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Lesson Transcript

Oksana: Всем привет! С вами Оксана!
Eddie: Hello and welcome to RussianPOD101.com, where we study modern Russian in a fun, educational format! This is all about, Lesson 13 - Five Tips On How To Behave In Russia.
Oksana: So, brush up on the Russian that you started learning long ago, or start learning today.
Eddie: Thanks for being here with us for this lesson, Oksana, what are we looking at in this lesson?
Oksana: Today we’re going to talk about cultural differences and what is considered good and bad manners in Russia.
Eddie: And that’s really important, there’s no excuse for bad manners.
Oksana: There really isn’t. As the saying goes “When in Rome do as the Romans do”.
Eddie: That’s very true and I think as well as being important; it’s nice that different cultures have their traditions and ways of doing things. It’s all part of visiting another country and getting to know the people.
Oksana: Yes I totally agree, its makes the experience all the more rich.
Eddie: So is there an equivalent saying in Russia like “When in Rome”?
Oksana: Their most certainly is. “В чужой монастырь со своим уставом не ходят”.
Eddie: That isn’t a literal translation is it?
Oksana: No it isn’t. Literally it means: “don’t enter another monastery with your own rules”.
Eddie: Oooh I like that. Yep, this subject is really very important.
Oksana: It is, because things that are considered appropriate in one culture might be perceived as rude in another and vice versa.
Eddie: I know, like table manners in Japan are not exactly the same as in the USA for example!
Oksana: True, so if you go to a foreign country, knowing about these differences is almost as important as speaking the language because language is just one facet of communication.
Eddie: Yes, it isn’t just about language when you think about it, it’s everything.
Oksana: Cultural differences between Russia and, for example, the USA are much slighter than, for example, between the USA and some Arabic countries, so people often tend to overlook them.
Eddie: That’s a very important point. All cultural differences are important no matter how slight they may be.
Oksana: Yes, differences do exist and it’s good to know about them, all of the significant ones especially.
Eddie: Let’s look at five different tips on what is good and bad manners in Russia.
Oksana: First, be gallant!
Eddie: Like a knight on a horse?
Oksana: If you like! This first piece of advice is for men.
Eddie: I’m all ears!
Oksana: Being chivalrous isn’t considered “sexist” in Russia! If you are accompanied by a woman and don’t open and hold the door for her to let her in, you are being rude.
Eddie: Quite right too!
Oksana: It’s also considered polite to get out of the car and open the car door for your female companion. If a woman you know is carrying a heavy bag…
Eddie: You should offer to help her!
Oksana: And if you ask a woman out, she’ll normally expect you to pay the bill.
Eddie: Oh that doesn’t sound too exciting. Can’t we go half each?
Oksana: Eddie! I thought you were a gentleman?
Eddie: I am, I was only joking. I’ll pay the bill and bring the flowers!
Oksana: You’re a true romantic after all!
Eddie: I am indeed! What’s next?
Oksana: Personal space.
Eddie: You mean how close people get to you? Also known as your “Comfort Zone”?
Oksana: Yes.
Eddie: That’s funny, I was reading about this just the other day on Wikipedia. It said that for the average Westerner our personal space is measured at about 25 inches in front and around you and a little less behind you.
Oksana: Question!
Eddie: Oh? Go ahead.
Oksana: Why were you looking up personal space?
Eddie: I am full of useful information!
Oksana: OK, I think I’ll leave it as I’m not sure I want to know more!
Eddie: So do Russians not adhere to this?
Oksana: Well, let’s just say you should prepare yourself for an invasion of your personal space!
Eddie: Yes, though they aren’t being “rude”, are they?
Oksana: Absolutely not, it’s just a matter of different perceptions about what is deemed acceptable.
Eddie: So as a general rule, Russians need less personal space than westerners?
Oksana: Yes, and this is often source of discomfort for foreigners in Russia. When people stand or sit very close to you on the bus or on the metro, they are not being deliberately offensive; it’s just a cultural thing.
Eddie: So the same must apply when you’re on the bus and you take up more than one seat?
Oksana: Yes, other passengers will probably be annoyed and tell you to move.
Eddie: So no putting your bag on the seat next to you.
Oksana: Absolutely not! That is also considered rude unless the bus is virtually empty.
Eddie: Well, quite right too. That almost goes back to a few decades ago in the West. A lot of people say we have lost a lot of mutual respect.
Oksana: Actually you’ve hit on a good point. In the same manner to what you’re talking about it’s considered polite to give your seat to elderly people, women with small children and pregnant women.
Eddie: Yes, and so you should.
Oksana: And if you fail to give your seat, other passengers might angrily tell you to do so!
Eddie: That’s pretty cool actually!
Oksana: If you are standing in a line, you should keep close to the person in front of you.
Eddie: And it’s perfectly feasible that if you leave too much space in between you and the person in front, the people behind you will think you are not part of the line, ignore you and just walk ahead taking what was your position in the line.
Oksana: That is extremely likely to happen!
Eddie: I’ll be paying attention at all times.
Oksana: Good thing to keep in mind.
Eddie: What’s next?
Oksana: Giving gifts.
Eddie: To Eddie!
Oksana: Not quite. Russians probably spend more money on gifts for other people than they spend for themselves!
Eddie: Yes, I know about this, gifts are used to show gratitude, respect or affection.
Oksana: That’s correct. If you are planning to stay with some friends in Russia, you should buy a small gift for everyone in the family.
Eddie: Oh really? Every person?
Oksana: Well, they are all welcoming you to their home and hey, in a sense their home is their personal space, and you’re invading it!
Eddie: True. And anyway, it’s nice to give gifts.
Oksana: Is that supposed to be a hint of some sort?
Eddie: How come you always catch me out?
Oksana: It isn’t THAT difficult Eddie.
Eddie: Oh well, back to the giving of gifts.
Oksana: It’s particularly rude to arrive at a birthday party without a gift. A bottle of wine won’t do the trick!
Eddie: That’s true actually, it doesn’t show a lot of thought does it. Take something else if you’re going to take wine.
Oksana: Absolutely. In addition to this, it’s also common to buy a small present like a box of chocolates for your teacher at the end of the course, or other people you feel grateful to- a doctor who operated on you, a neighbour who had been watering your plants.
Eddie: .... a colleague you have doing podcasts with...
Oksana: Exactly.
Eddie: You agree?
Oksana: I do and I’m looking forward to what you’ll be giving me!
Eddie: That one back fired! OK, what’s next?
Oksana: Phone calls, don’t expect the politeness you may be accustomed to.
Eddie: People are rude?
Oksana: Well, they don’t think they’re rude, they are just very efficient.
Eddie: Can you give us an example?
Oksana: OK, imagine that you met a gorgeous Russian girl..
Eddie: I’m already interested!
Oksana: ... and by stroke of luck she gave you her phone number!
Eddie: It would be stroke of luck if she gave me her number!
Oksana: You dial it but it’s Katya’s mother who picks up the phone.
Eddie: uh oh!
Oksana: No, it’s OK. You ask politely if Katya is at home, and the reply is “нет”. Naturally, you are expecting her to ask if you’d like to leave a message.
Eddie: That’s right, so Katya would know that I have chocolates!
Oksana: But all you get is an unpleasant silence that seems to last for ages…
Eddie: That seems awkward!
Oksana: Well, in Russia in isn’t common to ask if you want to leave a message.
Eddie: It isn’t?
Oksana: As a norm, no. You could come across a very polite person who would, but such people are rare.
Eddie: So essentially if you want to leave a message, you should say so.
Oksana: And that is perfectly fine. Remember, be gallant!
Eddie: Got it!
Oksana: Generally, Russians on the phone may sound abrupt and even rude.
Eddie: But that is just us being used to our way of doing things. You really mustn’t take it personally, it isn’t because you are a foreigner, it’s just the way they are, even to each other!
Oksana: That is exactly it. What is the last cultural tip?
Eddie: Keep your feet on the floor!
Oksana: Ah yes, and this isn’t referring to being grounded after you become rich and famous either.
Eddie: It’s considered very rude to put your feet on the table or generally up anywhere. This posture, which is just perceived as relaxed in the USA or perhaps elsewhere, should be avoided when you are in Russia.
Oksana: Absolutely. Sit properly. You shouldn’t rock on your chair either.
Eddie: When I was at school we all sat back rocking our chairs.
Oksana: And not paying attention?
Eddie: I am not admitting to anything!
Oksana: Ok. These five points will put you in good stead not only when you visit Russia but also with Russian friends, not to mention, when you call your Katya and want to leave a message!
Eddie: Yes, these are very important and not just casual points, they are a very significant part of Russian culture reflected in people’s behaviour in public and when interacting with each other.
Oksana: Yet again, RussianPod101.com gives you the complete Russian experience for you.
Eddie: Ok, thanks for being with us for today. Oksana, I'd like to share a study tip a listener shared with us.
Oksana: Ahh, you're talking about the student who uses just the conversation tracks to review the lessons.
Eddie: You got it.
Oksana: Yes!
Eddie: Yep a listener of ours listens to each lesson several times,
Oksana: ...then afterwards, gets the conversation only track from our site.
Eddie: She then listens to them on shuffle again and again. She created her own immersion program using RussianPod101.com.
Oksana: This is a great idea. Please give it a try and let us know what you think?
Eddie: Okay...
Eddie: Take care and until next time, goodbye.
Oksana: Пока - пока!

17 Comments

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RussianPod101.com
Monday at 6:30 pm
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RussianPod101.com
Tuesday at 3:37 pm
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Hi vicky,


Thanks for posting! Let us know if you have any questions!


Cheers,


Khanh

Team RussianPod101.com

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vicky
Monday at 6:01 pm
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Very nice information you share is genuine. please have a look at my page also - what to do on amavasya to get luck.


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RussianPod101.com
Monday at 5:03 pm
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Hello Itamar,


That's good that you have "happy end" :smile:


Elena


Team RussianPod101.com

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Itamar
Sunday at 9:40 am
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For your record, he ended up agreeing with my request, after some contacts. I did some research about how to do it and receive payment in Russian post, etc. and he ended up agreeing to my request. :)

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RussianPod101.com
Sunday at 9:19 am
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Hello Itamar,


Thank you for your posting.


Regarding “загадочная русская душа”, right, we have it.


I can also agreed at some point about smiling.


About honey..I guess it depends on a person. :smile:


Elena


Team RussianPod101.com

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Itamar
Friday at 8:21 am
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Elena, the "загадочная русская душа" has many nuances. I was sure I was not crazy. I have just found evidence about the "silence" thing I was referring to: http://www.expat.ru/s_russian_mind.php I quote an excerpt: "Smiling at strangers is a rarity in Russia. 70 years of history taught people not to trust anybody and to guard their own territory. Just recall the famous Soviet poster "Ne Boltai" (Do not Chatter) and you will understand the roots of not smiling at unfamiliar persons. There is also an inherited notion from "village Russia" that people who smile for no reason must be simpletons." So I have just found out I may have conveyed the impression that I am a 'simpleton'. :sweat_smile: As people tend to be more reserved and "secretive" with foreigners, this adds to any cultural differences. About straightforward communication, I find puzzling for instance, in written communication, that depending on the context, one might not even get an answer. For instance, I met a honey producer in a Red Square market and when back home I got in touch with him asking about the possibility of selling some Russian honey overseas to me. Instead of getting a straightforward answer that this is not possible for him, or he's not interested in dispatching overseas, I get a straightforward "no answer". :sweat_smile: This is puzzling. Perhaps Russians have some problem with telling "not" to somebody in different circumstances. :)

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RussianPod101.com
Wednesday at 7:39 pm
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Hello Itamar,


Thank you for sharing about Brazilian people and culture. I guess I understand what you mean.

Right, “Hello my friend, how are you?" will sound a bit rude in Russian, however it will depend on situation. Russians are straightforward with friends and relatives mostly.


We will think about your suggestion!

Elena


Team RussianPod101.com

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Itamar
Sunday at 2:58 am
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Elena, as a last note, perhaps an interesting theme to explore this cultural nuance of straightforwardness in RussianPod101.com would be some cultural insight about how to handle disagreements in communication, either in business or personal relationships. And it would be also very interesting to know how the dating etiquete and communication is like (either in courtship, agreement and disagreement). :smile:

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Itamar
Sunday at 2:53 am
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Hello Elena!


Indeed. I find Russians in general are easygoing and friendly, particularly from the countryside and Siberia. I have contact with many Russians from Moscow, some countryside towns and also from Irkutsk area and Baikal. It have found Siberians to be the most friendly. However, all Russians seemingly this seemingly straightforward way of communication and interaction. Perhaps that's some sort of confusion for me, because with regard to straightforwardness in communication, we Brazilians are likely on the opposite side of the spectrum. Sort of not either straightforward or using "levels of politeness" to establish rapport, such as the British or Germans, but instead we sort of relying on emotional rapport/friendliness. For instance, in order to facilitate communication, one would better approach a Brazilian in a more informal, casual and friendly way. Touching each other is also common if a rapport is already established, and to convey friendship. For instance, to facilitate communication and rapport one would say something like: "Hello my friend, how are you?" and then proceed communicating indirectly until a rapport is established, And then one can be more straightforward about some particular matter, once some emotional rapport is established, still keeping the communication on a friendly level.


With Russians, however, it feels like it's the other way around: it's just better to communicate straightforwardly. Sort of no-nonsense, straight to the point talk. :) It's something we're just not used to. One side this is very interesting, because sort of people seemingly express what they're really think or feel. On the other hand, I wonder: how to handle conflict or misunderstandings then? I mean, straightforward communication works very well while there is agreement. But what to do where there is disagreement? I think this is the point where I have the most difficulty with in communication with Russians. I might be interpreting this as "silence" as from my point of (cultural) view there is no smooth way out. For instance, we might be communicating in an easy going, friendly way with someone. Then if some sort of disagreement comes up, communication might come all of a sudden to a halt? :) It's just weird. :) As we put so much emphasis on establishing an emotional rapport with people. Perhaps that's the source of my confusion. :)


But... I have noticed some "silence" or "retreat" triggers. For instance, I have noticed most Russians seemingly just not like to talk about politics, especially if Russia is concerned. Who does anyway? But then it seems to trigger some sort of communication halt depending on the case. Another "silence" or "retreat" trigger might be some sort of disagreement. I mean, perhaps in Russia it's considered impolite to express disagreement, disapproval. So people might prefer to talk about it. I don't know if I am on the right track about this. But still trying to figure it out.:sweat_smile:

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RussianPod101.com
Saturday at 5:13 pm
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Hello Itamar,


Yes, I think communication in Russian culture always straightforward, I cannot explain why. Russian language doesn't have many levels of politeness, basically many people can say what they really think.


However, that's first time for me to hear about silence. To be true, we have many works of different writers about why Russians are so talkative :sweat_smile: So, I cannot help you with your question about silence. Basically Russian people are easy going and can easily make friends with unknown people.


Elena


Team RussianPod101.com