Russian culture has very much in common with European cultures in general. So, here won’t be any specific must-follow requirements or tips. All you have to be aware of comes down to the common rules of conduct.
Soon you will find that Russians are very much like anyone else in terms of perspective on human values and aspirations, habits, feelings, personal likes and dislikes.
The history of Russia is in general closely tightened with the history of Europe though it’s often believed that Russia takes a unique position in the world, connecting the East with the West and being both either of them and, at the same time, neither of them. Probably, that is the core of so called “the mystery of Russia”.
“Russia – is a puzzle, wrapped in a mystery wrapped in a riddle” – these are the words of Winston Churchill when he shared his view on Russia.
Of course, like any other mysterious land, Russia is surrounded by myths and false beliefs.
Here are some major and most widespread misconceptions about Russia:
Russia is always cold and snowy
REALITY: As almost everywhere in Russia, winters can be very cold with frosts of up to -20 degrees Celsius (though such low temperatures are not too common for the Moscow or St. Petersburg areas) and snowfalls. The first snow sometimes falls as early as in the beginning of October. However, most of regions in Russia also have incredibly warm summers, and very mild autumn and spring seasons. Big cities like Moscow can experience intense heatwaves during summer periods and some cities like Sochi are located at subtropical latitudes with generally mild and warm climate conditions.
Russia is dangerous
REALITY: No, Russia is not dangerous to visit. Telling the truth, it is not any more dangerous than any other big country! Of course, petty crimes do happen here as often as everywhere else in the world – mostly common dangers for foreigners in Russia are thefts, robberies, and scams. However, if you abide by normal safety rules and don’t do anything illegal, you will not be in any more danger than you would be in New York or Paris.
Russians are mostly alcoholics
REALITY: Russians are not the biggest drinkers in the world despite their vodka swilling image. Alcohol is present at almost every occasion in Russia, but this is just a matter of custom and tradition when shots are downed with meals on some occasions.
REALITY: When raising a glass with a group of Russian people, avoid saying “Na zdorov’ye!”. This is not a toast; it’s something Russian people say when somebody thanks them for a nice meal. If you want to make a toast in Russia, stick with “За Вас!” (Za vas!), which means “To you!” and is very acceptable. And again, talking about safety: be careful drinking in nightclubs or bars especially accepting the proposals of free food, drinks, or transportation from strangers. You might be putting yourself in danger of being robbed. Don’t leave your food or beverages unattended.
Russians are unfriendly
REALITY: Russian people are very open-minded. They may be speaking out sharply about some people or cultures, but that does not mean that they have any malicious intent. Russian people are generally very blunt and will not beat around the bush; they don’t tolerate small talk or niceties and much prefer to get to the point of a conversation. Though in fact, they are usually friendly, curious about and happy to interact with visitors from other countries though quite often they might be shy especially if their English is not perfect.
As a rule, Russians do not smile at strangers on the streets, in the metro, in the store, or anywhere else. The reason Russians don’t smile at strangers is that smiling is generally considered to be something to be shared with a friend. Smiling at a stranger is considered to be insincere. Don’t let this be offputting, but don’t walk around grinning at everybody, either.