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How to Spot a Russian...


Over the weekend, I was sitting at my apartment pool, relaxing in the hot sun when I was disturbed by very loud voices. Immediately I could tell that it was some of the Russian residents living in my building. For me, it's easy to spot Russians in the crowd, perhaps because I spend so much time communicating with them in my personal life and in this blog. They most often talk in a very loud tone, which sounds aggressive to my English trained ears. Why is this? This is not only at my apartment, but also a perception based on numerous personal encounters with Russians in the USA, on airplanes and throughout Russia. It's not an insult, just an observation. :) The topic of the conversation can be extremely friendly, with a loved one or friend, yet still sound like an argument to me because I barely understand any Russian words when they are spoken by natives.

Other signs that the person at my pool is Russian - older women almost always wear bikinis, despite their physical shape or appearance. Very old, overweight females stuff themselves into these types of bathing suits, and it's fine. About someone else's appearance, I have no opinion or say, and if they're comfortable in this type of clothing, more power to these ladies! :) However, it's not so common for old women in the States to wear bikinis, I very rarely see it. Similarly, Russian and European men at my pool almost always wear Speedos, or tightly constricted swimming trunks. It doesn't matter that they have huge bellies, I suppose it's just a cultural difference in swimwear attire. Something like this...


Photo credit nemihail.

What do I think about this type of swimwear? Horror! :)) I strongly dislike Speedos, even on extremely attractive guys. I guess I prefer modesty, and leaving some things to the imagination. It's for this same reason that I have never worn a bikini, even when I was younger and in much better shape. These are the two simplest ways for me to spot Russians at my pool, and there are a lot of them living in my new apartment complex! Of course, there are certain Slavic facial features in both men and women that also make the determination easy. How about you? Is it easy for you to spot your fellow compatriots when you're in a foreign country? Can you easily spot Americans in Russia? I can almost never pick out fellow Americans in a big crowd overseas!


Jul. 25th, 2015 09:50 pm (UTC)
Yes, I do agree that Americans generally dress in a more casual way, and that Russia has obese people too. However, I disagree with you on another point -

"Most people learn other languages out of necessity, not for fun".
Where are you getting this statistic? This is simply NOT true. Most people start to learn other languages because it is mandatory in most school systems in the world, and continue for many reasons - most I know out of interest and to be better educated/well rounded. Maybe US does not have the best education system for learning languages, but saying that English is an international language and therefore one is not required to learn other languages even for the purpose of travel is not only a lazy but also an ignorant approach (and this is the part I find sad). I am not trying to insult you here - you often offer criticisms of Russian culture, etc, so please be open to receive criticism of your own culture too - otherwise, we have nothing to talk about. I have nothing against Americans, but this is one of the reasons they get a bad rap when traveling sometimes. I wish they would recognize that and make more effort, just out of pure respect, if nothing else.
Jul. 26th, 2015 01:14 am (UTC)
We also have to learn languages in school, both high school and university. I took three years of Spanish in high school and one year in university. However, if you don't use languages, you lose them. So, my knowledge now is only basic. I always learn basic foreign words and phrases when I visit a non-English speaking country. I agree this is the respectful thing to do. This is why I first started studying Russian before I went to visit Kyiv. Of course, you can criticize and offer your opinion on America and Americans. I welcome it. :)
Jul. 26th, 2015 04:02 pm (UTC)
Great! Good for you.
Well, you had said yourself that from your experiences, you can point out the Russians based on loud tone of voice, speedos (although speedos are commonly worn by eastern european men, not just Russians). Btw, I am curious - how can you tell if the loud, speedo-toting man is indeed Russian? Can you actually tell the difference between slavic languages? Could you tell apart Russian and Ukrainian?

Anyway, just as in your experience, you can point out Russians based on certain traits, I usually spot the Americans because of how they are dressed, and because of the way they communicate in a foreign country. I have seen over and over again Americans abroad assuming that everyone speaks English, and not even making a minimal effort to communicate in thr language of the country they visit. It is this laziness and sense of entitlement that I find deeply disrespectful.

Anyway, we can all find room for improvement based on the negative stereotypes. Have you ever tried googling "why are americans so" and see the popular searches? It is interesting what comes up, for both US and Russia.


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