1. Russians abroad
Every Russian you meet abroad secretly hates other Russian tourists and tries to avoid them. Sometimes we even pretend we are not Russian and have nothing in common with the big noisy group of people on a holiday with “all-inclusive” package who flood Spain, Egypt and Thailand. It must be them who are responsible for the image of Russian people abroad, and we hate them for that. Everywhere I travel, I see long faces after I say I am from Russia, because people expect aggressive behavior, heavy drinking and no respect for the country visited, with zero interest shown in the culture and the people. Not all Russians are like that, we just often pretend we come from a different place because of our bad reputation.
2. The Moscovites
The capital is by far the richest city in the country, but it seems to contain just work, work, and more work. Everyone there is in a rush, and the Moscovites talk much too fast, with a funny accent which ignores the existence of the sound “o”. Often assuming there is no life outside Moscow, the Moscovites are very surprised when someone prefers Kazan or Novosibirsk. This arrogance hasn’t helped them make many friends. Moscow is like a separate country inside Russia — everyone who comes from the capital says it proudly, but the rest of the nation thinks the Moscovites are cocky and insolent.
3. The roads
Russians have a saying, “Russia has two misfortunes — the fools and the roads”. Though the first one is subjective, the condition of our roads is assuredly disastrous. Some of them had last been repaired when Ivan the Terrible was alive, not mentioning vast distances without roads at all. Adding insult to injury, in winter (which, as you already know, lasts forever) the roads are glazed; pedestrians move slowly, making tiny steps like penguins, and drivers spend fortunes on winter tires.
4. Our national football team
Russians favorite sports are ice hockey and football. While we are very proud of our hockey team, football always brings disappointment. We are in a love-hate relationship with our national football team. There always is hope it will be different this time, but the scenario never changes. The game is lost, and the country is heartbroken and angry at the players who didn’t even seem to try.
5. Our government
Politics in Russia is the most popular of all the kitchen conversations. We spend hours passionately discussing the stupidity of the new laws and the president’s latest speech, wondering if the prices will go up again and complaining about the corruption level. One of the main motives is that the grass was greener in the USSR. We blame the government for the reform of education which led to a decline of the science development in the country and for the reform of the health care system that reduced the number of hospitals and doctors. But when it comes to action, almost no one goes to the streets to actually protest — we prefer verbal battles.
6. Outside criticism
While we can criticize our country all we want, us Russians can’t stand it when foreigners criticize our country. We are a very hospitable nation, and it is one of the most important things for us to make guests feel welcome, comfortable and taken care of. You can make great friends here, until you dare say something bad about Russia — that’s a dealbreaker. Even if what you say is reasonable, it will create tension. Big tension. Your new Russian friend will become defensive and spend at least two hours trying to convince you that Russia is flawless, even if deep down they know that is not true. .
7. Winter in general
Winter evokes lovely images of skiing or ice skating, throwing snowballs, and making snow angels. You might assume us Russians love winter. But, trust me, when you see snow every single year for 4-to-6 months, you get over it quickly. In winter Russians live in darkness. We wake up and go to work when it is still dark, we come back home when it is already dark.
And it is damn cold. If staying home is not an option, vodka is a solution. If getting drunk enough to forget about how cold it is isn’t possible, forget about going out. When it hits 20C below zero, eyelashes become white and noses blue, people cover their faces with extra scarves and no one even talks in the streets. When it is 25C below zero, girls give up trying to look fancy and put on practical valenki, traditional Russian boots made by felting wool.