Recently I’ve visited my home city which is Saint Petersburg, Russia. That was a middle of March…..and it was a little bit cold )).
Since a lot of my friends are interested in Russian culture and traditions, I’ve decided to give some tips for those who is going to visit this great country first time.
Generally, Russians don’t smile a lot. Their faces in most cases are very serious, concerned about something , and sometimes even tense ). It is hard to say what the main reason for this is, and why they act like that. Probably, it is because in most Russian cities the weather is not as sunny as in Texas, or because smiling is very private in Russian culture. Historically, or traditionally a Russian person smiles only at his close friends or family members, and not to people he doesn’t know. In Russia they say that when a person is always smiling, it means that something is wrong with him )). It is not common to smile all the time without any reasons, so be careful! Also, Russians do not apologize as frequently as in the USA because apologizing in Russia in most cases means that you’ve done something wrong.
However, besides the above-listed characteristics, Russians are very hospitable. It is normal when your family meets you at the airport (with flowers), and impolite if not. Sometimes some mothers might even bring your favorite homemade pie to the airport in order to make you happy )). Your mom will cook your favorite dishes, and your siblings will do anything to make your visit very comfortable. Also, your best friends are always ready to help, and even offer their apartments to live, while you stay in your home town. Generally, if there is a family gathering, it means everyone stays in one house together (not in a hotel). Russians love to discuss other people’s problems, and to give advices (even if it is not required at all), especially elderly people, as they believe that as they have been living longer than young ones, they are in charge and need to give wise advice). Sometimes it is not so bad because some advice could be very useful, but sometimes not ).
Russians, especially women, are very attractive and try to look nice every second (even when taking the garbage out). Women never go out without make up on and their hair done. They always try to look pretty, and mostly wear dresses and high heels (the higher the more imposing). Based on statistics there are twice as many women as men, so they try to look their best. Men also try to look good .They mostly wear freshly-ironed shirts and pants and polished shoes. A lot of people are fit and in good shape (especially in the North of the country). In Russia the first impression about a person is based on how they look and how they are dressed. There is a proverb -“First you judge by appearance, then you judge by mind”.
Because most of the year it is cold in Russia, the traditional beverage is hot black tea with added lemon and honey. People drink it in order to get warm and make their immune system stronger. Tea with sea buckthorn herbal is very famous in winter time. During summer time people like to drink kvass (made from rye bread) or mors (cold fruit drink). There are not as many coffee shops in Russia as in the USA. However, during my last visit to Saint Petersburg, I found a lot of new interesting coffee shops. Coffee shops are usually open between 10-11 am, so don’t be very surprised. Pickled food is very famous in winter time, for example, pickled carrots, beets, cabbage or pickles. Thus, in summer time you can find a variety of whole and fresh vegetables. Russians prefer to eat more meat then fish, such as pork or beef. Sunflower or pumpkin seeds are a very common snack, especially in Russian villages (people get together in the evenings, and eat seeds while sitting on benches and chatting with friends). Such a snack is similar to popcorn in the USA. Dairy products are also very famous, such as cottage cheese, sour cream, kefir. People don’t trust milk substitutions much and prefer whole milk. Cottage cheese is super popular, and Russians like to cook pancakes with it, or just curd pancakes. Don’t forget to try meat dumpling; borsch, or cabbage soups, which you are supposed to eat with dark bread.
Mors and pancake Sea buckthorn tea
pickled herring, vinaigrette, and meat dumpling with mulled wine
Places to visit
Saint Petersburg and Moscow are the most popular cities to visit in Russia. They called Saint Petersburg a cultural capital of Russia, and it makes sense, as there are so many historical and beautiful places, and memorable monuments. A long time ago Saint Petersburg was the capital of Russia (1712-1918), but now it is Moscow (1389-1712, and 1918-present). A lot of tsars and emperors used to live in St Peter. This city is famous for its art (Repin Institute of Arts) and literature (such writers as Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky) and architecture. Nevsky Prospect is one of the most famous street in Saint Petersburg , where you can observe historical buildings at every step. All places keep a lot of history and secrets. I would recommend for you to visit Saint Petersburg in the summer time during White Nights. Moscow is a different city, it is mostly about money, means a lot of business offices, banks and headquarters. However, there are also a lot of old buildings, churches, and cathedrals. The most famous places are The Kremlin, and Red Square. For Russians Moscow is associated with speed, crowd, and money. However, there are a lot of old historical cities, which used to be the capital of Russia. For example, Ladoga (862-864) Novgorod (864-882), Vladimir (1243-1389 ) where a lot of old buildings still exist, so if you want to learn more Russian history, you have to visit these cities. One of the most famous tours is the Golden Ring of Russia, which consists of eight major cities – Sergiev Posad, Pereslavl-Zalessky, Rostov, Yaroslavl, Kostroma, Ivanovo, Suzdal and Vladimir. All these cities are very old and preserved the unique monuments of history and culture of Russia, and handicrafts centers. Also, the Trans-Siberian Railway tour is very trendy among foreign tourists. The way is about 9284 km (5768,81 miles), takes 6 days , and extends from Moscow to Vladivostok. I think foreign people like this tour as they have an opportunity to see almost all of Russia.
Russians don’t visit movie theaters as much as Americans (especially in Saint Petersburg). Moreover, it is not common to eat a meal while you are watching a movie (like in Alamo Drafthouse). It is allowed only in VIP movie theaters, which is pretty expensive. In most movie theaters you can expect popcorn and soft drinks. A lot of people visit plays, the ballet, opera and sometimes libraries. There are a lot of historical museums and memorial apartments that honor famous authors, poets (Dostoevsky, Pushkin) or politicians. In case if it is a sunny day (which is very seldom), people like to spend time in public parks or just walk around in the main streets of the city. There are a lot or religious people in Russia (Orthodox Christians mostly) who visit church regularly. There is no Happy Hours in Russia, however, co-workers could meet on Friday nights (it is usually dinner), as everyone would like to spend the weekend with their families.
There are a lot of public holidays in Russia in comparison to the USA. The longest holiday is in winter, which starts from December 31 and ends January 8 or 9. Most people take a long vacation and go to warm countries. The next holiday is Fatherland Defender’s Day, and it is February 23 (since 1922). On this day women congratulate men and present them with some gifts. However, originally this holiday was organized in honor of the Red Army after Civil War 1918, and only veterans are supposed to celebrate it. In modern times all Russian men expect to be congratulated, even if he never has served in the army ). After Fatherland Defender’s Day comes International Women Day, which is widely known in many countries. On this day women become queens )), and men try to make them happy by buying gifts and flowers (the tulip is a symbol of this holiday). The next holiday is Labor Day which is celebrated on May 1 (in the USA they celebrate it in September). Victory Day, which is on May 9, is one of the most important Russian holidays. This holiday commemorates the victory of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany during the Second Word War. Everyone respects this holiday and tries to celebrate it with friends or family. People usually go downtown to watch a parade and fireworks. Normally Russians take a vacation during May holidays, as it is very convenient. June 1 is International Children’s Day which is also celebrated in Russia. The last one is Russia Day, that praise the Russian nation on June 12 since 1991.
I hopes there tips will help you during your first visit to Russia. Enjoy your vacation ).