Today marks my one-year Moscow anniversary. I have learned a lot about myself, the world, and Russia. Here are some of the lessons I learned and important statistics I have been tracking.
- Even though Moscow has been facing the same winters for centuries, they still haven’t figured out how to clear the snow/ice from sidewalks or ice from the top of buildings. It is a challenge to be looking up watching for falling icicles from buildings and looking down not to slip on the 6 inches of ice on the sidewalk. I have accepted that I will only wear boots in the winter and that any cute shoes or shoes with heels are out of the question. Survival mode!
- For as much as Russians love their vodka, they haven’t quite caught on to the concept of mixed drinks. If you order a vodka and orange juice, you are served orange juice and vodka and you get to mix it yourself. If you go to an American style restaurant or a newer, trendier restaurant, they understand the concept. I also didn’t realize that Russians love champagne almost as much as vodka. Russians love to pose for wedding photos outside in crazy poses and even crazier dresses. Almost always they are walking around with a bottle of champagne to chug between pictures. You see the same thing on New Year’s Eve, people walking through the streets with bottles of champagne.
- Public displays of affection are completely normal here. If you are on the subway after 9:00 pm, you are bound to see couples making out on the escalator, on the platform, or on the subway cars. In the warmer months, this activity is taken to outside benches. This isn’t only for teenagers, it is common to see people in their 20’s and 30’s also making out.
- Don’t mess with Russian babushkas (grandmothers)! They may look elderly and frail, but they will push and shove you without hesitation.
- There is no concept of lines in Russia. There are long lines for many activities and a common practice is to have the person in front of you “hold your spot.” Therefore, if you are waiting for train tickets, the man in front of you could be gone for 20 minutes to the bathroom, to smoke or to eat. When he comes back, he expects to have his place. The line for coat checks (and you have to check your coat everywhere) is just a big cluster of people. I have given up attempting to wait on the so-called line. Since I am little, I now have become Russian enough to push my way to the front and cut in line like everyone else. If someone yells at me, I pretend I don’t understand, and usually I don’t!
- You must buy fruit and vegetables when they are in season. Fruits such as cherries, strawberries and mandarin oranges are insanely expensive most of the year. However, when they are in season they are super cheap and tasty. Too bad the season lasts only three weeks and the rest of the year I am stuck with apples, potatoes, carrots, and onions (eeewwww!).
- You are not allowed to wear outside shoes to the gym! I live a 4-minute walk from the gym, yet have to bring a pair of sneakers with me and change into them when I am there. On top of that, the Russian women put in more effort into their workout look than I do almost any day. They touch-up their make-up, do their hair, and wear stylish outfits. I am the American who shows up to the gym with my hair in a pony tail and already in my workout clothes and I leave the same way.
- You eat when your food is served in a restaurant. It is rare that you and your dining companions will all receive your meal at the same time. Therefore, if you order a hot dish, you eat it when it comes out. You may be finished before someone else even gets their meal. It is not considered rude, it is just Russia. It is also not uncommon to get your appetizer after your main course.
On the subject of bathrooms (yes, this deserves its own category):
- Always carry toilet paper and anti-bacterial with you. You may end up at museums and restaurants where there was never toilet paper or they have run out. Places like churches or older outdoor bathrooms will never have toilet paper. Soap? Unless you are in a fancy hotel or nice restaurant, you should never count on finding soap in a bathroom. Be prepared!
- Don’t be scared by squat toilets. If you gotta go, you gotta go. The most shocking place I found a squat toilet was in the airport in Khabarovsk.
- Don’t send Michael to the store for toilet paper or he will come back with 40 ruble (about a dollar) cardboard toilet paper! It took me months to find it, but there is decent quality toilet paper (it is no Charmin in America, but decent). I do think Michael learned his lesson and knows the correct toilet paper to buy now.
- If you are taking a bus trip, you must go to the bathroom before you leave your destination. I have been on a few group tours where the bus stops along the journey and everyone who has to go gets off and goes in bushes or behind a bus stop right off the main road.
- Over 30,000 Delta Sky Miles accumulated
- 12 countries visited (Estonia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sweden, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, United Kingdom, Germany, Hungary and of course Russia and the US)
- 24 books read on my Kindle
- Four complete TV series watched (Friday Night Lights, Gilmore Girls, Dexter, and Breaking Bad)
- Four new kosher restaurants and one new kosher super market have opened in Moscow with rumors of two more restaurants set to open.
Thank you for following my adventures for the past year and I hope you continue to follow my journey.
From Russia with Love,