Misconceptions about Russia

There are many misconceptions about Russia. It is very easy to build up a false idea of a whole nation – like Russia – based on what your family and close friends tell you, on what you hear on television, and even what you find on Youtube nowadays. But once you actually see the place for yourself, chances are your opinion will change completely. So my advice to all of you who have never been here is to come here and make your own observations.

I confess I was, too, affected by the power of prejudice. And it wasn’t until I studied in Switzerland and met people from all over, that I realized Russians are not actually cold and insensitive just because they don’t smile all the time. If you think about it: why should a stranger smile at you? I admit I was a bit thrown off at first by all the serious faces, but it actually started making a lot of sense to me, and I am from Portugal! By that, I mean I come from a country where the culture is quite the opposite, yet I fully understand and accept why they don’t smile at me all the time. My point is, don’t take it personally. I have come to appreciate when they do smile, because I know they actually mean it when they do. My Russian friends, however, they smile all the time and they are, in fact, quite expressive and outgoing when you get to know them a bit better. Tell them a joke – a funny one – and you will see them cracking up.

Do all Russians drink vodka? Do all Americans eat burgers? The answer is no. Many Russians don’t drink vodka, and a considerable percentage of the population doesn’t drink AT ALL (crazy, right?). Vodka still is the traditional party drink, but since beer sales started booming in the early 2000s, vodka is not consumed nearly as much as it once was. Now there is more choice in the market, and people drink more wine, sparkling wine, whiskey, rum, tequila and the likes. But I think it’s safe to say that Russians “know” how to drink vodka, and can drink a lot more than you. How they do it is a topic for another day. To sum up, think twice before you call Russians alcoholics. That only makes you look bad.

Another popular opinion that is not exactly true: it’s always cold in Russia. Everywhere and always, supposedly – the statement does not provide much detail, which it should, because we’re talking about a country with the biggest territory in the world – takes up 31% of Eurasia continent, by the way. Summer temperatures in Moscow and St. Petersburg go up to 38 degrees Celsius, and in the warmest city – Sochi (Сочи), Black Sea shore – they go over 40 degrees Celsius. Ironically, that’s the city where they held the 2014 Winter Olympics – winter temperatures there normally don’t go below 0 degrees. In general, it would be fair to say that in the European part of Russia it gets quite warm in summer and quite cold in winter. I have been to Saint Petersburg 4 times during the winter months and I never experienced temperatures below -16 Celsius. On the other hand, I found winter in New York a lot more aggressive the year I lived there! However, there are places where it’s really cold – behold Oymyakon (Оймякон) and Verkhoyansk (Верхоянск) in the North-East of Russia. Temperatures in summer there don’t go above 17 degrees Celsius and the record winter lows are -67 and -69 degrees Celsius.

So as you see, the notion of Russia being a cold place is not unfounded, but is not true for the entire country either.

But don’t take my word for it – come to Russia to see it for yourself!

Have a good weekend, and I will see you on the next vodka party on March 20th at Liden & Denz!

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