Places To Visit In India With 6 Month Old Baby Trip to Russia – Smile, A Picture is Being Taken! Are Russian People Friendly to Tourists?

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Trip to Russia – Smile, A Picture is Being Taken! Are Russian People Friendly to Tourists?

Sometimes it’s the little things that might go unnoticed or are taken for granted by most people that can have the biggest impact and make a lasting impression. To a Russian, Ukrainian, or anyone from FSU, what little things might become apparent as soon as they come to the United States? One of the first things I noticed in daily interactions with people in the United States was the smiles and kindness openly displayed among all people.

One would expect this treatment to be standard in the service sector for them to be successful. But I’m talking about the regular people – part of the anonymous crowds that you pass on the streets every day. If you meet someone else’s eyes, it is normal to offer a smile or a quick hello even though you don’t know them. If you meet a person on the street, in an elevator, walking a dog near your house, it is customary to say hello or acknowledge them. If another driver lets you go on the road first or allows you to turn at the last minute, a polite hand wave is often seen as a sign of thanks.

As a contrast in social norms, try waving your hand when driving around St. Petersburg, Moscow or Vladivostok or try to let other cars merge in front of you. You will either be ignored, mocked or taken advantage of in the traffic line. We have many gestures offered in traffic, but these particular gestures of gratitude are not yet part of Russian culture.

However, Russia is constantly changing – developing, because influences from all over the world are more easily evident. Every 2-3 months I go to Russia and I notice more and more positive changes. Lately, it’s become a more common part of our driving culture to flash your lights as a thank you when someone lets you go ahead or you just squeeze in… 🙂

How does that contrast with the St. Petersburg metro or out on the main streets? Even in the early hours of the morning, when few are on the streets, one does not greet the person one does not know; instead, he passes them by as if they didn’t exist. If you were to offer greetings, you’d probably get a look of disbelief mixed with the look that there must be something seriously wrong with you. This is not to say that Russians are not, themselves, very open and hospitable with the people they know. The extreme difference lies in the treatment of those with whom one has not yet formally become acquainted.

My Muj (husband) is of the strong belief that people are, by nature, very similar and mostly friendly. He says that a smile given freely is usually repaid many times over. In fact, to my discomfort, he was determined to conduct an experiment in the St. Petersburg Metro (metro) one day. While sitting, he noticed a mother with her young boy (maybe 5-6 years old) sitting across from us. It was clear from the attitude that the mother did not like the boy and she gave him a reproachful look. He returned a pleading look, but it was dismissed with icy determination. The boy pouted and moaned. My husband happened to have a sweet in his pocket and he offered to offer this to the little boy to brighten his outlook. I was horrified that he would try to hire a stranger…on the Metro no less. I suggested that was not wise, but he smiled at me and pressed forward.

He started looking at the woman until she noticed. When their eyes met, he smiled and pointed to the candy he had just pulled out of his pocket. With a questioning look and gesture to the child, the mother immediately understood his intention. She smiled back and held out her hand to the boy. With a tap on the shoulder, he looked up at her and then followed her gaze to my Muj. Like an eagle on a tree, scanning the valley for its next meal, the boy immediately pointed to the candy in his hand. His eyes widened and he quickly looked to his mother for a nod of approval, which she gave him calmly. My husband held out his hand, cradling the candy in his palm, and the boy gently took it back with a smile as wide as the Neva River. He glanced at his mother, then at me. Suddenly, the whole part of the cabin was infected with a smile that would not stop.

Once I rushed into the mall in the US to take pictures, I ran into the door as it was about to close and accidentally smashed into a person. To my surprise, this man apologized for getting in the way…something I never expected to hear.

Whether one considers the ubiquitous American smile sincere or simply polite, I believe this represents something good for any culture to learn and embrace. Seeing open faces, smiles and kindness among all people, not necessarily your friends, makes our daily life easier. For now, don’t expect it to be part of everyday Russian culture. Stand firm in the knowledge that once a Russian person gets to know you, everything they have will be shared with you.

Remember, smiles are infectious wherever they are attempted. Keep smiling and go through your life with your head up, eyes forward and a smile on your lips.

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