10 Things I Never Did Until I Lived in Russia (Part 3)

The third installment, continued from here:

1. Had people not know where I was from.  In the United States it’s common to ask people where they are from and then form an opinion about them based on their answer.  I’m originally from Ohio and though I don’t come from a small town I constantly heard jokes about how I grew up on a farm.  But in Russia no one knew where Ohio was or what it meant to come from there or what the local stereotypes were.  I wasn’t an Ohioan, I was an American.

2. Accepted cheating as a normal form of behaviour.  In this context I’m talking about students cheating on tests although I’ve heard that cheating in relationships is also quite common.  As a teacher I was told to expect my students to cheat and this was part of the culture.  They weren’t cheating, they were helping their friends.  The first time I saw students blatantly cheating, I was shocked.  But as time went by I got used to it and came to expect it.

3. Washed my hands every time I came home.  This may sound gross, but I really don’t remember washing my hands that much before I came to Russia.  For some reason this happens a lot here and now it’s somewhat of a joke.  I think it’s because many things are so dirty in public and when you come home you feel a layer of grime on your skin that begs to be washed.  This habit has carried over now that I’m back in the US and now I always wash my hands when I get home.

4. Bought milk in a bag.  For some reason this was one of the things I constantly found amusing as it made no sense to me.  How do people use this product?  Some bags had nozzles that could be re-capped but others didn’t.  Do people pour milk into a separate container or drink the entire bag in one sitting?  So baffling!

5. Was pestered about being single.  I went to Russia straight out of university where no one ever bothered to ask if I had a boyfriend or was married.  But in Russia it’s common to marry quite young and I knew people younger than myself who were married and/or had a child already.  My boss often asked me if I was in a relationship and thought I should be in one lest I become lonely.  My students sometimes couldn’t believe I wasn’t married and had no desire to marry in the immediate future.

6. Had two front doors.  No, there weren’t two separate entrances to my flat.  There was one entrance with two doors.  There’s a lovely picture here.  So strange and I don’t know if it was for security reasons or maybe to keep heat inside the flat.

7. Wasn’t asked for identification anywhere.  If I went to a club or restaurant, ordered or bought alcohol, I was never once asked for identification.  The drinking age in Russia is 18 and I do look that age, but compared to the strict rules in the US where anyone under 30 is asked for identification, this was a nice surprise.  Now that I’m in the US again I often forget to bring my ID and have been refused service numerous times because of this.

8. Ate caviar when it wasn’t a special occasion.  Many people associate caviar with Russia but also with special occasions.  It’s often thought that eating caviar and drinking champagne (or vodka) is the height of sophistication.  But in Russia caviar can be eaten any time and is often served on pancakes (blini) or on bread with butter.

9. Had people rave about home cooked food.  I love to cook, especially desserts.  Many Russians cook meals but cakes and other sweets are primarily bought.  When I made chocolate cheesecake or other desserts my Russian friends couldn’t believe I made it myself and said it was the best they’d ever tasted.

10. Had to remember to bring toilet paper to the restroom.  Although most WCs now have toilet paper inside the individual stalls you will find, on occasion, a restroom where there is one main roll of TP in the central area of the bathroom.  This happened to me several times when I was a student in St. Petersburg.  I’d enter the bathroom, walk straight to a stall and then realize there was no toilet paper.

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9 Responses to 10 Things I Never Did Until I Lived in Russia (Part 3)

  1. Robert MacDonald says:

    A top, perspicacious, list to complement the first two! Yes, student cheating in Russia is a mystifying thing. It seems to be part and parcel with their compliant attitude… not the lively participants that American teachers value.

    Now in Russia, besides milk in plastic bags, we have mayonnaise, and even mustard in a toothpaste-like tube. We pour milk into one of the many ban-kos (glass jars) that people here like to save. These plastic packets are lighter to carry than glass jars so, since many have to heft their groceries home, they have become popular. But… where and how to store these awkward slide-y things in the fridge?

    We added another door a few years ago… first for added security, but also it makes it more airtight, less drafty.

  2. Max Yankov says:

    3 — when I got the chance to compare Moscow to other European cities, I realized how dirty, in fact, it was. However, the reason has nothing to do with culture: it’s the property of soil in this area.

    7 — judging form the photo, I’d say it’s security. Usually such doors mean that there was an older door, and then the owner decided to install new, more safe door, while keeping the old one.

    8 — I surprise you didn’t mention fast-food chains offering caviar on pancakes as an alternative to a McDonalds burger! ;)

  3. Rachael says:

    You have no idea how excited I was to hear that Russia has milk in bags. We do that here in Canada and people generally think it’s weird, but I’m thrilled. An unexpected reminder of home!

  4. Mariam says:

    Good afternoon!
    I occasionally came across your blog and saw you complain about choise of books in msk. Try to look for smth to read in ‘Moskva’, Воздвиженка 4\7. It’s very near the Kremlin. The shop has a great choise of books and other things, it’s huge, has a coffee-zone, place where to read and works 24 hours a day. Hope you’ll enjoy it ;)

  5. Great observationa indeed!

    Speaking of cheating… It’s true that it’s a help to your friends and not lies. That’s why Russia won the Second World War – because we fight, help each other and don’t lose hope :)

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