1. Just hanging out in your bedroom
There’s no word for “privacy” in the Russian language, and you embody this fact by remaining at home with your parents. As a result, any intimate activities occur within earshot of other family members. There’s almost always some kind of wall dividing your activities from babulya’s sausage platter — but there might not be a door.
2. Fine dining at McDonald’s
You’ll hover above occupied tables like a vulture in order to secure a seat while your date waits 20 minutes in line for a “Cheeseburger Royal.” And then the date ends at the McCafe for a mediocre cappuccino. It doesn’t matter that the first Russian McDonald’s opened in 1990, the chain remains an impossibly trendy hangout for you and your teenage/twentysomething friends.
3. Or Pizza Hut
Although your palate might have become increasingly multicultural, being raised on borscht and buckwheat makes you less adventurous in trying international cuisines — except where pizza’s involved. Much like McDonald’s, Pizza Hut is a place you consider to be a classy joint, offering the best pies one could hope to find in a Slavic shopping mall. Using a knife and fork is the only way to ensure you get a second date (eating with your hands goes against the way your parents raised you).
4. Shrooms with grandpa
In the month of September, you’ll gather wild mushrooms at your family’s dacha, or summer cottage. There you’ll undoubtedly meet your partner’s grandparents, who wile away their days gardening, foraging, and preserving food for winter. While granny’s in the kitchen canning huckleberries, you venture into the woods with grandpa and your lover to pick some delicious wild mushrooms. Just hope the old man’s eyesight is in check, otherwise you’re in for another trip entirely.
5. Tipsy picnics
The date begins with a long taxi-van ride to the middle of nowhere followed by the traversal of a few “Do Not Enter” signs, which are more like suggestions, really. Next, gather kindling for a bonfire upon which you’ll grill shashlyk (shish kebabs) and warm yourself as the woefully brief Russian summer is extinguished before your eyes. You’ve become an expert at peeing in the woods, mastering the stance after your fourth can of “Sex on the Beach.”
6. Structurally unsound sporting equipment rental
Even if you can’t get out of town, there are numerous parks within city limits where you rent sporting gear such as bicycles and rollerblades. You’re not really surprised to find that your bike is missing its brakes. And, no, you will not be given a discount.
7. Experiencing St. Petersburg’s “White Nights” after you’ve missed the last train
Depending on your luck, you may also be marooned on Vasilyevsky Island after all of the drawbridges connecting it to the rest of the city have been raised between 1:30 and 5am. But in spite of these inconveniences, you’re happy because it’s June and you’re stumbling through one of the world’s most beautiful cities with your new paramour. At 5:30am, you’ll catch the first metro train of the morning along with dozens of other bleary-eyed souls.
8. A lot of walking, in general
The Russian verb for “to go out” (pogulyat’) literally translates into English as “to take a walk.” This linguistic nuance, combined with the sprawling Stalinist avenues lining most Russian cities, ensures that on any given date you’ll walk no fewer than two miles. And it’s not unusual for the entire evening to consist of one long walk punctuated only by purchases of ice cream and beer.
9. Death-defying drives
Safety is usually compromised anytime you’re lucky enough to date someone with a car. You’re privy to all of the neighborhood’s potholes and traffic cops, as well as which sidewalks make the best parking spaces. And riding in the passenger seat exposes you to the perils of the Russian road; Saturday evenings involve watching car accidents occur every couple of miles or so.
10. Culture, up close and personal
You boast about your encyclopedic knowledge of the nation’s art and history, making you a fantastic tour guide for visits to the Hermitage, Tretyakov Gallery, or any other one of the country’s superb museums. Whisper sweet nothings about Malevich’s Black Square into your partner’s ear as you huddle in front of the stark painting. Who knew Modernism could be so romantic?
11. Ice skating in polar vortices
A temperature of -25 °C isn’t enough to hinder outdoor plans. It is enough, however, to give you frostnip, a precursor to frostbite — even through clothing. So before setting foot on that suburban pond, you don every single item of clothing you own. And you undoubtedly understand that mittens are warmer than gloves.
12. Savoring the simple things
Sometimes there’s nothing better than buying a freshly plucked chicken and some scruffy veggies from the local bazar. These basic ingredients, even when cooked atop your crusty dormitory hotplate or minuscule stove, can yield the finest meal. Intimate, unrefined, and a little bit greasy, these are the most satisfying dates of all.