An American going to Russia for the first time is bound to notice some differences in the way people act. Hereâ€™s a short list of things Russians do that Americans might find a little weirdâ€¦
1. Dress up for going to the store
Russians, especially city Russians, love dressing up. For example, even if going for a casual walk, a Russian woman may wear a nice dress and heels, just because.
2. Sit down for a minute before heading on a trip
If Russians are about to go traveling somewhere, they will pause after theyâ€™re completely packed and dressed and literally ready to walk out the door to just sit quietly for a minute.
3. Make really long and complicated toasts
Only the laziest of the laziest of Russians will make a toast of â€śTo healthâ€ť or something short like that. Seriously. Expect to hear anecdotes and too much reading into them.
4. Tell anecdotes at every opportunity
Russians love anecdotes. Thereâ€™s a list of about fifty that every single Russian who has not been living under a rock for the last century knows. They might be in the middle of telling a story and then say, with relish, â€śAnd, you know, this reminds me of an anecdoteâ€¦â€ť and proceed to tell it, even if itâ€™s completely irrelevant, right in the middle of the story. And then often forget what they were saying in the first place.
5. Congratulate each other on getting out of a shower or sauna
They say, â€śS lyogkim parom!â€ť (Basically, â€śCongratulations on a light steam.â€ť
6. Answer â€śHow are you?â€ť honestly and fully
Russians donâ€™t say â€śHey, how are you?â€ť when passing each other on the street. Or if they do, theyâ€™re prepared to stop dead in their tracks and have a full-fledged conversation right then and there, because â€śHow are you?â€ť in Russian demands an actual answer, not just â€śGreat, thanks!â€ť or, worse, another â€śHow are you?â€ť
7. Never smile at strangers
Even in service areas (like malls or restaurants). Smiling at people you donâ€™t know is actually becoming more and more acceptable in Russia due to Westernization, but donâ€™t be surprised if you visit Russia and strangers donâ€™t smile at you if you make eye contact. Itâ€™s not a thing. Smiles are supposed to be genuine, to be shared with friends.
8. Celebrate New Years more enthusiastically than Christmas
The tree is for New Years. Presents are for New Years. Forget Christmas. New Years is THE winter holiday.
9. Rewatch old Soviet cartoons constantly
If you survey random Russians on the street about their favorite cartoon, the spread will likely not be very large, and they will all be from the Soviet era. Most likely youâ€™ll hear â€śNu, Pogodi!â€ť (the Russian version of Tom and Jerry), â€śBremenskiye Muzykantyâ€ť (The Musicians From Bremen), â€śSnezhnaya Korolevaâ€ť (The Snow Queen), and maybe a couple others.
10. Call pretty much any female â€śGirlâ€ť
If you want to call your female waitress, you yell, â€śGirl!â€ť If you want to address a fifty-year-old woman, you can call her â€śGirl.â€ť If you want to address an actual girl, you call her â€śGirl.â€ť Any woman short of a babushka (grandmother) is â€śGirl.â€ť
11. Sit down at the table for a meal and stay there for hours
Hours and hours and hours. When groups of Russians get together for dinner, they will sit down, have dinner, and talk. Then they will talk some more. Then they will have tea with dessert. Then they will talk. And talk some more. And then maybe have some wine or other alcohol. And then they will sit around talking. They will sit at the table, talking, at least until the metros close and people are forced to leave for fear of not being able to get home. And thatâ€™s pretty late.
12. Keep bags
Seriously, Russians never ever ever throw away any bags. Never know when you might need one.
13. Prepare twenty times as much food as is necessary for the amount of guests coming over
And most of it will have tons of mayo.
14. Live with their parents
Again, this is becoming less and less common with Westernization, but often an entire Russian family will live together in one apartment (ie, grandparents, parents, children...maybe others?)
15. Are extremely wary of strangers but turn into your best bud and invite you over for tea if theyâ€™ve talked to you for more than ten minutes
It's a thing.
16. Never show up at someoneâ€™s house without a gift of some kind
It can be a dessert or a wine if itâ€™s dinner, or it can be chocolates or flowers (so long as itâ€™s not an even number of them). Itâ€™s not really important what it is, as long as you bring something.