Perhaps you have heard someone mention the following stereotypes: “Russians are rude” and “Russians never smile”. Did you ever stop to think if that was true? Well, I did. Unfortunately, many foreigners do think so of Russians. I thought to myself, is that really who we are? What image are we sending to the Western world? Clearly, we must be doing something wrong.
I found a passage that went like this,
“Foreigners who come to Russia are often struck by the indifferent, closed, or even hostile looks from people on public transportation and in the streets. One widespread opinion is that Russians rarely smile. On the other hand, Russians are also well known for their hospitality, and have a reputation for being extremely generous friends.”
The hook to this is that it’s actually one hundred percent true. As I mentioned in my first post, I have spent many years living abroad, even more than I can remember. My family, however, despite the distance, always kept me tied to my roots. Well, not so long ago, I went for a nice casual visit to my home country, I guess I had already forgotten how shockingly contrasting Russians’ way of being was. Ever since I got out of my comfy airplane seat, I fell into a perpetual state of cultural shock. But what was it that had left me so wide-eyed? The people, perhaps? I definitely noticed the not so warm-hearted behavior of strangers…and I mean like random people on the streets, shops, supermarkets. You see, in Russia, there is no need for a reason to get into a quarrel while harmlessly waiting in line for the cashier; nor do you need a reason to dispute a parking spot; nor will you ever find out why the saleswoman tossed the product you were buying literally at your face, adding an insult somewhere in the middle, if for some reason, God knows which, you had annoyed her. The list could go on and on for pages and pages. Every time you take a step outside of your cave, you need to be ready for a hurricane of annoyed indifferent looks.
How about effortlessly strolling out of your apartment in order to meet cute guys and girls on the busy streets of Moscow? Forget about it. A’int happening. The probability that someone will have the time and wish to check you out is minimal. People are hopelessly busy, constantly running around in their business attire with a morose and concerned look on their face. That is the first impression foreigners may get about Russians. A bit sad, right? The excuse I find is that many of those people struggle on a daily basis, therefore some serious concern has become a constant expression of their faces. A smile in such circumstances is an exception meaning wealth and high spirits.
However, I figured out that smiling is simply a more intimate emotion for Russians. Smiling at strangers is simply absurd, so no one does it. A Russian smile is a symbol of friendship, love, and attraction. We are rather reserved in public – not letting most of our emotions emerge onto the surface. We just try to mind our own business. Why let people we don’t know into our innermost feelings? Deep inside every Russian has a big warm heart, and if you get to know a Russian closely, you will most likely agree with me.