A normal friend will bring you a can of Campbell’s condensed chicken soup when you have the flu.
A Russian friend will have their babushka make a giant batch of borscht for you and then deliver it to your house in a stockpot.
A normal friend will study with you before university finals.
A Russian friend will give you all the answers to the exam questions as soon as the professor has left the room, whether you asked for them or not.
A normal friend parties indoors during the wintertime.
A Russian friend takes you to drink vodka shots on a snow-covered park bench in -10 F weather.
A normal friend apologizes and pays the fine when the police catch them illegally drinking alcohol on said park bench.
A Russian friend bribes the police officer, and then continues to down ice-cold shots.
A normal friend will ask if you’d like a glass of water or juice or something on entering their home.
A Russian friend has already boiled a pot of tea and set out a plate of cookies and open-faced sandwiches in the kitchen.
A normal friend will show you their suburban hometown and introduce you to their parents.
A Russian friend will take you to the remote, ramshackle towns where they grew up to show you the “real” Russia that exists outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
A normal friend will take you to museums and monuments to teach you about their town’s local history.
A Russian friend will escort you to structurally unsound WWII bunkers and abandoned Soviet hospitals — remnants of the country’s tumultuous past.
A normal friend will list some of their favorite poets when you express an interest in poetry.
A Russian friend will instantly recite an entire five-page Pushkin poem from memory, their voice undulating with emotion and their face smug with satisfaction. Finally, all those dreaded literature drills in elementary school have paid off…to impress foreigners.
A normal friend will let you sleep on their couch for a few days, or even weeks, when you’re between apartments.
A Russian friend will lend you their entire apartment, moving back in with their parents for whatever time is necessary for you to find a permanent place to live.
A normal friend will awkwardly look down and feel embarrassed when you unwittingly commit a cultural faux pas.
A Russian friend will call you out for being an uncultured American — eating your pizza with your hands, or wearing your gloves inside. And don’t forget to take your shoes off when entering someone’s home!
A normal friend will go shopping with you when you find yourself in need of an extra warm winter jacket.
A Russian friend will thrust their aunt’s old fur coats and hats on you, insisting you look fabulous even though you feel like you’ve been swallowed by a Soviet bear.
A normal friend will accept you if you identify as LGBT.
A Russian friend insists that you just haven’t met the right guy / girl yet.
A normal friend will suggest that you visit a psychiatrist when you’re depressed.
A Russian friend will tell you shrinks and antidepressants are useless, and that the most effective recipe for happiness is vitamins and exercise.
A normal friend will suggest going out to a restaurant for dinner.
A Russian friend will go grocery shopping with you for your favorite food and then make you a delicious home-cooked meal.
A normal friend will greet you with the standard, “Hi, how are you?” and respond, “I’m good, thanks!”
A Russian friend wastes neither time nor smiling muscles on such meaningless niceties. The most common response to the question “How are you?” is normal’no — “normal.”