If you are Russian:
You believe that all politicians and wealthy individuals had to cheat, lie, or steal to rise to their position of power. This might make you a bit jealous, and certainly permits you to take a little extra for yourself if you see an opportunity. Everybody does it. Where’s the harm in that? The wealthy make enough already.
You are familiar with Cheburashka, Koshei Bessmertnii, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Baba Yaga, Ivan Grozny, Ded Moroz, Snegurochka, Ivan Durak, Moscow Doesn’t Believe in Tears (Moskva Slezam Ne Verit), With Light Steam (S Legkim Parom), Eralash, Ivan Susanin, Santa Barbara, Nu Pogodi, Terminator and MTV.
You know how football (not that American stuff) and hockey are played, especially if you are a man. And you likely follow figure skating also. Everyone knows Russians are the best at it. You probably tried basketball in physical education class. Baseball? It is incomprehensible and reminds you of the game that you used to play at kindergarten and in primary school and which is called Lapta.
You get 24 vacation days a year, along with many holidays. Plus tea-breaks ... and smoking breaks during the day. After all, I will pretend to work, if you pretend to pay me. Although it seems more and more they expect you to work to make even a little money.
If you died tonight you wouldn’t be surprised….
You believe in God (especially when you are in big trouble) and may wear an orthodox cross. But you probably don’t go to church very often. If you are a woman, you know to put a scarf over your hair and to wear a skirt when going to church. You also celebrate main religious holidays, such as Christmas and Easter. You also celebrate and follow many pagan holidays and traditions too. The Church is not against it.
McDonalds and Pizza Hut are not cheap food, and are just terrible for you. Americans eat this unhealthy food all the time; it is why they are all fat. You’ve tried these places and their food quality is bad. You might even try it weekly, just to be sure that it is still terrible. Mmm, yes, still terrible. Cheaper and better options exist at local cafes. Baskin-Robbins is cool though … did you know they have 32 flavors?
You don’t consider insects, dogs, cats, monkeys, or guinea pigs to be food; however you might eat some suspicious looking mushrooms that you’ve picked up in the woods. Sometimes you get poisoned by them but that doesn’t stop you from mushroom-picking next time.
A bathroom has a bathtub in it and it might have a toilet, although it might be in a separate room as well.
If you live in a big city (and of course, you absolutely want to ... who wants to live in a dirty village of only half a million people?) you rely upon the metro, buses, or marshrutka (mini-buses). They are cheap, fast, and reliable. Even cheaper if you get one of those counterfeit pass-cards that people sell on the streets. Just don’t get caught using one. Sometimes you take a taxi, or just wave down a car going by and negotiate the cost of a ride. Trains are quite reliable for traveling long distances in Russia … not that you do that very often. Airplanes are expensive and a bit scary and thrilling … you flew on one once when going to Anatalya, Turkey for vacation.
You expect, as a matter of course, that the phones will not work sometimes. Sometimes the power goes out for a short while also. Getting a new phone line is a real pain, but mobile phones! My god, mobile phones! I just bought a new one a month ago, but I want to exchange it for the latest, coolest one like Masha got last week! Mobile phones are all pre-paid plans, and phone cards are all in dollars (the price might vary too much if it were in rubles).
You probably own a telephone (mobile phone too!) and a TV. Your place is heated in the winter and has its own bathroom. You do your laundry in a machine, although you very well may hang it to dry. Ironing is therefore essential, unless you are a slob. You don't kill your own food, but your family may have a garden and/or dacha. Picking wild mushrooms and berries is a real tradition. Canning or preserving foods from your garden or from picking wild is also common. You don’t make your own bread, but the bread you buy is probably not pre-sliced. You probably live at home until you are married sometime in your twenties. You don't have a dirt floor. You eat at a table, sitting on chairs. Shoes are removed as soon as you enter the house, put on some house slippers, and for god’s sake, wash your hands after you’ve been out! The city is filthy!
If you live in a city (and of course you do) you know you will be without hot water for one month in the summer. And of course, the heat isn’t turned on until October 1st (well, September 20th in hospitals and kindergartens). Heat and hot water are all provided by central plants in each city, after all. The idea of each house or apartment having control of their own heat and hot water … seems so decadent!
You need to be 18 to get a drivers license. You have to take paid lessons and cannot practice on your own. This makes getting a license difficult. But of course, you can always just bribe an official and get a license … really, everybody does it. Women mostly don’t drive (which is only proper) although more of them are getting on the roads these days. Before you can get permission to drive, you are required to have a full physical, including a gynecological exam for women (eto pravda!).
You need to be 18 to drink or smoke, although nobody really checks. Smoking is very popular and you can do it anywhere. Beer (pivo) is a nice mild beverage; you can even drink it while walking in the street. Sometimes you see people drinking a beer in the morning on their way to work … although recent changes in public drinking laws have made that illegal. Even teenagers drink it, although that can be a bit of a problem. Vodka is mostly drunk by men, and of course, real Russian Vodka is the best in the world. It is inexpensive here also, as it should be. It is obviously the world’s most potent drink; whiskey is tame in comparison. Baileys Irish Crème is just great, women especially like it, although it is a rather expensive.
Court system? Suing someone for damaging you is just a dream ...actually, it isn’t even a dream because you don’t consider it a possibility. You wouldn’t want a crazy court system like in the US, where people can sue for a spilled cup of hot coffee anyway. Police and the courts are just another form of criminals and if you have money you can buy your way out of almost anything (except making Putin angry at you .. right Khordokovsky?)
You probably don’t speak any language other than Russian. Mostly you don’t need any other language … Russia is very big and it is difficult for you to visit Western Europe or the US anyway. If you travel abroad, it is likely to be Turkey or Egypt and the people at the hotel or resort will speak Russian. You are slightly impressed if another Russian speaks English, German, French, or Chinese. Mostly if you want to be understood by a foreigner you just talk more loudly and slowly. TI PO-NI-MA-ESH?! You are almost shocked if an English speaking foreigner speaks Russian. Where did they learn it? Many English words make their way into Russian, and even certain products for sale might have an English sounding name.
There are many races and you can identify them all. You’ve only seen blacks a few times, mostly on TV or movies. But … Jews, Ukrainians, Tatars, Chechens, Georgians, Armenians, Turks, Komi’s, Chukchi … it is all very apparent. They may live here, but they certainly aren’t RUSSIAN. And if a Russian has a child with some of these other races, it is often quite apparent. Even slightly almond-shaped eyes lend themselves to be described as “asian”. Any German, French, Italian, or American are also obvious … they are as plain as the nose on your face. Now that you mention it, your eyes are a bit heavy-lidded. Are you sure you aren’t part Jewish? Maybe there was a stranger in your clan! However, despite this, we would be insulted if you said we are “racist”.
You think any tax rate is scandalously high ... you avoid paying taxes at all, if you possibly can. The tax rate on personal income is 13% (flat tax) and about 24% on businesses. However, employers must pay payroll taxes to the Pension Fund, the Social Insurance Fund, the State Employment Fund and the Compulsory Medical Insurance Fund, plus a transportation tax and an education tax that are also based on wages. In effect this all comes out of your wallet also. That doesn’t include local and regional taxes. Most evade taxes in some form, it is almost a national sport to break the rules at least a little. The Russian government trying to collect money from taxes is like someone bailing water with a sieve.
Education is free through high school. University isn’t, unless you get a scholarship. Getting into the best Universities is very competitive. A bribe to the right official certainly wouldn’t hurt your chances.
University is (normally, and excluding graduate study) five years long. College is usually just a two-year technical degree, not a real higher education.
Everybody knows that ….
Mustard? Don’t use that too often, I guess it comes in jars or tubes. My father makes his own mustard from ground seeds and vinegar … very potent! Shaving cream comes in a can, many of the same brands that are sold in the US. Same with disposable razors … my Gillette Mach 3 Turbo is great! Milk comes in tetrapaks or plastic jugs. Sour cream (smetana) comes in little plastic tubs and improves almost everything you put it on. Вкусно!
The date comes first and the month second, as in 9/5/1945 (and you know what happened on that date, don’t you?) We may criticize our country 364 days a year, but all Russians feel proud of their Motherland on May 9.
World War II was the Great Patriotic War. Nothing else has affected life in Russia so much as this war. Every city has tributes and monuments to the war in which over 20 million people from the Soviet Union died. Russia fought and won this war against Germany almost alone, and suffered for it. It is hard to know why others might call it a “World War” considering that we were the only ones really fighting the Germans. France didn’t fight them, Poland didn’t fight them, and the US and UK jumped in at the end, when the outcome was certain. They seemed to give themselves an awful lot of credit for doing so. The US dropped that atom bomb as a show of strength, to intimidate their enemies, when the war was already over and Japan was defeated. But we are very strong and preserved against great odds, even when our former so-called allies turned against us after the war, as we knew they would. Russia must be strong because everybody else is against us and it has always been so.
You expect marriages to be made for love, not arranged by third parties. Most marriages happen in ZAGC (ЗАГС .... Запись Актов Гражданского Состояния) ... a civil courthouse for marriage ... sometimes called "Palace of Marriage" (Дворец Бракосочетания). Although now it is more common that couple also goes to church after it, usually at same day. You have a best man and a maid a friend or a sibling. Before the wedding ceremony at ZAGC, groom usually has to “redeem” the bride from her relatives and friends by paying money. It is usually a good chance for them to make good money and they sometimes can really “peel off” the poor guy. After the wedding ceremony it is common to visit the local monuments of World War 2. A man gets only one wife at a time, but it wouldn’t be uncommon for him to have a younger mistress, especially if he has a bit of money.
If a man has sex with a man, he is a homosexual.
Once you're introduced to someone your age (well, besides the President and other lofty figures), you can call them by their first name but still use the polite form (vi) unless given permission to call them with “ti”. You almost always call elderly people by their name and patronymic.
If you're a woman, you don't go to the beach topless, but you might take off your top while sunning. Men wear briefs at the beach, and not those big heavy shorts that American men seem to wear.
A hotel room might have a private bath, or might not. It depends on how much money you are willing to pay. Usually it is foreigners or the very wealthy who stay in the nicest hotels.
You'd rather a film be dubbed than subtitled.
You don’t seriously expect to be able to transact business, or deal with the government, without paying bribes. Who is so naïve?
If a politician has been cheating on his wife, you wouldn’t be surprised.
Many restaurants and hotels in big cities would take your credit card, if you have one. But most people just use cash. Banks aren’t entirely trusted and its not entirely clear how checking accounts or credit cards work or why you would need one. The stock market seems like a license to steal money… how does anyone profit at it?
A company can fire just about anybody it wants without any explanation.
You don’t like your bacon crispy or burnt.
Labor Day is May 1st and it is international.
We see everyone as they really are, and aren’t afraid to say it
Americans – They are all fat, of course. It comes from their unhealthy and unnatural foods that they eat there. All their food is engineered and full of preservatives ... no wonder they are unhealthy.
Chinese – Everything made in China is of bad quality and very inexpensive. The cheapest clothing items are made in China, but they are commonly purchased at markets.
Japanese – Workaholics and manage to live in a such small area with such a high population.
Georgians, Armenians, etc. - Sell fruits on markets, occupy a lot of business here. Dark-haired, usually wear leather jackets and dark jeans/sport pants. Often associated with criminals and considered dangerous.
Ukrainians - They are very ungrateful towards Russians. Even though you may be partially Ukrainian yourself, you consider them to be foolish and a bit offensive these days. Maybe they should suffer a little bit down there to be put into their place. Their food is considered a bit old-fashioned and they eat too much salo (fatty bacon or pork lard).
Belarussians - "White Russians"
Baltic States -Too slow, almost all of them are blond, a nice objects for anecdotes and jokes. Suuuucchh aaasss ... hooowwww slloowwllyy Eeessstonniaaanns ... taaalk.
Germans - Although they are like little robots following all those rules they have a good life and a nice clean country. Who wouldn’t want to live like them?
French - Good lovers, eat frogs. Their comedies used to be very popular. Who doesn’t know Louis de Funes?
Italians - Open and happy people who live in a sunny and beautiful country. Very loud too.
Contributions to World Civilization
Of course, everyone knows that the very best artists are Russian. Only true suffering can lead to real art, and Russians are experts at suffering. The best writers, classical composers, painters, dancers, cinematographers, and actors are all Russian. Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Pasternak, Pushkin, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Hvorostovsky. And, yes, it was Popov who invented radio first and Polzunov who made first steam engine, don’t matter what others may say! Their only problem was that they didn’t patent their inventions.
You spent a great deal of time studying Russian history in school. You studied some world history also. The US really doesn’t have any history; it’s only about 200 years old.
If you're male, you have to spend two years in the military, unless you can buy your way out of it.
Many have tried to conquer Russia, but none have succeeded, unless you count the Mongols long ago. But eventually Ivan Grozny defeated them also at the battle of Kazan. No country is as strong as Russia and we remain a great military power, despite any evidence to the contrary.
You are used to buying fruits and vegetables when they are in season … it is only natural. To buy fresh potatoes in March or strawberries in December wouldn’t be natural anyway. It is right to be suspicious of many things sold in stores, as many items are counterfeit. Even the money in your pocket could be fake, so it is normal that banks and stores double check it before accepting.
You use the metric system. It is amazing that some countries would use anything else.
You are not a farmer, but your family probably have a dacha (country house) and a garden with flowers or vegetables.
You consider the Volkswagen Beetle to be a medium sized car. Actually, you consider anything bigger than a pumpkin to be a good-sized car. And you are proud of your OKA even though some people might call it an “abortion of the truck”.
The police are armed with submachine guns, but the mafia is even better armed. Chechen terrorists are well armed as well.
If a woman is plumper than the average, it doesn't improve her looks.
The biggest meal of the day is in the early afternoon (obed).
The nationality people most often make jokes about are the Chukchi (northern peoples).
There's parts of the city you definitely want to avoid at night.
The people who appear on the most popular talk shows are mostly entertainers, politicians, or rather strange individuals. Authors and scientists are less popular but still there is a special channel Culture on TV sponsored by government where you can find all the “clever” stuff and where there are no commercial breaks (reklama).
You drive on the right side of the road. You stop at red lights if you must, but if you see the yellow light indicates it is about to change green, you might not even slow down. Yes, that’s right … we get a yellow before the green light! If you're a pedestrian and cars are stopped at a red light, you definitely double check before you cross the street. Don’t make any presumptions that a car will stop for you, that is for sure.
Outside of Moscow ...
If you live outside of Moscow you want to live inside of Moscow. This is despite the fact that Muscovich's are not REAL Russians.
You don’t care very much what family someone comes from.
The normal thing when a couple dies, is for them to write the will beforehand otherwise it might lead to some misunderstandings.
You think of opera and ballet as rather “high” entertainment. Its likely you’ve never visited one. Although you used to visit theatre plays with class at school and you do it now occasionally also if you live in a large city.
After these new European cinema halls appeared you find yourself visiting them rather often despite of the scandalous prices.
Christmas is in the winter .. January 7th. But the main holiday is New Year. Everybody celebrates it no matter what religion they are. Last year it was 10 days off for the country too. It was a hard burden ... both on wallets and on livers of Russians. 5 days of vodka is good, 10 days- too much.
You’d be hard pressed to name the leaders of all nations of Europe, although capitals are not a big problem.
What is a beep anyway?
Taxis are usually operated by thieves who try to get from you as much as possible and would be more than happy to drive you in circles before they get to the place of destination to charge some extra.
Unemployment payments and pensions exist but unless you are a mouse you wouldn’t be able to survive on them. So you better go and work even if you are too old for that, comrade.
If you are in trouble you think twice before bothering milicia (police). Ok, maybe think three times.
Space and Time..
If you have an appointment, 5 minutes late is excusable, 15 minutes and you have to apologize a lot, hour late and nobody waits for you. If you have an appointment at a public hospital, no matter when you come there will be no time for you on this week anyway, and the next week is also filled out, come in a month or get yourself some herbs.
If you are talking to someone, it is Ok if they approach close to you, you might as well do the same.
You don’t have any problem with simply showing at someone’s place as long as you have a couple of beers and a smoked fish with you.
If you have a business appointment with someone at restaurant, you expect to do it after 7 pm and get drunk ... in fact, you can find yourself still meeting tomorrow to further “discussing business”.