Time to say goodbye to Saint-Petersburg!
15 February, 2017
Almost three months passed by, since the moment when my little adventure started in Saint Petersburg. As I stayed during a 3 weeks intensive language course at Liden & Denz one year ago, I have already got an impression of Russia and Saint Petersburg. Convinced by the teaching methods of the language school, I decided to make a short break after my technical studies.
Right now when the time has almost gone, I have to admit that I regret to go home yet.
Actually the first weeks were not amazing for me: I was quite charged with classes, work and the search of a shared apartment for a decent price in which I wanted to stay the following weeks. (I preferred living in a shared apartment with coeval Russians to talk with them after school/work).
Already looking for an apartment in your home country is difficult, if it should meet several requirements (equipment, location, costs, traffic connection, flatmates, cleanness), but in a different country it is even more complicated.
Anyway, when I finally found such a place, I started to like the life in Saint Petersburg – even in the winter with lots of snow, ice, wind and temperatures of -20°C. Thanks to weekly couchsurfing meetings (every Thursday) I got to know many interesting and friendly Russians. During these meet-ups I figured out, that lots of them are open-minded and they take their time to listen to you attentively. Even if you do often think about what you are saying and even if your sentences are full of mistakes as it was in my case, it does not matter. This is just gorgeous!
If you ask me, I definitely recommend these meet-ups: Especially when you got the feeling at school that your Russian level is the worst. Talking with some native speaker after classes in a relaxed atmosphere (with one or more beers, some food, …) and seeing that your interlocutor understands you, lifts your spirits.
As a result both of the discussions there and from talks with flatmates, friends and teachers I can easily confirm some prejudice that are associated with Russians. For me it was really funny to encounter superstitious in so many daily situations (don’t put an empty bottle on a table, don’t return home if you forget something, …). Moreover, I appreciate the creativity of Russians to bypass laws. Since a few years the government prohibited normal shops to sell alcoholic beverages in Saint Petersburg between 10pm and 8am (expect for bars). Nevertheless you can find many shops selling alcohol – How is it possible? These shops have a bar licence and are allowed to sell drinks as you can receive in a bar. A few weeks ago I learnt that an opened bottle of vodka or brandy also counts as a drink. Kind as the barkeeper was, he didn’t only open the bottle (and offers it as a drink) but also handed the cap. He enabled us to finish the drink somewhere else outside his “bar”, which we actually just did one moment later.
There are many other Russian peculiarity in comparison to Germany and mostly you can find a reason for the difference. But until today I couldn’t find anybody who could explain me, why lots of shops especially flower shops needs to be open 24/7. The invented story of a boyfriend who goes drunken home at 5am after a party and who will buy a flower for his darling to show a good gesture, is not really convincing. Perhaps it is due to the very small salary of about 2€ per hour, which a seller earns there. If every hour one person or two people buy flowers, the shop doesn’t make a deficit and stays opened. But I am not sure.
In general, it is very sad to hear how little money people receive here. While living costs in Saint Petersburg are comparable with costs in Germany (expect Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt) the salaries are far below. The result: Many people work 6 days a week, live in so called Kommunalkas (shared apartments) or even share a room with somebody else in order to decrease the rent. Astonishingly, people don’t express the less prosperity by emotions of being angry or desperate. Contrariwise the people I meet seem to be satisfied and happy.
Last but not least a few words concerning the internship. As a former engineering student, I rather calculated and modelled physical problems than brooding over what I did the last week and if it is worthwhile to write an article about it. That is why I had a few doubts at the very first beginning. But gradually I liked it more and more, not because I wanted to become a writer but rather writing articles gave me the opportunity to reflect the past days: For example, when I decide to go to a museum I am overwhelmed with information. If I don’t deal with the topic beforehand or afterwards I quickly forget what I have seen. But when I am supposed to write an article about the museum I will do some research to get more background. Automatically I remember not only more details for a longer time but also understand historical and cultural relations. In addition, I had some time to regularly look what is going on or I received some hints from other interns what I should definitely check out.
All in all 3 months is a good period to intensive speaking Russian (but for sure the more time you have, the better it is ;-)). Saint Petersburg is a great place to stay, the teacher at Liden & Denz do their best to teach you Russian and the stuff of the school want you to have a pleasant time.
I would be happy to come back as fast as I have the opportunity!