10. It’s always cold in Russia
“Oh yes”, Russia has it’s “Pole of Cold,” that I’ve done several posts on. But not all of Russia is that cold. In the winter time Oymyakon’s temperatures can hit -71.2 C, at these chilly temps. even mobile phones don’t work. Curiously they still use outside toilets. However, gratefully this isn’t the case in all areas of Russia. Sochi, where the winter Olympics were just held has mild winters (average 11 °C (52 °F) and summers that reach………….well judging from the picture above pleasant. Warm enough to go to the beach.
9. Russia’s a dangerous place
Dangerous for whom? Personally I think they are more of a danger to themselves than anyone else. But let’s consider like many other large countries and cities it’s not a good idea to walk down dark alleys or seeking out trouble. You will find it! Criminals in Russia carry guns, but the average person abides by the laws of the land. One of the things you will find are lots of policemen which can pose a different problem, but they do keep the streets safe.
8. Russians are alcoholics
Okay, so we love our Vodka. But it doesn’t mean all Russians are alcoholics. It’s a tradition here and when the occasion arises it’s time to crack open the bottle. You will find it at Russian weddings, parties, just about anything will do. If it’s your birthday, come on, “get with it”. But our favorite has to be New Years Eve, it has to be the most celebrated since it can be done twice (the old and new year) a year. So it needs to be understood it’s a matter of custom and tradition – not alcoholism.
7. Russians are gloomy
When you are on the streets, in the metro, or in the stores, you may well think that Russians don’t ever smile. Hey if you were under 80 years of soviet oppression neither would you. But truth be known Russians are warm, friendly, and actually quite funny – it’s just something they do in the privacy of their homes. In Russia we have our “serious face” on while in public, being too loud or showing a lot emotion is considered a bit odd and even impolite to some people. Curiously though I’ve seen more people smiling in public than in the past, think it’s a good sign.
6. Russians hate Americans
Russians actually love American trends, movies, music and some of it’s culture too. It used to take some time for these things to appear from the Western world but access to the internet has changed this – Interestingly enough Starbucks didn’t appear in Russia until 2007 – they love their burnt Starbucks coffee like no other, one of my students tells me she starts everyday with a cup of Joe from this American Coffee Company.
5. There’s nothing to see beyond Moscow
Those who come from overseas to Moscow and visit the Red Square and the Kremlin think that’s it. But this is absolutely false. Beyond Moscow are incredible vistas awaiting you, St. Petersburg (which I just got back from) is wonderful. Interesting little villages along the Volga or countryside are very peaceful, and one could go to Siberia for it’s wildlife. You can find old wooden churches no matter which way you head, and then the hidden gems along the Golden Ring… It would take over a month to get an adequate sampling of the food, society, history and architecture of this thousand-year-old land. But you shouldn’t attempt it all in one trip. Start with a week or two, there will be more than enough to keep you enthralled (and to make you want to return).
4. The dreaded words “Visa denied”, and/or traveling in Russia is Expensive
If traveling to Russia you will find unlike some countries you will need an invitation. Most travel agencies, hotels, even friends in Russia can help you with this. It may seem a bit intimidating but it’s a lot easier to get than you may think! A small fee to get an invitation is quite simple, the process itself consists of a couple of visits to your nearest Russian embassy for your Visa. Once approved you are on your way to Russia. I’ve personally traveled to Russia several times and never had any problems.
3. Russians are racist
Well people who claim this don’t know Russian history, it’s music, or much else. I can think of Pushkin, Boney M, and a black mayor of a small town outside Moscow just for starters. Most of the people are actually very open-minded (and I’ve meet many of them myself). They may lack the understanding of the” polite way” to talk about people from other cultures (Russians can be quite harsh), but the mass majority here are very tolerant. In fact, they are usually curious about and eager to talk with visitors from other countries.
2. Russians Spies are everywhere
This one doesn’t really need elaboration, because obviously, all Russians are not spies (but except maybe…..). Spies are from everywhere and every country including America, France, Canada, SPECTRE and the list goes on and on. This myth has been perpetuated by the Cold War and Hollywood movies. Bringing this up in front of Russians isn’t funny nor do they think so either – it only irritates them, because it is so pervasive. But let’s admit Angelina Jolie makes us all wish there were a lot more spies like her.
1. All Russians are Communists
This one is very interesting because before I came it was one misconception I had. But it’s just another Cold War-era myth. I asked many people about this and all of them looked at me quite perplexed (it just isn’t so). Even during Soviet times a vast number of people weren’t communists, they just weren’t allowed to speak it. But sadly there are some Russians that still think Communism was a good idea, but luckily they are few and far between. Most Russian people remember that communism meant scarcity of food and other resources. It also meant being afraid of both one’s government and one’s neighbors (beginning to sound like America). Again most Russians are not Communists, nor are they likely to endorse a Communist regime (something American should get a hold of).