Russians don’t like to waste their time on empty words that don’t really mean anything: we are very direct and prefer to get straight to the point of the conversation. If you meet your neighbor and you don’t really have anything to say to him, you don’t stop for a chat about the weather and the latest football game. You just say hello and carry on with whatever you were doing.
If you get a “how do you do” from a Russian, you know that he really cares and wants to know everything about you.
Russian women are confident that beauty is power. Girls here care too much about their looks, trying to look fancy 24/7. So they put on make up even if they just go jogging or to the grocery next door to buy bread. Miniskirts and high heels all year round! Even in winter, when streets are covered with ice and temperatures hit 30C below — we are feminine till the end!
Armageddon and Red Heat are our all-time favorites. Exaggerations, absurd factual mistakes and crooked Russian language can turn a serious drama into a comedy.
Russia seems to be an extremely serious nation. It is rare to see a person smiling in the street or on public transport. We might look depressed and unhappy, but that is a wrong impression. In our culture, emotions are private, and it is considered impolite to flaunt your happiness or parade affection, so most of the time people frown: this way no one will think you are goofy or weird.
On the other hand, we are very open in our trusted circles of friends and family.
Many Russian people trust horoscopes, fortune telling, and dream interpretations with surprising credulity. Our folklore has myriads of superstitions relating to all spheres of life. Even if you don’t really believe in mystiсism, hundreds of weird superstitions constantly pop up into your head: do not shake hands over a doorstep or you will have a quarrel. Do not sit at the corner of the table or you will never get married. Do not return to the house if you forgot something or you will have bad luck during the day.
New Year’s Eve is a day of the huge celebration and crazy parties, while Christmas is very quiet. Russians can celebrate the New Year with their families or it can just be a good reason to hang out with friends, but in both cases, it is the grandest feast of the year. We decorate our flats with New Year trees and wait for Grandfather Frost (“Ded Moroz”) to put presents under them. We like New Year so much that we only take down all the decorations at the end of January, or sometimes at the end of winter.
This might be the weirdest holiday of our country: If you were raised in Russia, you won’t be surprised to hear that people can celebrate New Year twice: first on January 1st, and on second on January 13th (which was January 1st according to the calendar that we used at the times of the tsars). Why celebrate New Year once if you can do it twice?
“Without soup, your stomach will dry up!” my mom used to tell me. We have a lot of soups: Borsch — beetroot and beef soup — is popular in all of Eastern Europe, but traditional shchi (cabbage soup) or sour shchi (which uses sauerkraut instead of cabbage) can be found only in Russia — and we’ve have been making it since the 10th century. Solyanka is a spicy soup made from pickled cucumbers and either beef or fish. Okroshka is a great option for hot summer days: it is a cold soup made of raw vegetables and kvass. We have soup for lunch as a first course meal, and every restaurant and fast food chain includes soup on their menus.
We are possibly the world’s biggest fans of pancakes. We eat them with everything: all flavors of jam, sour cream, honey, butter, fish, cheese, mince, and caviar. We eat them sweet and savoury, or fat and thin: all kinds of pancakes are good for you! Russians even have a pancake week: Maslenitsa. Every day during Maslenitsa we eat different pancakes.
Many places in the world are known for their love of tea, but no one drinks as much tea as Russians do. I personally drink about 3 litres of tea every day: when I am cold, when I am bored, when I chat with my family, when I visit my friends, when I have a snack and before I go to bed. Traditionally we drink black tea without milk, but often with sugar, honey or lemon and sweet snacks. One of the best ways to cure cold or flu is to drink hot tea with raspberry homemade jam in it.
Since you were a child your parents have told you: you must treat your guests as if they are kings. Once someone crosses the threshold of your house, he gets the most comfortable bed, the softest slippers, and the greatest meal in the history of humankind. That rule applies to relatives, friends, friends of relatives and pretty much everyone else.
That is just how things are. You never walk into a house without taking your shoes off. Never ever.
When winter lasts up to eight months a year, you have no choice but find the ways to entertain yourself. Apart from skiing, ice skating and snowboarding we are fond of playing snowballs and hockey, building snow fortresses and making ice sculptures.
Dacha is a country-side house with a small piece of land. Many Russians who live in big cities own (or rent) a dacha so that they can spend weekends and summers there. But dachas are not for laziness or relaxation. Holidays at the dacha are mostly about finding joy in physical labour: gardening, planting veggies, picking apples and berries and making jam, repairing and rebuilding and repainting the house all of the time. There always are things to improve at the dacha!