Grizzly bears, Ussuri brown bears, cave bears, or polar bears, KGB-agents, and vodka for breakfast — none of them are valid “don’t come to Moscow” factors (since none is true). Here are the true reasons why you might want to reconsider your trip to Moscow.
1. Cyrillic alphabet
Don’t come to Moscow if the very view of Russian letters makes you drop the phone. Moscow is aware of the frightening effect of Cyrillic letters in the eyes of a foreigner (when they are not printed on Gosha Rubchinskiy sweatshirts, of course). Our municipal government makes its best to diminish this horrific “face-to-face with Cyrillic letters” experience. For example, recently we have almost completely redesigned the subway sign system putting more emphasis on the colors of the lines and their numbers than on actual names each line has. Now you can get directions from the number in the circle of a corresponding color found on the floor. But the process takes time and outskirts are still almost homogenously Cyrillic.
Don’t afraid to ask. Every young person will definitely speak basic English, and even the gloomiest expression on his/her face should not arise any hesitations. (see #10.)
2. Unstable exchange rate
…fluctuates in one direction only (ruble has a tendency to depreciate). Not really great news for Russians but pretty nice for you. Even though our team struggles to reflect current prices since the trade markets open daily; from your perspective, this uncertainty might mean a slightly pleasant surprise or will just pass by unnoticed. Credit cards are accepted in most of the places.
3. I’m a spy in the house of love. I know the dream that you’re dreamin’ of
Yes, some people may turn their heads to see who is speaking a foreign language in this train (got confused with the train) but no suspicion will be raised. Wouldn’t you look a little longer at people speaking Russian in your town? Soviet Russia does not exist and the notion of the head of the US Central bank (FED) of Russian people as those who dig out dollars on their backyards does not correspond to the truth. This Russia, as any other developed country, has specially trained people to monitor radars in the places of people’s mass gatherings and sometimes you might be asked to scan your bag or go through metal searching frames when entering an airport/train station/ subway station. But people look at you out of curiosity only, if at all.
4. Fine for sitting on the floor in the airports
Don’t come to Moscow if you are used to sitting on the floor while charging your phone or laptop in an airport. No kidding. This law has actually just come out and, as weird as it might sound, is intended to ensure safety during The World Cup. Beware.
5. Unpredictable weather
We have four rather capricious seasons but the same laws of physics are in place. So don’t come to Moscow to see snow in summer months. In summer you can expect anything between European fall and summer in Rome, winter weather fluctuates in mild&humid/freezing cold&dry range. If you visit Moscow in fall or spring, try to cover all possible variations with proper layering. No tsunami though.
6. A category «Too Far» does not exist
Don’t come to Moscow if you are not prepared to change your views on what walking distance stands for. No hanging out with acquaintances finishes with “give me a ride to my car” because wherever you have parked is considered to be in a walking distance. You might easily get a ride to your hotel but a ride to a car is something Russians do not even understand. Walking for up to 15 minutes to a parked car is still a walking distance.
7. No baby on board stickers
Or babies behind the wheel. We are not talking about the driver-qualified age (which is 18) but the driver’s behavior. We do not recommend to rent a car in Moscow since the traffic is heavy, occasionally even during the nighttime, routes are confusing. Public transport system is developed good enough to eliminate all these problems at once. But if you decide to rent a car, remember not to violate any traffic rules, despite whoever might do it just in front of your eyes. Those who drive in Moscow every day know where and when it won’t have any consequences and some of them have a special radar that lets them know when the patrol is near or a street camera is in range to detect a violator.
And remember to turn on your emergency lights whenever someone has yielded. This is a totally Russian custom that is embedded in the society as deep as a round of applauds to the pilot and the cabin crew when the plane has landed.
8. Long way down we go
Moscow subway has a bunch of surprisingly long escalators ( Park Pobedy station is the longest one yielding 130 meters of the ladder. Don’t come to Moscow if you feel insecure standing on a steep moving vertical staircase that takes you deep down or if you suffer from claustrophobia. Or do come, but take Yandex Taxi or simply walk.
9. You have to look like your best investment no matter how chaotic your hotel room or suitcase’s intestines look like
Brand clothes in the subway, Brioni suits, fur jackets in summer, Saint Laurent high heels covered with dirt – all those are a true Moscow paraphernalia. When an iPhone rings the whole crowd checks their devices (Apple’s motto “Think different” sounds more like a joke in today’s Moscow). Exquisite watches on almost any guy’s wrist – we spend a lot on our looks whatever the financial background is. Almost no interior design shops in the city center though, since everybody will notice your watches but the apartment’s door will open only in front of a person you have nothing to hide from.
10. People do not smile
It is probably the only established stereotype that proves to be right. However, if anyone smiles at you in Moscow he indeed means it. If a woman says she likes your sweater and asks where you bought it, she really likes your sweater and has intentions to check it out in the store. And no worries – you do not have to answer “no worries” every time you hear “izvenitye” (excuse me). No one expects you to say you are totally in love with these horror-movie shoes either. Honesty is the best policy when you want to stay polite in Moscow.
11. You won’t overdrink anyone
Don’t come to Moscow if breaking world records in drinking was a crucial part of your trip agenda. On the bright side, in Moscow, no one will offer you a glass of all the liquors combined + a pinch of red bull or caffeine cubes as a bonus (jumble juice is something no one here will take a sip of). An average person in Moscow can, indeed, drink a lot without getting knocked out. But in most cases, your Russian counterpart will either order a few rounds of shots or a couple of normal sized glasses of pure whiskey. A few liters of beer is also a go-to Russian choice.
Heads-up for guys: A girl in the bar you’ll try to get drunk can actually just leave without you afterward, whatever social contracts you have thought you had both signed. Russian people rarely play by the rules. Especially when unspoken.