I have been in Russia for about 6 weeks now and at first I thought I was going to die here. Now, you could probably say that I’ve had a change of heart. I came here with absolutely no Russian language experience so everything was completely foreign. I didn’t know what to expect when I got here, so I figured a post about what Russia is really like- through the eyes of an American college student- would be helpful for anyone considering taking a trip to this beautiful country!
- Not all Russians are cold and snobby
While it’s true that some of the Russian elders have less patience than the younger generation, the stereotype is not true that they’re all rude. I’ve bumped into a few adults on the metro, on the busy streets, or shopping in stores, and like in America, the polite thing to say is the Russian equivalent of “excuse me.” It’s really no different from the percentage of Americans that say “excuse me” in those situations. Before I came here I was warned about how rude Russians are and I’ve found that concern to be false.
- Sometimes the food is strange…
Aside from the 80% of groceries that are identical to products we find in America, there are some strange foods for sale in the grocery stores here in Russia. For example, fish is available in every form, from slimy with full heads on and everything to dried up crispy whole fish “snacks,” with heads on and everything. The fish aisles in American grocery stores are usually decently sized but the ones here are massive.
The milk is sold with fat concentrations from 3% – 4.5%. I’m accustomed to 2% milk from the United States so the first time I even smelled 3.5% milk I almost gagged. To drink the milk, one needs to be adventurous in my opinion. But there are plenty of Americans here that drink it and like it, so don’t be discouraged!
The cheese is also kind of like that. I didn’t think cheese, of all things, would change that much in foreign countries but it does!
Sour cream is a staple here, like ketchup or barbeque sauce is in America. Sour cream is even liquefied and made into its own drink, kephir. Even my Russian professor said that while a lot of Russians actually like kephir, it is notoriously disgusting- probably like sauerkraut’s reputation in America.
- Sometimes it costs money to use public restrooms
It’s often not more than 30 rubles (about 75 cents) to use a “water closet.” But that cost doesn’t include toilet paper, so if you need toilet paper, come prepared!
- English is not widely spoken
There are some countries in Europe that speak their native language but also English is widely known and understood. The other international students that I’ve met here all speak English so well, but the Russians do not. English is not that much of a priority for Russians and if you go to a restaurant and don’t speak any Russian, you are pretty much doomed. Sometimes they may provide an English menu upon request but don’t count on it.
But- if you really apply yourself and make a real attempt to learn the language while you’re in Russia, you will be competent in no time!