Friday, September 4, 2015

First Impressions of Russia

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Flying from Dubai to Ufa was finally the last leg of my journey.
My very first impression of Russia was that Russian women are super intimidating. One thing about Russian culture that I read, and now gather to be true from my experience, is that Russians don't smile and they aren't very open until they get to know you. Once on the plane I was sitting next to a woman and her son. She kind of snapped things at me, not in a mean way but just rough sounding. Later on in the flight I was studying some Russian flashcards and her son kept watching me and talking to his mom. When he got up to use the bathroom she turned to me and asked me in broken English about why I was going to Russia. After that she was very friendly and even smiled at me. Other things I noticed are that Russians don't really care about listening to the flight attendants (at least the ones on my flight), they are pushy, and the women love wearing heals and outfits that don't seem comfortable on long flights. One lady carrying a baby actually yelled at the flight attendant, who was helping someone, to move. The flight attendant moved but looked in the other direction and opened her eyes wide like "Did she actually just yell at me?" I felt bad. Then the woman in front of me was SO demanding and kept complaining about everything I felt bad for the attendants. Now, I know not every Russian is like this and I actually know American people (particularly white men) are really rude abroad.

Flying over the countryside I noticed that the houses all had colorful roofs and the area reminded me of what I imagine an English countryside to look like. Also, another thing about Russia is that they actually clap when the plane lands. I read about it in a book and I can say that it is true. We then had to go through passport control which was very organized but intimidating because it looked very secure. When I first went through I was handed a migration card which meant I had to get back out and fill it out. For some reason I just kept thinking something was going to be filled out wrong and they were going to stop me from passing through. The man kept looking at my passport like it wasn't me. If you remember when I went to the Philippines the guy actually didn't believe it was my passport, so now whenever I go to a different countries I keep thinking that is going to happen. Everything must have been okay because he stamped everything and let me go through.

Most people had already gone through so as I was waiting to go through security the woman stopped me and was talking to me in Russian. I tried to make my most confused face but she didn't care. I then turned to the guy behind me who she was also talking to and he said that our luggage was too much that we would need to declare it. She then started speaking to me again telling me to do something but I was so confused. I told her I didn't speak Russian but all she said was "Don't speak Russian" in English and other things in Russian. Eventually, I got my bags on the scale and they had the guy behind me come in to translate. Then she had me take out my camera and computer, but the bags were still over. Then I had to put them through the scanner and I was so confused again on what to do. They kept saying stuff to me and I was trying to do what they said, but was still walking around like an idiot. Finally, they made me put all my stuff on a cart and I had to go back out to fill out a declaration form. She then got another guy to come who spoke some English and tried to help me fill out the form. I ended up having to do it twice because we messed up the first time.

After some time I went into another room where I waited and waited. There were two other people in there including the guy who had to translate. He also looked like a foreigner so I have a feeling they picked us out for that reason. I was finally able to get on wifi to e-mail the director of the school I will be working at to tell the two women, Nelly and Zilya, who were picking me up where I was at. It turned out they already knew because there weren't many Americans on the plane. Haha. Then they brought Zilya in to write the letter explaining why my luggage was so heavy, which by the way it was only 6 kilos, or 13 lbs over. While we were waiting another girl came in and was arguing with the customs people about her small suitcase. Zilya kept making comments too, but I don't speak Russian so I was confused. Later, when we got to the car, Zilya told me the airline lost the girls luggage, but they are making her pay to get it back! How ridiculous is that? Guess that's the Russian government for you. After 3 hours I finally ended up having to pay a little over 2,000 rubles ($30). The school is going to write a formal letter about why I had to pay that but for now I'm just glad it's over.

Zilya and Nelly took me to my apartment where they showed me how to work different things. The apartment is old, but I like it because it adds to the character. You have to light a pilot to get hot water, which isn't common anymore, but they told me if the city shuts off the hot water I will still be able to get it. Then they took me to KFC to eat because I hadn't eaten all day and they helped me order the food. I was pleased to know that KFC has an English menu that they pulled out for me. Then they took me to the grocery store where they helped me buy some food and other necessities. While we were in the store I started to get very dizzy because I was so tired. Then we went back where they left me. I decided to take a shower, and had the hardest time turning on the hot water. But I finally managed!

The hardest thing about living here is definitely going to be the language. I'm trying to learn but I just keep wanting to speak Spanish. I know eventually I'll learn but for right now I am experiencing some homesickness.


  1. As tough as that must have been moving to Russia where you don't know the language or customs too well, I can honestly say that this will be the best thing to ever happen to you. If you can make your way through here, then you can make your way through any country in the world.

    1. I love Russia! After I got over the culture shock back in October and the homesickness for holidays in November and December I was fine! Now it just feels like normal life!


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