Written by Miles Atkinson, a Clemson University Freshman
Russians radiate unfriendliness to all unknown peoples on the street. They carry a perpetual scowl as if it were painted on their faces. In all of the cities and countries that I have visited, the Russian public persona is unparalleled in its projection of indifference.
Even the most boisterous and outgoing Russians display the scowl when they are in unfamiliar territory. We have all speculated as to why this behavior persists, and our reasoning has ranged from the dull weather to a desire to maintain anonymity in a political and social atmosphere that for years restrained the individual.
Of course, the underlying psychological motivation is probably no more complex than “I don’t smile because no one else does.” However, as soon as the metaphorical ice is broken, Russians are some of the friendliest and warmest people one could know. We Americans probably have it easier because people are curious about us, and they are always surprised when we speak to them in Russian (even though it’s not very good). The guards at our hostel are notoriously unfriendly, but every single one of them recognizes us now because we always make a point to introduce ourselves and say good day and goodnight when we come in. In stores, the employees are stern-faced until we blurt out some broken Russian, upon which they can’t help but crack a big smile.
From what I understand, having guests is a source of pride in Russia. When we visit our friend’s rooms, we are always welcomed with an offer of tea and sweets, and sometimes other beverages. In fact, Russians don’t even have to know you to treat you like their best friend who just returned home after years at sea. Recently, I knocked on the wrong door while I was going to visit my friend. The guys inside didn’t speak a word of English and I barely speak enough Russian to explain to them that I was there by mistake. But that didn’t faze them a bit, they were excited to have a visitor and no language barrier would stop them from inviting me in for a drink. So, I stayed for a few minutes and chatted.
The American girls have an especially good time over here because many of the Russian men see it as their chivalrous duty to cater to and service every need that may arise. For the first couple of days, none of the girls were allowed to lock their doors because there were two Russian brothers handy who would insist on performing every minor task. Our girls were like Orthodox Jews on the Sabbath! Of course, for our independently minded ladies this constant doting was tiring and it has subsided a bit now.
Russians are nice, warm and welcoming folk, and I have really enjoyed getting to know a few of them. The best summary of the Russian people that I have heard came from a friend of my cousin who lived in Russia for a while: “Russians who don’t know you will be total [jerks], but Russians are the best friends to have because if they say something like ‘I’ll help you move out of your apartment,’ then they’ll be there to help right when they said they would.”
Also in this Issue...
- Ice Skating in Russia by Katie Moore
"On my second night in Moscow, we ventured into the relatively unknown territory (for me at least) of ice-skating. We don't ice skate very much in South Carolina, shocking I know. However, after a few tentative laps around the rink, my fellow southerners and I got the hang of the sport and began to try new tricks..."
- A Brief Tour of MSAU by Shelli Danjean
"The university has worked hard over the years to establish relationships with American companies, such as John Deere, as well as companies in France. They have successfully developed exchange programs in several states and countries for several years now. The leaders of the university seemed to recognize foreign corporations' increasing interest in establishing companies in the Russian market...."
- Issue Photographer: Karlie Tucker
Written by Katie Moore, a Clemson University Junior
Due to some delays in my visa, I arrived in Moscow fashionably late (about 6 days after my classmates’ arrival). I have to say that if I had any apprehensions or anxiety about joining an already established group of friends, those worries disappeared immediately as my peers are wonderful and inviting people. On my second night in Moscow, we ventured into the relatively unknown territory (for me at least) of ice-skating. We don’t ice skate very much in South Carolina, shocking I know. However, after a few tentative laps around the rink, my fellow southerners and I got the hang of the sport and began to try new tricks. Shelli definitely had the quickest progression, as she was the first to bravely begin dancing to the blaring techno music. The rest of the girls followed suit and we began having a fantastic time.
At the height of our adventure, the Russian students (Max, Maksim and Christina) taught us how to play a game on the ice. I think it was the best way for all of us to play together, and we definitely bonded as a group. The game involves pairing up with a partner and lining up, making a tunnel of sorts. There is one person left over who skates through the tunnel and grabs someone’s hand and accompanies him/her to the end. The process is repeated over and over. It’s particularly fun because there is always the risk of falling.
This game is traditional to Russia, not only on the ice but also on land. The game is called Rouchejok and is popular among a wide range of participants from small children on playgrounds to teenagers at proms to adults at weddings. Literally translated, the game means “little stream” as different versions result in the players mimicking the undulations of water as they go through the tunnels.
Overall, it is amazing to already be immersed in such culture while playing a simple and fun game. I hope to go ice-skating again soon!