Hi everyone! I’m a writer at Bright Side and today, I’d like to share my observations about how people from other countries think of my native country, Russia. I was born, raised and currently live in Kazan — a big city on the shore of The Volga River. Several weeks a year I spend time abroad where I communicate with local people and learn many new things from them. Not only do I get to learn more about their cultures, but I learn more about mine as well.
Some of these people I encounter have been to Russia and their impressions resemble mine quite a bit. But there are other people who have learned things about my country through the grapevine and other dubious sources. Having thought over all the information I’ve heard from foreigners over the last several years, I’ve decided to split it into 10 points (while in reality, there could be many more points).
Please keep in mind that I’m describing my personal experiences and opinions and they may not be similar to other people’s. Here are 10 common falsehoods about Russia that many foreigners believe in — at least the ones who haven’t visited the country, anyway.
10. It’s always cold in Russia.
“Can the weather be hot in Russia too? I am going to show these photos from Sochi to my friends — they will be shocked.”
For many foreigners, Russia is a country that exists in eternal winter. They believe that it’s cold here even in Summer and are really surprised to learn there are actually palm trees that grow in the south of Russia, and that in some regions, snow is quite rare. Even cold areas like Siberia might experience very hot summers — it’s all because of its sharp continental climate.
One businessman that came to Moscow from Texas was wearing a fur jacket and a hat. It was in July. Additionally, he was carrying a hunting knife in a bag so that he could fight off bears. That’s another myth I am going to tell you about later in the article.
I had to explain to my foreign friends many times that we do have a harsh climate in some regions but our country is huge and is located in different climate zones, so it’s silly to expect the climate to be the same everywhere. “Please look at the map”, I’d sometimes tell them.
9. Bears walk on the streets of Russia.
“Why do Russian laws allow one to have a pet bear?”
This fact actually relates more to some districts in the USA or Canada than to Russia. In any case, you won’t see any bears in big cities of Russia. Animals are more scared of you and other people than you are of them, and bears are no exception. Bears are sometimes curious, especially the young ones, and come to villages seeking food to eat, but as a rule, run away quickly upon seeing people.
Some people think that Russians keep brown bears as pets but of course, this is not true. However, sometimes people might “adopt” bear cubs that stay without their mothers due to poaching or other reasons, but even in this case, bears don’t live together with people under the same roof. A rescued bear must have its own territory like the celebrity bear named Stepan does. Stepan’s owners built him his very own house.
8. It’s very dangerous in Russia.
“I feel safe here even if I go outside at night. The police are there on the streets but their presence is unnoticeable.”
Tourists that have visited Russia say that it’s as safe as most countries. Many of them were pleasantly surprised when they came here, especially those that had previously heard warnings from friends and relatives. People who say Russia is dangerous may have visited the country, but due to certain reasons are convinced that the country is dangerous.
Perhaps the myth about the increasingly dangerous Russian streets is due to the unstable situation the country has been in since the 1990’s. But luckily, that time has stayed in the past along with the other problems of that time period.
Another possible reason foreigners think Russia is dangerous is due to our sleeping districts that are full of multi-story buildings. Once I had to explain to my foreign friend that the owners of flats in these houses are regular people with regular families — they’re not unemployed and this district doesn’t consist of special apartments where poor people live.
Of course, each city has more or less safe places but I can say with confidence that there are no “no-go” areas in my city that I wouldn’t visit, unlike London.
7. Russians drink more alcohol than other nationalities.
“You don’t like vodka? Strange.”
Unfortunately, the problem of alcohol addiction is quite prevalent in some regions but that doesn’t mean that all Russians are alcoholics. There are positive examples of this: many young people in my country try to lead a healthy lifestyle and you’re likely to see them in a gym or taking a bicycle ride rather than drinking cocktails in some bar.
Moreover, the statement that Russia is a country that consumes a lot of alcohol is not completely true. According to the world rating, Russia is in 4th place among the biggest drinking countries — not in 1st as many believe. Of course, 4th place isn’t necessarily something to be proud of, but the fact that the amount of consumed alcohol per person decreases annually gives us good hope.
Also, many foreigners believe that vodka is the most popular drink in Russia. That’s also not true. Most of us love tea. Most Russians drink tea — not vodka — at any time of the day.
6. Russians don’t like foreigners.
“Moscow seems to be one of the most pleasant big cities that I have ever visited. Young people in the metro often offered me their seats.”
Russians don’t suffer from xenophobia. Some people might show their dislike for foreigners but is there a country that doesn’t have people like this? Perhaps this myth appeared due to some cultural differences. For example, in Russia, many people seem gloomy because they don’t have a habit of smiling at everyone they see. Another possible reason for this myth is the fact that one may be turned off by not being able to understand a foreign language. However, one shouldn’t expect local people to speak their language when visiting a foreign country.
In fact, we’re quite interested in communicating with people from other countries and are ready to help a tourist that gets lost even if we don’t speak their language. At the same time, young people know English quite well like many of my colleagues do, for example.
Many people who have visited Russia speak highly of the hospitality of our citizens as well as their serious attitude toward friendship. Elva Frye, a musician and a traveler, appeared to be among them. Recently she has been thanking Russians for their care and shelter, and for treating her like family on her Instagram page. Based on these examples, you shouldn’t believe the stereotypes about Russian hostility — all nationalities have their own way of doing things, which we should try to understand and accept.
5. Russians never smile.
“Russian people feel strong emotions and they choose those who they are ready to share those emotions with quite carefully.”
We do smile! Just like other people on this planet. But our smiles are meant to be given to close friends and family, not to passersby. That’s simply how it is. In Russia, we have a proverb that says, “A loud laugh bespeaks the vacant mind.” This means that every fun act or smile should have a reason.
The main thing to take from this is that our smiles are sincere. We won’t smile at someone just for show or to prove that everything is fine on our end when in reality, it’s the opposite. Therefore, if you get a smile from a Russian person, you can be sure that they really like you and it’s not a simple act of politeness.
4. Russia is a communist country.
“Governance in Russia is a hybrid between socialism and communism”.
It’s better not to declare it aloud if you don’t want to look like a fool. The era of the ruling of the Communist Party in our country ended in 1991 with the collapse of the USSR. Moreover, paragraph #13 in The Constitution of The Russian Federation says that ideological diversity shall be recognized in the country and no ideology may be established as obligatory.
The Communist Party exists today too but it doesn’t make Russia a “communist country”. Therefore, jokes a-la Soviet Russia sound quite foolish and inappropriate.
3. Residents of Russia are tall, fair-skinned people with light eyes and hair.
“Is it true that people in Russia have a height of no less than 6 feet?”
Travelers from other countries will be very surprised to learn that there are more than 190 different nationalities living in the territory of Russia. Moreover, ethnic Russians themselves have many different types of appearances just like other nationalities.
I want to tell you a funny story that happened in my city. Some tourist from Argentina came here to meet Russian girls but he was very disappointed. He was expecting them to be tall, model-like blonde girls but they ended up being “short, plump brunettes” also known as girls with regular body shapes of medium height with natural hair colors.
Unfortunately, that’s what many foreigners think. For example, they can start exclaiming, “That can’t be happening in Russia!” when they see people from Central Asia. In this case, I want to say, “Guys, if you don’t know something, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.”
2. Russian girls dream of having a foreign husband and that’s why they are easily available.
“They like courageous guys and that’s very good because I like to control the situation.”
Being a girl, I resent this myth a lot. Of course, there is nothing bad if 2 people from different countries meet each other and fall in love. But I would definitely stay away from having a relationship with one of those guys who runs a questionnaire on dating websites looking for a “Russian wife” or who come to Russia in order to evaluate potential “brides”.
I think you’ve heard of cases where citizens from some other countries who are unable to find a partner at home, travel to seek a bride far East, including Russia. Having heard the myths that Russian women are submissive, like to please men and have never heard of feminism, these men come here in hopes of finding a bride but are in turn, very surprised.
The truth is that many female residents of Russia want to have a family and kids, but that doesn’t make them a weak-willed gender whose only goal is finding a husband. If you want to conquer the heart of a girl from Russia as well as any other girl in the world, respect her.
1. Russian girls are the most beautiful in the world.
“I noticed that Russian girls always look womanly, even in winter clothes.”
Most Russian girls take careful care of their appearance and don’t leave home without some light makeup. But being abroad, I sometimes noticed the opposite — some women will go outside to a supermarket in home clothes or even pajamas. However, men do the same and I am no longer shocked when I see them wearing flip-flops in January.
I think the secret to our “Russian beauty” is not in the physical appearance but in the habit of taking care of our looks. And it doesn’t matter whether we’re wearing a T-shirt and jeans or a nice dress — we try to always look our best. Personally, I admire those girls that go to work in perfect business suits, wearing high heels and perfect makeup every day. I can’t do it myself due to innate laziness and a love for comfort but I always manage to keep my hair clean.
Generally speaking, we all have our own understanding of beauty and some people don’t consider Russian girls to be attractive at all. And it’s quite normal. I don’t think it’s normal to judge people by their appearance and to compare them, extolling some and humiliating others.
Unfortunately, I have often heard foreigners admire Russian girls but at the same time, disparagingly respond about the girls of their own nationality. I always want to say to them that a neighbor’s grass is always greener. And there are 2 possible reasons for it — either you’re wrong or you keep forgetting to water your grass.
Which of these myths did you use to believe in? Have we busted them? Please tell us about it in the comments!
Preview photo credit depositphotos.com, depositphotos.com