About some odd Russian traditions


As I am partially Russian and write about Russians (and Ukrainians), I love sharing about peculiarities of Russian language, culture and lifestyle. Here are a few specific Russian traditions which look quite unusual to English-speakers. The following things are common for all regions of Russia and to some areas of Ukraine:

  • Not smiling at people with whom you randomly make eye contact. According to Russian logic, a smile is supposed to be genuine and should only be shared with friends;
  • Dressing up to go to the store or anywhere else, even if you are going out just for one moment. This “rule” is observed by women in the first place, but men in cities and towns also tend to follow it;
  • Sitting down for a minute before heading on a trip. This is an old tradition that is believed to keep bad luck away from the traveler. Once the suitcases are packed, most Russians will typically pause and sit quietly for a minute before leaving;
  • Making really long and complicated toasts. Russians also like telling anecdotes as often as possible. When in Russia, expect to hear lots of toasts, lengthy anecdotes, and too much of explaining of every joke;
  • Answering “how are you?” honestly and fully. Russian logic goes like this: “Once you have asked it, you really want to know the answer, so I am going to give you all the details now”;
  • Celebrating New Year’s more enthusiastically than Christmas. Even the Christmas tree is traditionally called the New Year tree. Presents are purchased for the New Year celebration. Christmas is good, too, but it is celebrates on January, 7, and feels like the New Year’s aftertaste;
  • Calling all females “girl”: девушка [dEvushka]. To call up a female waitress, you yell, “Девушка!” (Girl!), no matter how old she is;
  • Sitting down at the table for a meal and staying there for hours. When groups of Russians get together for dinner, they will sit down, have dinner, and talk. Then they will talk some more;
  • Always keeping your bags. Russians never throw away any bags, just because you never know when you might need one;
  • Preparing way more food than is necessary for when friends come over;
  • Living with their parents. It is quite a common thing that an entire Russian family – parents, children, grandparents – will live together in one apartment;
  • Meeting complete strangers and then becoming friends with them immediately… especially if there is something to drink, and there is always an abyss of topics to discuss. So don’t be surprised if you are invited over for “some tea” after only 10 minutes of conversation; and
  • Russians never show up to someone’s house without a gift in hand. It can be a dessert or a bottle of wine if it’s dinner, or it can be chocolates or flowers (never bring an even number of flowers – that would be a funeral tradition). It’s not really important what it is, as long as you bring something.
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