Monday, October 29 2012
Going from living in Maidstone, then to London, and then to Saint Petersburg is a big step any way one looks at it. 6 weeks in to my Year Abroad I have already encountered many culturally-related things which have made me laugh, cry and, more often than not, realise how English I really am. I thought it might be interesting to share such experiences with you all:
1. Old ladies shout at you to dress warmer. All the time. Just nod politely and move on.
2. See that flaming bin? That’s because it’s a criminal offence just to chuck your cigarette butt on the floor. So, naturally, the bin is used. And it will always be the one with all the rubbish in. Hence, flaming bin.
3. Don’t be proud/lazy and go without an umbrella. It will tip it down (with RUSSIAN rain) and you will wish you hadn’t chosen that day to wear your scary heels.
4. Ah? So you have a spot on your forehead/you slipped in the shower? That’s karma because you didn’t wear your slippers round the flat. Just wear the slippers next time.
5. London buses cost the same wherever you’re going. Not so here. There are commercial ‘marshrutki’ (mini buses), and state-owned buses. You’ll have no idea how much it costs until you get on. Great when you’ve only got 20 roubles and it’s raining and you were too proud/lazy to bring your umbrella.
6. Walking is quicker than the metro.
10 minutes down the escalator + 10 minutes figuring out where on earth you’re going again since you forgot the Russian for your station + 20 minutes actually travelling + 10 minutes up the escalator at your destination = 50 minutes.
You could’ve walked it (since this time you’ll have your umbrella), got into your flat and made a cup of tea (with lemon, NOT MILK!) in 40.
7. You will, more often than not, choose the wrong time to need to use the Internet. Like when Yuri from upstairs decides to do some cowboy DIY.
This, naturally, is also the result of karma from not having worn your slippers round the flat the other day.
8. Russian pigeons have no fear. None. They, unlike Londoner-pigeons, will not politely flap aside, but fly at you and possibly leave a souvenir behind upon reluctantly admitting defeat in the wake of your umbrella-and-slipper-clad-self.
9. Do NOT step on the manholes. Even if the road ahead of you is manhole after manhole. Just don’t do it.
10. ‘Please’, ‘Thankyou’ and ‘Sorry’. This, for me, is the hardest thing to adjust to. People just don’t use these words! Naturally, this gives the impression that every Russian is rude. Not so. They’re just “sincere”. Argue the point all you like, there’s nothing you can do to change their minds.
Nevertheless, the next time someone knocks into me, I know my Englishness will get the better of me and I’ll apologize.