Oh, the stereotypes. They’re inevitable when it comes to discussing other countries. Because when we know nothing about some topic, our brain tends to fill the gap with just about anything we see or hear. So we believe everything the Hollywood and mass culture are showing us. However most things we come across are not true. So I figured out it’s about time to do some “myth busting” about countries. Specifically about Russia.
Myth № 1: It’s easy to see a polar bear in Moscow. This is the only myth over here that is true. Spoiler alert… Oh, too late now, sorry. The polar bear thing – it’s a piece of cake. All you have to do is go to the metro, leave at the station Barrikadnaya or Krasnopresnenkaya and go to the city ZOO. And when you get there – the polar bears are not even the biggest attraction. The dolphins are! So if you’re there, be sure to see the show dolphins put out. It’s impressive!
Polar bears bring us smoothly to myth № 2: It’s always cold in Russia. Everyone who knows at least a tiny little bit about geography and climate zones understand that’s not true. I can’t tell you if the winter in Moscow is exceptionally cold or not – the thermometer on the window of my dorm room was broken. But I experienced the unseasonably hot spring of 2011, so there you have it- it’s not always cold. Obviously there are some parts of Russia, where the temperature drops below 0ºC (32ºF) and stays that way for nine months (Yakutsk). There are also places, where the air temperature can rise above 40ºC (104ºF) like in Astrakhan. But come on – have you seen the size of this thing?! Russia’s huge! So you just need to remember one thing: North – cold, south – warm.
Myth № 3: Russians can’t taste the difference between vodka and water. Seriously, where do people get these things? Do Russians drink a lot? Yes. Does the russian society have a problem with alcoholism? Probably, especially in poorer regions. But honestly! It’s not like everyone in this country does nothing else but drink! Far from it. A lot of russian people I know don’t ever drink vodka. They prefer beer or wine or no alcohol at all. I had some crazy nights with Russians and plenty of times we stayed sober (and not because we ran out of options!).
Myth № 4: It is impossible to get a russian visa. Well, in order to get a visa you have to make a little effort, but it is obtainable. If you booked a hotel for even one night, you no longer need to worry about an invitation to the country – the hotel will email it to you. Now all you have to do is apply for a visa in a consulate. Tourist visa costs about $35 and you wait around a week for it.
Myth № 5: Russa is not safe. Bullshit. Take Moscow. It is as dangerous as any other few (12) million people city. Think about the capital city of your own country. Would you consider walking through some dark alleys in a district away from the centre at 1 a.m. to be something safe? Jackpot. It isn’t wise to wander around at night in places that aren’t full of people in any big city and Moscow is no exception. And as for the Russian mafia. Well, they prefer to be called lobbyists these days. Just kidding. I have no experience in that field. I never met anyone who was openly admitting to be a mafia member. So if no news is good news, than me not meeting anyone from mafia (even after over half a year spent in Russia) can be a sign. Maybe not that there is no mafia, but at least that they generally couldn’t care less about the foreigners.
Myth № 6: Russians are harsh and unkind. The first time I went to a supermarket in Russia I was seriously confused. First of all, because my grocery cart was hit a few times by other people’s trolleys and not even one person apologised. The most shocking was this 70-80 year old grandpa, who deliberately steered his cart into mine, so that he could get into the queue before me! And at the cash register, the cashier was also kinda rude. She just murmured „do you need a plastic bag” and told me the price of my groceries. No „hello”, „please”, „thank you”, „goodbye”. Nothing, nada, nichts, nichevo. After a few days I got used to that, and in a wrong way, might I add. I’m not proud of that, but I stopped being polite and took pleasure in racing to the cash register and stuff. It’s low. I knew it even back then, but I couldn’t help it. But that only concerns anonymous crowds. Because in person, Russians are warm and open and fun and generous. I have a lot of friends in Russia and not one of them is selfish, harsh or mean. So this myth, as every other one mentioned above, is false.
„Russia is a state of mind”. I bet you’ve heard those words once or twice. To me they always sounded a little silly. Because when you look at it closely – replace Russia with any other country you can think of and the sentence won’t get any less true. Russia is just maybe a little less familiar.