If you wish to understand another culture, then why not listen to members of that culture themselves? “Because I don’t speak their language!” is often the immediate answer, especially here in the UK where trying to communicate effectively in our native tongue seems to be demanding enough for some. Meanwhile, across Europe and into Russia, proficiency in 2 languages seems to be the baseline for most individuals leaving academia, and ability in 3 or more is fairly routine.
So, we’ve done the work for you, here follows part 2 of our current series describing Mother Russia and her native inhabitants. Again: the text is from a project produced by a Russian friend and colleague. It has been translated into English and then further modified/adapted by myself. Feel free to agree or disagree with the opinions herein and rest assured that they exist ‘out there’ regardless. Better understand them, then and yes, I’ll probably interject here and there too – I just can’t help myself.
Russians are quite sincere and seek to avoid hypocrisy, even within formal business relationships; an arena not usually renowned for the purity of it’s morals. Usually, the inner state of a Russian is reflected in his or her behaviour; unambiguously. Some foreigners even notice that the mood of many Russians may depend upon the weather or season at the time, – which will be no surprise to those familiar with S.A.D. for instance.
Russians are often concerned with many issues and problems that affect both themselves and others. This includes events beyond their town or city as well as global/international affairs. In this regard, Russia can be considered to be an “extrovert” nation on the world stage! The best features of the national character include bravery in the face of personal risk and a willingness to sacrifice for others. If someone from a crowd of multinational tourists happens to dangle from the edge of the Grand Canyon, the person who steps forward to assist will most likely be Russian!
The smile issue
Don’t be surprised though, when you observe people who scarcely smile or who always appear worried or gloomy, whether on the streets, on public transport or in other public places. In Russia, false Hollywood smiles are rarely found on the faces of the populace. When Russians smile, they do it sincerely and heartily and it means more. It seems at first glance that Russians are quite reserved and unfriendly, but as you draw closer to their lives and demonstrate true interest and respect, Russians reveal the best aspects of their culture; their generosity, consideration and attentiveness for example. Russians, perhaps like few others- appreciate friendship in a deeply felt, traditional sense. For Russian people, friendship is a very close, trusting relationship, sometimes even stronger than kinship ties.
I’ll interject here to say (again): be careful what you wish for! Once you are “in”; an equal level of sincerity, trust and consideration will automatically be assumed (and often expected) in return, you have to be ready for that! This may be more than certain Western mindsets -with their ranks of disposable acquaintances may be accustomed to.
From Expatica.com: “Friendship is one of the most important values in the Russian society and a Russian friend will go an extra mile for you always (even at three in the morning). You’ll be expected to do the same for a friend…”
Europeans are often baffled and cannot understand the occasionally strange and sometimes inappropriate behaviour of Russians abroad or at home. This behaviour is a reaction to life’s everyday routine and monotony, accompanied by strict rules and regulations of society. Many Russians seek to break-out from this perceived standstill by some extraordinary act of personal rebellion or temporary self-transformation!
Perhaps this phenomena is also explained by the sheer amount of natural chaos and freedom that are inherent in such a large country, compared to life within smaller, neatly-maintained European nations! It has long been noted that the size of the country, its climate and natural conditions play roles in determining the tone of the national character. Besides this; Russia is the country of many changes, both historically and in modern times. So much so that Russians joke that theirs is the country with an unpredictable future, present, and even: past!
The Russian character and mentality have also been shaped throughout the ages -in part- by the absorption of cultural features from many nations. From European and Asian, Caucasian and Turkic peoples, from the many tribes of Siberia, and from the influences of the far north and the far east. Russia is a vastly diverse, multicultural country comprised of over 200 nationalities and over 100 languages, and a truly unfathomable melting pot, indeed.
More abstract combinations next time. I have adapted this work from it’s English translation. Many thanks to the original author who prefers to remain nameless, however you can find the original (translated) work and a lot more on Live Journal.