How to be polite “the Russian way”

Greetings, my dear readers!

I’ve recently come across a very interesting article on how other people see Russian tourists and Russians in general. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t that surprised to learn that we’re often seen as “mean”,”rude” or even “completely nuts”. But what is it about us that makes people use such unbecoming titles? I have a few theories that I’d like to share:

  •  First thing to mention is our intonation. I mean, of course, every single language in the world has its own unique rhythm and sound. However, the problem is that Russian intonation can actually trick foreign listeners into thinking that we’re being angry about something. For instance, when I talk to my students, I make sure to smile a lot and keep my voice light and slightly higher than normal. I do it for a very good reason, because a few times that I tried to use my normal voice, my students thought I were tired and in a bad mood.
  • The next thing is smiling. As you may already know, in Russia it’s not okay to flash smiles at everyone. Many people actually feel threatened by a sudden display of friendliness from a stranger. If you try to approach them on the street and start a casual conversation, they’ll probably think you’re trying to sell them something and will make a hasty departure. Even at the shops, salespeople will not act as if they’re happy to see you, but instead will stick to a dry professional tone. The customers, in turn, will act equally grim. That’s why when I enter the shops in Australia, the salespeople often ask me if everything’s alright, because they’re probably thinking I’m not so pleased with the service.
  • Finally, some Russian tourists can actually act rude. Simple as that. That is, of course, if they drank too much vodka 🙂

The moral is simple: if you ever find yourself in Russia, you don’t have to worry about etiquette too much. Don’t apologize too often, don’t smile, look displeased and you will blend in just fine. Also, it would be good to remember these phrases:

Chto vam nado?” – What do you want?!

Muzhchina/zhenchina, podvintes!” – Man/woman, move away!

Vy mozhete idti/ehat’ bistreye?” – Can you walk/drive faster?

Sleduyushiy!” – Next! (often used in a commanding tone by the doctor/cashier/server)

Rasschitivayemsya!” – Pay up! (usually used by a shuttle bus driver before he starts the bus)

Tiho!” – Quiet! (can be used in variety of social  situations)

If you can read Russian, check out this post for more information.



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