RUSSIANS ARE VERY DIRECT
Russians do not take shit from anyone and will tell things how it is. Political correctness is nonexistent and people are not afraid to be bluntly honest when it comes to things. During my flight to Moscow as I pecked my movie screen in front me, a beautiful woman turned back at me and told me to take it easy with a distinct Russian accent. Apparently I was poking too hard and didn’t realize we had a remote control for the screen.
If it were me in her position, I’d silently sit and wait for the poking to stop…
Had it not been for my basic Russian and understanding of Cyrillic alphabet, it would have been a nightmare communicating with the locals. In Moscow, a city of 10 million people, I came across only 2 locals who spoke English proficiently. It is advised to at least know the Cyrillic alphabet if you plan to visit anytime soon, as most Russians will conduct their business in their own tongue.
TOURISTS ARE RARE
As a bloke who could pass for many different nationalities and ethnicities, I had a strange pleasure in seeing the surprised faces of the Russians as soon as I opened my mouth to only speak in a broken elementary Russian. Tourists are not as common in Russia as one may think and even in the capital it’s rare for the average person to have an opportunity to freely converse with a tourist or a foreigner.
Especially, if you are an Indian, Latino, African, and Hispanic, most Russians will look at you with curiosity since it’s not a usual sight. As our posse (odd bunch of Latino, Indian, German, Polish, Korean, and Mongolian) sat in the park, we had eyes darting from left and right, with some trying to make sense of what we were talking about. This young girl even approached us and started talking so that she could practice her English.
During my Trans Siberian train ride, a few fellow Russians invited me over to join their conversation and we ended up speaking until dawn with a mix of broken English and Russian while holding a dictionary.
SINCERE & GENUINELY HELPFUL
It is true that most Russians have stone cold faces and don’t smile as much as their Western counterparts, but there is a saying in Russia “A laughter without a reason is a sign of stupidity” which they abide by. So if you ever get a Russian to smile, he or she is not doing it out of politeness or courtesy, but because they are genuinely happy.
Mongolians and Russians seem to share this trait when it comes to smiling, however, Russians go out of their way when you ask them for help and directions. Almost everyone walked me to my destination and even asked other strangers for me if they personally didn’t know. In one instance, a taxi driver spent almost an hour driving me around Ulan-Ude without extra charge until I found my hostel. While it clearly was my fault for not knowing where the hostel was, my driver made sure I got there nonetheless.
LESS ADS & SIMPLER LIFESTYLE
Besides the few ad boards near bus and metro stations, you won’t find any glittering lights with 150 inch screens advertising certain brands or products. Russian people are much more present and are not distracted by cellphones, computers, and the internet as much.
Moscow itself is beautiful with aesthetically lit buildings at night with many decorations. It’s very rare to see any flyers, signs, and forms of advertising in the main city centre.