I have been working in a multicultural environment for the last couple of years and the most interesting experience was not only getting to know uncommon details about other cultures but also hearing reviews about your culture from foreigners. And then we could compare them to the reality and – what’s more satisfying – compare people’s opinions at the beginning of their internships in Russia and at the end of them. To see how many stereotypes in young people’s minds you have broken with the help of your colleagues is an unspeakable feeling. I will try to explain the most informative stereotypes, whether they are just myths and on which ground they are based. Seriously I could have started a diary with our interns’ quotations a long time ago!
1. Russians drink a lot and they start their day with a shot of vodka.
I need to speak out on that because every single intern in my city and many people here in Germany have mentioned alcohol in a conversation with me about Russians. Only desperate people in the village drink vodka on a daily basis and they are called alcoholics like in every other country. The most common comments from our interns sounded something like: „Your young people don’t drink at all” and „It is even hard to trick you into having a glass of beer.” Alcohol exists only for really special occasions and we usually have it with lots of food just for “На здоровье” («Cheers – „For your health” literally). But if it is “for your health” we won’t drink much – obviously the language works for logic here.
2. Russians never say a good word about their country.
Well, it is true but only for inner discussions (mostly political) at the dinner table. Everyone has a skeleton in their cupboard and it is better to wash your dirty linen at home, right? But we would praise Russia in front of any foreigner because we are really proud of our culture and particularities. We “love Russia but with a peculiar love” as our famous poet M. Lermontov pointed out.
3. Russian people are always grim and they never smile.
If you take the public transport or walk around in the city a bit the theory will be verified. Bit this is just our “protecting mask” used in public. I have already told you about the complexity of the Russian soul in my article – so our inner world is really vulnerable and the environment outside of our home is quite threatening. But come to visit any Russian at home and you will see hugs and sincere happy smile – that leads to another opinion about Russians.
4. Russians are very hospitable and generous. That is true especially for the southern area where I come from. Any guest is the central figure for all the family and we would spend the last money to welcome a person with the abundant dinner table. You should experience Hatter’s Tea Party – Russian Style! We invite our friends for tea-parties to discuss philosophical topics. A big loaf of bread and a pinch of salt are symbols of hospitality. That is how we welcomed Chinese interns with bread, salt and a traditional Cossack song to show the traditions right away.
5. It is freezing cold all the year round.
Of course true. For the furthest corners of Siberia maybe 🙂 But with 7 types of climate spread all over Russia you can’t expect our weather to be the same everywhere. I live near subtropical area and it was like 23 degrees this February (it is supposed to be the coldest month!). So I am freezing and adapting to the weather in Hamburg pretty much just as my friends from Brazil and Mexico do.
6. We don’t understand people who immigrate to Russia.
I think it is in the past already. Now our economic position is quite stable and we are not the last in the list of best countries to be born. Thank God! Our European colleagues have mentioned that Russia has a huge capacity for business exploration and great opportunities for investment. It is not as occupied as Europe and our economy has just recreated and that is why it is very promising. And, yeah, after Gerard Depardieu got Russian citizenship, there is no doubt it is a cool place to live!
To be continued…
What facts about Russian people have you noticed? Share with us!