Ready to talk about Russia? I know you are! Expanding across two continents, Russia is the largest country in the world (and thanks to guns and fake referendums, its size is only increasing). It is also extremely diverse in terms of its people, landscapes, and climates. As a result, the country is far too complex to fit any particular stereotype. Not sure what to believe? We’re here to serve up a delicious dish of truth! Here are just of the few misconceptions that people have about the country.
1. Every Man is Named Boris, Every Woman Anastasia
When you think about Russian names, you probably blurt out “every guy is Boris and every girl is Anastasia, or Nastya if you’re Nasty.” Of course, this is not true at all. Boris Yeltsen was indeed the first president of Russia, but who is the current fella who rides on the back of horses and bears bare-chested? Furthermore, while Anastasia evokes images of the Tsarist princess who impossibly survived the Romanov family execution thanks to some Disney magic, there are plenty of Russian girls with other names such as Dasha, and Natasha, and Masha, and Lyubasha. Lots of “shas,” as you see.
2. Russians are Grumpy People
The first thing a foreigner notices when they go to most shops, restaurants, or ticket counters is that they aren’t greeted with a smile or the other features of friendly customer service. Instead, more often than not they are treated with indifference at best or a scowl at worst. It speaks less about Russians as a people and more about the legacy of a Communist system where they didn’t have to treat you nicely because what were you going to do about it? Take your business elsewhere and shop/eat at the other government-owned stores and restaurants? Russians do have a rather blunt temperament, but once you get to know them, you find that some of them are actually okay to get a beer with.
3. Everybody Knows How To Do The Squat Dance
You know the dance I’m talking about. It’s the one where the guys crouch down and kick their heels out. The dance is actually called prisyadka (knee-bending) and is commonly seen at traditional folk performances, but the typical Russian does not dance remotely as good as that.
4. Everybody is Drunk All the Time
In a country where unemployment is high and the average person struggles to make ends meet, it is only natural that its citizens will hit the bottle in order to cope with all that misery. However, if you search around for photos of Russians, you will discover that many of them are actually sober much of the time! In fact, among the list of countries with the highest consumption of pure alcohol per capita, Russia ranks 4th, with Belarus, Moldova and Lithuania leading the way. In other words, Russians have a bit of catching up to do if they want to hold the title of Most Drunk Country.
5. Russia is a Region Rather Than a Sovereign Country
Unless you are unfortunate to live in a part of the world where Russia never lets you forget that they are a neighbor, you might have a difficult time locating it on a map. In fact, Russians find it extremely frustrating when people come up to them and say, “You’re from Russia? Isn’t that just part of Ukraine or Latvia or something?” No, folks! Russia is an independent country and has been since 1991! They speak Russian, not Lithuanian. Their capital is Moscow, not Tallinn. It’s so annoying, guys!
6. Bears Invade Russian Cities
If you’re planning a trip to Moscow or St. Petersburg but are worried about being attacked by gangs of bears, fear not! The bears in Russia know better than to mess with the sophisticated urbanites. Instead, they prefer to terrorize small townsfolk, as was the case in February 2019 when 52 polar bears made their way to northern settlement of Belushya Guba. So just use some common sense, avoid Belushya Guba, and if for some reason you do confront bears on Red Square, don’t tempt them with pic-a-nic baskets.
7. They All Wear Cossack Hats
The Russian cossack hat provides the perfect amount of warmth and protection against the brutal winter elements. It is also plenty stylish and I pray that one day all Americans will also choose to make this hat an integral part of their fashion. But Russians do not wear them all the time, silly! The only folks who walk around the streets of Moscow with a cossack in the July summer heat are the criminally insane, okay?
8. Russian Babushkas are Powerful and All-Knowing
Okay, I’m not sure why this made the list of stereotypes because it’s actually 100% – no, 1000% – true. Russian Babushkas know when you’re hungry, even if you are completely full. They know you’re cold, even if you feel quite fine. They know where you’ve been and where you’re going. You’ll see a bunch of them sitting out on benches in the courtyard of those high rise concrete block apartments, acting as the gatekeepers of all the neighborhood news and gossip. Do not draw the ire of a Russian Babushka!