical for young, single Russian women to live alone, or they stay at home with their parents until married?

15. Meeting complete strangers and then becoming friends with them immediately.

strangers

"And then inviting them over for some tea after only 10 minutes of conversation."

16. Never showing up to someone's house without a gift in hand.

chocolate_and_flowers-1342

Yes! My Russian friend always brings wonderful gifts when he visits. No real difference in cultures here. Americans also bring gifts like wine or flowers when visiting friends or relatives for dinner or extended periods of stay.

So which Russian behaviors are exaggerated here and which are true? I wonder which American behaviors Russians and other foreigners find weird? Discuss.

See also my post entitled "Bizarre Russian Foods" for a good laugh!

Comments

( 252 comments — Leave a comment )
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noisy_kid
Jan. 8th, 2014 05:17 pm (UTC)
Haha, most of it is really true! And my German boyfriend is fond of "Nu, podogi!" However, he also enjoys some modern Russian cartoons, like "Masha and The Bear":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pw7ZhFAxNrY

I have to admit that he is very enthusiastic about Russian culture, and sometimes I have the feeling that in those three years we are together he has become more Russian than me! Or maybe it's me getting more and more German :)

Hope your relatives will get well soon and you won't get ill, too!

Edited at 2014-01-08 05:19 pm (UTC)
peacetraveler22
Jan. 9th, 2014 12:12 am (UTC)
Well Russian culture is interesting for many people. Does your boyfriend speak Russian? I love bears and have never seen this cartoon "Masha and the Bear." Cute!
rider3099
Jan. 8th, 2014 05:22 pm (UTC)
Very funny, you know, but the most of them are really true.
As for bags - it was a reality of our life maybe 15 years ago, not now.
As for “live with parents”… if a girl/boy can afford the rent paying, she/he prefer to live alone.
peacetraveler22
Jan. 9th, 2014 12:13 am (UTC)
What American behavior did you find weird when you first moved here?
(no subject) - rider3099 - Jan. 9th, 2014 05:59 am (UTC) - Expand
julegg
Jan. 8th, 2014 05:29 pm (UTC)
2. It is an old tradition, usually do so for a long time leaving out of the house.

5. Yes, so they say. Sauna in Russia is not just a bathroom, it is something more.
peacetraveler22
Jan. 9th, 2014 12:14 am (UTC)
I'm supposed to go to a Korean bathhouse this weekend. Absolutely everyone there will be running around naked, in various steam rooms, jacuzzis and pools. Should be interesting.
siberian_cat
Jan. 8th, 2014 05:34 pm (UTC)
#2 is a very old and quite popular custom, I myself like it very much. You just sit there enjoying a moment of quiet before going into hassle of journey, thinking about returning to your safe haven... You may also suddenly remember something you forgot to do or to pack. :)
peacetraveler22
Jan. 9th, 2014 12:15 am (UTC)
Maybe I should employ this technique because I always forget something in my suitcase. :)
oblomskaya
Jan. 8th, 2014 05:37 pm (UTC)
2. Sitting down before going to a trip is a very important superstition. I even taught to it my American relatives :). You just sit down, and keep silence for a minute or so. Some pray, and some try to remember whether they've packed the passports.

10. "devushka!" is indeed quite common and refers to almost all ages.
peacetraveler22
Jan. 9th, 2014 12:16 am (UTC)
Apparently it's a very popular tradition, but I never knew about it! I'm always so anxious to leave that it would be hard to sit still, even for a minute.
(no subject) - polnopop - Feb. 13th, 2014 12:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
siberian_cat
Jan. 8th, 2014 05:47 pm (UTC)
Living with parents and grandparents was a result of severe apartment shortage in the Soviet times. Most people do not enjoy it at all.

Another factor was that the nursing homes had generally bad reputation, and sending elderly parents to a nursing home was considered a shameful deed. Many people lived with their parents to care for them.

peacetraveler22
Jan. 9th, 2014 12:19 am (UTC)
I don't know much about conditions for the elderly in Russia. Hopefully things have improved since Soviet times. My grandmother lived in a nursing home which was quite nice but still depressing. She had dementia and couldn't be left alone so it was the only option to ensure she was properly cared for.
(no subject) - puzyrik - Jan. 9th, 2014 04:10 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jan. 9th, 2014 02:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
peacetraveler22
Jan. 9th, 2014 12:19 am (UTC)
Maybe you're secretly American? :))
sergechel
Jan. 8th, 2014 05:50 pm (UTC)
1. Dressing up to go to the store.

Stupid blondes probably (blondes not for hair color). Most russians dresses casual in everyday life, but not pajamas )

2. Sitting down for a minute before heading on a trip.

Never saw it in my life.

3. Making really long and complicated toasts.

Sometimes, but not really long. "To Health" is the most popular in reality.

4. Telling anecdotes as often as possible.

Maybe

5. Congratulating one another on getting out of a shower or sauna.

We tell that jokingly, after visiting sauna you feel yourself pretty good and freshy, and people tell you this, meaning 'Congrats, you feel yourself really good!'

6. Answering "How are you?" honestly and fully.

No. Great, thanks! is the answer. In other case its something mental.

7. Not smiling at strangers.

Yes.

8. Celebrating New Year's more enthusiastically than Christmas.

Yes.

9. Constantly rewatching old Soviet cartoons.

Not much, but old soviet comedies are very popular. And they are really good.

10. Calling all females "girl."

Calling somebody for his/her sex is usual (boy-girl, young man - young girl, man - woman).

11. Sitting down at the table for a meal and staying there for hours.

Not just sitting and eating, but also talking, drinking, singing )

12. Always keeping your bags.

Yes.

13. Preparing way more food than is necessary for guests.

Yes. We eat it for few next days.

14. Living with their parents.

It is really expensive now to rent or buy personal apartments, so poor people usually live together by generations.

15. Meeting complete strangers and then becoming friends with them immediately.

Not really.

16. Never showing up to someone's house without a gift in hand.

No if this is a casual visit.
muthafunk
Jan. 8th, 2014 09:27 pm (UTC)
17. Saying "Feel yourself"
Most russians will never get this, it's so funny
Re: 17. Saying "Feel yourself" - muthafunk - Jan. 8th, 2014 09:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: 17. Saying "Feel yourself" - sergechel - Jan. 9th, 2014 01:08 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jan. 9th, 2014 12:56 am (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
Jan. 8th, 2014 06:06 pm (UTC)
point 15 exaggerated, as for american weirdness, there isn't any, becuase of exceptionalism :) joke
peacetraveler22
Jan. 9th, 2014 12:57 am (UTC)
Exceptional people almost always have weird qualities. :))
1000li
Jan. 8th, 2014 06:13 pm (UTC)
=))
peacetraveler22
Jan. 9th, 2014 12:57 am (UTC)
Yes, it's amusing. Always interesting to see how others view us.
(no subject) - 1000li - Jan. 9th, 2014 03:17 am (UTC) - Expand
janelight
Jan. 8th, 2014 06:15 pm (UTC)
1. Not absolutely typical. Might be for some sort of personality, but I would not call it something common for all Russians.
2. Well, weird that you never observed it :) It is sort of usual )) We call it "присядем на дорожку", which actually means "let's sit to have a safe trip". Sort of good omen.
3. Mmmm...Depends on the case. Weddings, big feasts - yes. Sitting with friends at home - sometimes, but not TOO long toasts. TOO long - this is more about Georgians than Russians.
4. Maybe the author took as something that all Russians do all the time because those he communicated with were telling him stories? Then he misinterpreted communication with a foreigner/a guest as a national habit.
5. С легким паром is not understood as "congratulations". I would call it the same sort of politeness as when you say "Hello" or "Bon appetite".
6. Mostly yes.
7. Yes.
8. Yes. During 70 years of the USSR, NY became a substitution for Christmas for most people.
9. Partially yes :)
10. Well, they would call you "girl" until your late 50s :) Then they would call you "woman". I think mostly it comes from the fact that if you are younger than the age of grandmother, you might be offended when called "woman" (which means older than "girl"). By the way, if Russians quarrel in public, like in the shop, they would call the opponent female "woman" but not "girl" even if you are young enough - this would emphasize the negative manner of the discussion.
11. Not for a business lunch, of course. But yes if this is a party with friends.
12. Well, true in many cases and for different reasons :) For example, I do keep some extra plastic bags - but just not to buy special bags for garbage. You did not see them because we do not through them around, we keep them somewhere in the kitchen :)
13. Usually yes.
14. Oh, this highly depends on the financial side. In Soviet times, it was simply almost impossible to rent an apartment or to buy one, so people just had to live with parents. Now you can do it easily - if you have money. Thus, it is not that common nowadays, if the single man/woman or couple have money to rent/buy/take mortgage. At the same time, many people, especially in the province, just cannot do that, especially while they are single.
15. I would say it is more normal for people from lower class...
16. Usually yes.
peacetraveler22
Jan. 9th, 2014 01:01 am (UTC)
"if Russians quarrel in public, like in the shop, they would call the opponent female "woman" but not "girl" even if you are young enough - this would emphasize the negative manner of the discussion." Hmm, it's interesting. Russian women seem much more concerned and sensitive about getting older than American women are, so I assume they take this as an insult in a fight?
(no subject) - janelight - Jan. 9th, 2014 01:10 am (UTC) - Expand
barabaan
Jan. 8th, 2014 06:32 pm (UTC)
Funny, you saw some russians already, and still surprised about cultures difference?
I finally figured out that watching classical soviet movies is the best way to understand our culture.
Dostoevskiy sucks.
peacetraveler22
Jan. 9th, 2014 01:02 am (UTC)
Most of my Russian friends have very Western mentalities. Maybe this is why I've never noticed these behaviors.
(no subject) - janelight - Jan. 9th, 2014 01:15 am (UTC) - Expand
gella_key
Jan. 8th, 2014 06:33 pm (UTC)
2. Sitting down for a minute before heading on a trip.
Yep, my favorite cusom, although I often forget to do it when leaving.

5. Congratulating one another on getting out of a shower or sauna.
Yep, we really do, but it referes only to banya, not shower. Maybe it comes from old times, when banya was heated in so called "black" manner (по-черному), when all the smoke was sent into the room and it was easy to get poisoned by charcoal fumes, so, if you managed not to get poisoned, the steam was light :-)

Most of the other items is true, even of the plastic bags. Everybody has a bag with bags, hidden somewehre in a closet, even if they deny it :-)
peacetraveler22
Jan. 9th, 2014 01:03 am (UTC)
Poisoned? Doesn't sound very relaxing or therapeutic. :)
(no subject) - gella_key - Jan. 9th, 2014 10:20 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - janelight - Jan. 9th, 2014 01:16 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gella_key - Jan. 9th, 2014 10:22 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - janelight - Jan. 9th, 2014 11:03 am (UTC) - Expand
general_denikin
Jan. 8th, 2014 06:38 pm (UTC)
Oops! You missed the very important point, I mean the sense of the picture #15. This young guy, his name Dmitry Bagrov, on the left who's breathing into his fist on the picture is probable the who has created the attitude of modern russians showed towards you americans.
Check the movie "Брат-2" he created and starred in late 90th, I never watched so much hatred and scorn toward american people ever even during the cold war epoch, but with very much talent.
Bizzardly He died shortly after this movie ~ 15 years ago being very young (~30), but still this movie is the favorite for many russians
qi_tronic
Jan. 8th, 2014 08:15 pm (UTC)
Perfect movie! :)

I took a CD with the soundtrack with me to my first American trips and played it all the time in a car.
This anchors the proper attitude :)))

(no subject) - general_denikin - Jan. 8th, 2014 09:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(Deleted comment)
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