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How to Behave in Russia: Top 7 Foreign Tourists Mistakes

Updated on January 29, 2020
Alyona Gorbatova profile image

The author admires Russian culture and will gladly share her knowledge with readers.

Common Mistakes Tourists Make In Russia
Common Mistakes Tourists Make In Russia

How to Become Like a Local In Russia?

Travelling to an unfamiliar country can be a daunting task for a number of reasons, for example, due to language difficulties. And when it comes to Russia, the fear of numerous problems seems to increase at times, because there are legends about the way of life of the inhabitants of this Eastern European country. Therefore, we advise you to pay attention to our recommendations in order to avoid possible troubles when you go to Russia.

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Mistake #1. Travellers Think that Locals Know English

Unfortunately, knowledge of English is a sore point for Russians. Lack of foreign language knowledge happened due to complex historical reasons and imperfect educational system. Of course, over the past decade, the situation is gradually changing, but the problem still remains.

Be prepared for the fact that in restaurants and cafes, not every waiter can understand what you want to order. The same situation is with public transport and not so popular sights. Everything escalates when you travel to small cities in Russia.

But thanks to modern technology that allows us to communicate using a talking online translator. It makes the problem much easier. Don't let the ignorance of the Russian language to become the reason for the cancellation of the trip for you. Russia is an amazing country worthy to be seen by every inhabitant of the planet.

Mistake #2. Tourists Often Enter the House in Outdoor Shoes

Each nation has its own habits and hygiene attitude. Russians watching a foreign film often wonder "Why do foreigners walk at home in shoes?". From the point of Russian's view, the absence of slippers in the homes of foreigners really looks rather strange.

However, to the Americans and Europeans' opinion, the Russian situation with home shoes may also seem unusual. The drainage system in many regions needs improvement; city services do not always brilliantly cope with their responsibilities. Walking through the streets of a Russian town can turn into spoiled shoes especially in cold and wet seasons.

Therefore, going into a house or apartment, do not forget to change shoes in the slippers offered to you. In this case, you will not confuse the owners, and their floors will remain clean.

Why is it Better to Wear Slippers at Russian Home
Why is it Better to Wear Slippers at Russian Home

Mistake #3. Leaving No Food on the Plate is Another Guests' Fault

The rules of Russian hospitality oblige the hostess to monitor the plates of the guests and fill in any empty space that appears on them during the meal. She will hardly believe you if you start to convince her that you are already full.

Therefore, here's a little secret. Do not want to eat more? Put a new portion of salad on a plate and .. do not eat it.

By the way, the situation is similar to alcohol. Most likely, everyone you know in Russia will offer you a drink...fierce Russian drink. Want to stay sane and sober? Know how to refuse.

Mistake #4. Understanding Literally Stable Expressions in Russian

Oh. this topic is my favourite. Have you ever heard the phrase "Great and mighty Russian language"? Its multivariability and ambiguity can only be admired. A line from one poem of a Russian classic, literally translated into English, looks like "green green greenish green", although, in fact, this is a full-fledged sentence with the subject, predicate and adjective and complement.

Brace yourself, foreigners. Only in Russia, you can hear phrases such as:

  • "Sour cabbage professor" means bad master, unlucky.
  • "Sharashkina office, Sharaga" means insecure organization. In the old days - a society of crooks and thieves.
  • "It smells like kerosene" means that this is about the scam and fraud.
  • "Tutelka in tutelka" means very accurate.
  • "The cat cried" means very little.


Strange Russian Phrases
Strange Russian Phrases

The Russians say the word "Let's" instead of "Bye".
"Yes no probably" means "No".
"No bazaar" means "Yes, of course".
"Hands do not go to see" is "Have no time to do smth".
"It's deep violet to me" means "I'm indifferent to this".


In public transport, you can see the inscription "All rabbits are goats". It means that fare dodgers are prohibited. In Russia, lovers of free passing are called rabbits, because they are also nimble and inconspicuous.

Tourists in Russia may also be surprised with handwritten text. For example, 11 identical sticks with one slope in a row is a word of 7 letters, 5 of which are different, meaning to lose something "you will lose something".


Mistake #5. Most Tourists Think it's Wrong to Say No

Sometimes, Russian guests find difficulties already leaving the airport. They are surrounded by a huge number of taxi drivers, sellers of excursions, realtors. Each of them tries to get to the tourists as close as possible and start obsessively offering their services. Agreeing to the terms of these people is highly undesirable. Their services are a priori overpriced, and the quality may be in doubt.

There are two solutions to this problem:

  • ignoring,
  • clear rejection.

A similar situation can also be faced in the market, near the popular sights. Locals also suffer from annoying photo sellers near the marriage registry office.

Mistake #6. Guests Often Give Even Number of Flowers to Women

If being in Russia you decide to give someone a bouquet of flowers, keep in mind that Russians are superstitious people and adhere to the rule "Even number of flowers is only for the dead".

Of course, it is likely that if you give 100 roses, no one will count them. However, Russian women are distinguished not only by superstitions but also by curiosity. So better not take the risk.

It's better to comply with the same rule even if you decide to give flowers made from balloons or any other material. And don’t let anybody see you if you have an empty bucket in your hand. Well, just in case.

Flowers as a Gift for Russian Lady
Flowers as a Gift for Russian Lady

Mistake #7. Dressing Everyday Clothes in a Restaurant or Theatre

Going out onto the street for Russian women is a good reason to be in full dress. Heels and makeup are essential components of a trip to the nearest store, and styling is a necessary ritual before a long journey.

Many comedians make fun of this attitude to outfits, speaking about girls wearing evening gowns to throw garbage out of the apartment. But the fact remains.
The Russians also make the first impression of a person according to his outfits. So if you come to a theatre or a restaurant in jeans and a T-shirt, you can catch the stink eyes of other visitors.

What to Wear in Russia. Tips for Tourists
What to Wear in Russia. Tips for Tourists

Why are local women so keen to look beautiful?

  1. Firstly, the harsh Russian climate with a lot of snow on the streets since ancient times forced beauties to dress brightly. After all, grey clothes would merge with the environment.
  2. Secondly, the love of fashion was instilled in Russians back in the time of Empress Elizabeth. After the death of Elizabeth in her wardrobe counted 15 thousand dresses.
  3. Another significant reason for the love of Russian women for outfits is the competition in the struggle for men, who are fewer in Russia than women.

What Tourists Should Never Do in the Largest Country

Travellers to Russia should never:

  • Shake hands, staying in the doorway. Such handshake bodes failure.
  • Leave people "in English", it is considered indecent.
  • Wish happy birthday in advance.
  • Leave empty bottles on the table.
  • Over-display emotions.
  • Give empty wallets or backpacks as a present.
  • Show the soles of their feet or shoes (so be careful not to cross your feet).
  • Come empty-handed.
  • Lick a knife.
  • Refuse toast.
  • Talk about politics if possible.
  • Whistle in the house and in any other room.

Bottom Line

Obviously, you, as tourists, are forgiven for some oversights. But it’s always great to show that you know something about the local culture and traditions. So do not make the mistakes we mentioned in the article and you can fully enjoy your vacation in Russia.

Other Useful Tips for Your First Trip to the Russian Federation

Comments

Submit a Comment
  • Alyona Gorbatova profile imageAUTHOR

    Alyona Gorbatova 

    2 months ago from Russia, Sochi

    Why not to move the hubbers' community from offline to online and live communication? When you decide to go to Russia, write us! We will help you to orient in this country with great pleasure!

  • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

    Wesman Todd Shaw 

    2 months ago from Kaufman, Texas

    Completely fascinating! I'd love to go there, but I'd sure need someone familiar with everything to advise me at all times.

  • Alyona Gorbatova profile imageAUTHOR

    Alyona Gorbatova 

    2 months ago from Russia, Sochi

    Thank you for comment, Liz!

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    2 months ago from UK

    You give some great tips for travellers planning a visit to Russia. This article also gives an insight into Russian culture.

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