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50 Things You Need to Know Before Traveling to Russia

Russia might not be the first choice of a trip for many people. To be honest, it was not mine either a few years back. Now, here I am finishing my fifth and longest visit to Russia. I spent a month in Moscow, living with a Russian friend and studying the Russian language. Each time my journey starts in Moscow so I have spent the most time here. Apart from Moscow, I also visited Kaliningrad, Sochi, and St.Petersburg which gives me a good understanding of how things work around here.

Recently I read that Russians are like coconuts. Hard from the outside but once you crack the shell, they are super soft and welcoming. There are many stereotypes and prejudices about Russians, some of them more and some of them less true. Here is what I learned about Russians and their culture:

  • Varenyky and pelmeni are the same, just with different shape because of their filling. Pelmeni is filled with meat and varenyky with anything like potatoes, cabbage or fruits.
                                                                        Pelmeni vs Vareniki
  • Public toilets are everywhere. Even in the metro. For special occasions like Den Pobedy, they even turn buses into public toilets.
                                                                The bus turned to the public toilet
  • There are probably more flower shops than liquor stores. And you can buy them 24/7 whereas alcohol stops selling after 11 pm
  • It is very hard to guess their name’s nickname (f.e. Evgenin – Zhenya, Natalia-Natasha)
  • There is no advertisement overload in the metro
                                                                      No advertisement
  • They have wifi in the metro (before connecting to wifi, 3 ads are played, or you get a subscription that removes ads)
  • Call a special number to find out the exact time (just type 100 and call)
  • The government sends weather warnings – after heavy wind (2017) deaths for which government was blamed, they now send text messages when a stronger wind or heavy rains are coming and at what speed
  • Be aware of face control and outfit control when you want to go clubbing- jeans and t-shirt won’t do it, rather consider a special occasion outfit
  • Consider learning at least a bit of Russian before visiting, English is not very spoken
                                                              Did you recognize Donkin Donuts?
  • If someplace looks close, trust me it is not (a vision trick)
                                                                   Just a regular day without a taxi
  • Police are everywhere but don’t worry, they mind their own business
  • Security checks are everywhere, even in the shopping malls
  • Russians love mayonnaise like Americans love ranch – they can put it on pizza, noodles or just eat bread with mayonnaise
                                                     Mayonnaise always brightens the mood
  • Have you ever tried a salad that turns into the soup and is bubbly? Then try Okroshka, a salad into which you pour kvas and turn it into cold bubbly soup
                                                               Okroshka soup, salad with kvas
  • Kvas is their non-alcoholic version of beer
  • Russian driving is a mess
  • Don’t rent a car in Russia, if you do, at least get full insurance coverage
  • Yandex is a Russian Google
  • VK(ontakte) is a Russian Facebook
  • Telegram is Russian Whatsapp
  • There is no Uber in Russia, only Yandex Taxi
  • Yandex Taxi is super cheap, save time and take a taxi
  • Public transport (Moscow) is awesome, download Yandex Metro and Yandex Transport and check real-time where your bus is
  • Vodka is really super cheap, you can even get it in a jar
                                                                            Vodka in a jar
  • Girls, don’t be afraid when you get approached by guys, it is fairly normal
  • Russians love karaoke, karaoke bars are almost everywhere, just be aware, you probably won’t be able to read the lyrics
  • There is one cleaning car by another, they really keep their city clean
  • The theater is a very formal event, don’t wear jeans and a shirt if you want to avoid staring
  • When you are asked for a passport, your national ID is enough too. Russians have 2 passports, one is home passport like our IDs and one is the international one
  • Travel with metro of the future here – one wagon and USB charging points
                                                                               Infinite wagon
  • The streets of Moscow are decorated all year long
                                                                           Holidays all year long
  • If you are invited to the Russian family, expect to be greeted with a shot of alcohol and prepared to eat a lot of food
  • Russians have a special fish salad aka Herring Under Fur Coat, it sounds worse than it tastes!
                                                                    Herring Under Fur Coat
  • Public Russian sauna aka banya is so expensive, usually, people have them for free by their houses
  • The proper way to drink vodka is to breathe out and take a shot and  as you breathe in, eat a piece of onion, bread or salo, this way you can drink more than you think
                                                              Vodka with salo, onion, and bread
  • “Davajte” is a word for everything
  • They turn off hot water centrally during summer for 1-2 weeks
  • Heating is central here, you can’t control it
  • They have a lot of parks (Moscow)
  • “That’s life” is their motto
  • Alcohol is their main weapon
                                                                             Soldier of party troops
  • Some movie titles are translated and some are not – Spiderman – Chelovek Pauk but Batman is Batman
                                                                              Spiderman in Russian
  • Most of the movies in cinemas are dubbed in Russian
  • In case of snow apocalypse, trucks are ready to move the snow outside of the city
                                                                              Truck with a snow
  • Don’t expect people smiling at you, even your friends
                                                                 Always being ignored by her
  • Souvenirs with Putin are everywhere
                                                                                       Putin t-shirts
  • New Year’s is their biggest holiday, the second biggest is Den Pobedy (Victory Day)
  • Don’t be scared to become friends with Russians. Once you crack the shell, they can be the sweetest people you will ever meet.
                                                                                    Coconuts
  • Russia will never stop surprising you. Even after 5th time here, I am noticing more and more things.

This article was approved by the Russians.

                                                                       Approved by a Russian friend

For any questions or tips on Russia, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

                                                                                                                                                                      Poka poka

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