10 Abilities We Siberians Have Over Everyone
1. Keeping our word.
There is an expression in Russian ‘Ne uveren — ne obeschaj!’ (Don’t make a promise if you can’t keep it). For us Siberians to be as good as our word is a mark of honor. It might be hard for us to say no, but it’s impossible to break a given promise.
2. Keeping communication personal.
We come to see each other announced, we spend family dinner in the kitchen without watching television and use landline phones more often than mobiles. Our kids still spend more time outside than in front of computers. At twenty degrees Celsius below zero, we smell the spring coming up and go for a slow-paced walk with friends. Even on New Year’s night when the temperature can go lower than forty degrees Celsius, we go out after the midnight to drink champagne, watch fireworks, sledge and celebrate with our beloved ones.
3. Sacrificing fashion for warmth.
Fashion and sharp frost don’t go well together here. You are either stylish or warm, but learning that comes with time. There are still Siberian teen girls who practice extreme sports like ‘I-can-walk-on-high-heels-on-the-ice’ and ‘my-hair-looks-better-with-no-hat.’ But us adults switch up vogue shoes to valenki (felt boots) and the latest craze jacket to shuba (a fur coat) without thinking twice.
4. Straightforwardness in business.
Whether we are buying tomatoes in a market or signing a million dollar contract, we put all the cards on the table and expect the same from others. Trying to bargain with us is an absolute waste of time. We’ve already thought over the matter, and nothing can change our mind. We know what we want and compromise is not an option.
5. Having a sense of delicacy.
Whether in a formal business meeting or in an informal relationship, we always show remarkable tact. We never spit out the first thing that comes to our mind, considering even if there is the slightest chance that it might be offensive to someone. Siberia has a great diversity of nationalities and, consequently, traditions, so from the childhood we grow respecting all the cultures and people.
6. We take politeness to the extreme.
‘Spasibo’ (thank you in Russian) is the next word that we learn after ‘mama’ and ‘papa.’ We say it to a bus driver, a cashier at the supermarket and to anyone who crosses our path during the day. Along with wishing ‘good day,’ ‘good night’ and ‘sweet dreams,’ it is a common part of our daily communication. We use it not to show off our good manners; we really MEAN it.
7. We are always ready to help.
It’s not a secret that Siberia used to be a place for a life-long exile. The majority of people were sent here against their will. Not all of them were criminals, but all of the prisoners had something in common: Siberia became their home. They all were in the same conditions that no one was ready for, so helping each other was the only way to survive. Generation upon generation of us Siberians have been passing along this habit of helping no matter what. We have an expression ‘otdat poslednuu rubashku’ literally meaning ‘to give your last shirt.’ This phrase describes our determination to always help in whatever way is possible.
This story was produced through the travel journalism programs at MatadorU.
8. We don’t just tolerate, but we embrace temperature drops.
The Siberian weather is impossible to predict, but usually snow doesn’t even melt for seven months a year. I remember going to bed in the middle of summer and finding out next morning the whole greenery was covered with crusted snow. As severe it seems, we love it and sometimes even create the temperature drops intentionally, like after banya (a Russian type of sauna) we throw our steaming body into the nearest snowdrift, believing that this procedure will toughen our health.
9. We show remarkable endurance.
Harsh weather conditions force us to be creative and fast, or die, so the choice is obvious. Procrastination and complaining are not common, because we simply don’t have time or luxury for it. That explains why during the WWII Siberian divisions were the invincible power of Russian army.
10. Devotion for Siberian weather.
There is a famous quote from a popular Soviet comedy Sluzhebnyj Roman (Office Romance) that says ‘U prirody net plohoj pogody, kazhdaya pogoda — blagodat’ (Nature doesn’t have bad weather, any weather is the blessing). We laugh when hear people complaining about a harsh-minus-five-degrees-Celsius-winter. We laugh and open the window to refresh the house at minus-40. In summer, we may suffer from heat, in winter — from cold, but when we leave home, we miss this climate the most, non-stop telling people how beautiful Siberia is through every season.