What is Moscow? The Kremlin? Cathedral of Christ the Saviour? Bars and Clubs? It all is an essential part of it. However, what determines a city’s character is its people. We tried to find out what typical Moscow habits are and asked some locals along with foreign visitors to share their observations.
(works in a consulting company in Germany. A very straight guy)
“I used carsharing to move around the city during my stay. On the road, when somebody would get into my lane and I would pass him through, the drivers often blinked 2-3 times with indicators. When I asked locals about it, they said it was a way to say thank you on the road. That’s a really good custom. While driving, I also often noticed notice girls farding! That was crazy! I thought it was just the only case, but no! For Moscow girls, it’s sort of a way to save some time! No matter what, they must always be the best of themselves!”
( translator, a foreign student from Italy, likes beer and khinkali)
“I think it is a widely known fact. Muscovites almost never smile! Probably it’s a curse of living in a big city and suffering 7 months of cold each year. But when they do smile, it is really sincere and honest. I learned to appreciate it when I was studying there.”
The picture reads: “not the time to smile”
( from France, loves wine and enjoys life)
“I lived in Moscow for a while and was excited at how people got used to city’s rush hours in Metro. For instance, to make their way to exit, Muscovites ask people who stand at the doors if they are getting off. In case they are not, they will switch places with you. There is a funny moment about it. You stand at the doors, headphones on and think about something when someone touches your shoulder. And it is obvious what they want to ask you and all you need to do is either nod to indicate you get off on the next station or step back to give people way. During the rush hour, it is very useful.”
(a harmonious, always reliable partygoer, a foreign student from Italy)
“What I noticed during my stay in Moscow is that when people on the street suddenly bump into you, they almost never say sorry and simply pass by. Like nothing happened. In the metro, it is the same. When you exit or enter the Moscow underground you have to push very heavy doors. Quite often, a person that goes before you do not look behind to hold the doors, so they can hit you right in the face. Not sure it’s one of the Moscow habits, but it is what it is.”
(an Italian who worked and studied in Moscow, thinks that a Russian chocolate spread is better than Nutella)
“Moscow habits…I’ve noticed Moscow girls always try to behave as if they were all fashion models. They always take photos or selfies… play the peacock in other words. It is funny to look at them, especially when they try to create unusual poses…really weird.”
(cooks outstanding risotto and lasagna, a foreign student from Italy)
“There two things that really amazed me in Moscow. First, they add dill and sour cream to literally everything! I really cannot understand this obsession…I mean, why? What’s so special about it? Second, they read a lot. Especially in public places. In parks, in the metro, in cafes. Never seen something like this before.”
(just a regular guy from NY, US)
“I didn’t stay in Moscow for a long time, but one habit there seemed really weird. They eat soup for lunch! Always! And I almost acquired the same habit, because soup is on the lunch menu in most Russian restaurants. They have even created a special soup for summer time! It is served cold and tastes really refreshing! The ingredients are a mystery, though…”
Okroshka is a cold soup traditionally cooked with ham, boiled potatoes, cucumbers, radishes lots of herbs and kvas or kefir (as in the photo).
(a foreign student from Vietnam, who have lived in Moscow for almost 6 years)
“When I first met with my roommates in the uni dorm, they asked me what anecdotes (short funny stories to tell) I knew. It seemed strange to me, but, you know, it’s funny and its common all over Russia. Especially when you travel by train on long distances. It’s a nice way to know each other. You laugh together and it just brings people closer. Oh, and anecdotes about Jews I think have a special place in Russians’ hearts.”
(once again translator, a foreign student from Italy, likes beer and khinkali)
“The younger generation expresses great respect towards the older one. In public transport, for instance, youngsters always give them up their sits. In Europe though, this tradition is slowly vanishing.”
(a local girl who likes arts and food)
“We do show respect to older people, though sometimes they don’t really want it. I’d better describe it in a dialogue. Imagine a young man giving up his sit on a public bus to an old lady:
- Please, take a sit?
- Oh no, please don’t be bothered! I’ll soon get off, son.
- Please…I have already stood up, anyway!
After an awkward silence. The old lady takes another free sit and eventually you get off the bus sooner than she does! That’s been always a mystery to me…”
(a local fitness and theatre aficionado)
“I spent a lot of time in the US and cannot really understand, why people in Moscow wear such fancy dresses to just to go to the theatre! It looks like they go to the Queen’s dinner! And they also leave their overcoats in a cloakroom, but that’s probably better than sweating up in Canada Goose in Metropolitan Theatre.”
(a former Moscow resident, loves maple syrup and decided to move to Canada with her family)
“I’ve been living in Toronto for a while now. Canada is dramatically different from Russia, that is for sure. For example…well, I’m a mother. And there is a problem any mother probably struggle with at some point. It is when your baby, out of the blue, whispers to your ear: “Mommy, I gotta pee…”. And in Mosco, it is not a problem at all, especially when a park zone or a forest is nearby, and everybody understands your problem. But in Canada, it is equal to crime!”
(Olya’s husband. Doesn’t like maple syrup but you don’t contradict your Russian wife)
“In Moscow, when you pay at a cash desk you need to put the money on a special…sort of a plate. And only from that plate, the cashier can take them. But in Canada, you have to give the money straight into the hands of the cashier. Otherwise, it is considered rude. It is one of those Moscow habits that I still can’t really brake…”
(a 3rd generation Muscovite, a very Moscow resident)
“All Muscovites, I mean native Muscovites, those who were born and spent their lives living there, are very slow. The fuss is all around the city, they don’t seem to care much. It is like they want to demonstrate their superiority or something. And it looks pretty arrogant. Maybe we are not really aware of it, but still, that’s what people from outside Moscow notice about us.”
( from the UK, probably an MI6 agent…maybe with 00)
“Be it a lady in her 60s or a 20-year-old girl, Russians address them equally with “devushka” (the general noun meaning “a girl”). I bet it’s because in Russian there are no special words to address a person, like Mr. or Ms. in English. Moreover, my friends told me that the form of address can sometimes depend on the place or institution a person is at. For instance, at a maternity hospital, they could address you as “Mamochka” or “Mamasha” (literally a mommy). That’s funny, but sometimes sounds quite offensive.
And don’t you dare to call a girl “Zhenschina” (a woman). You counterpart would interpret it as “an old lady”. And Russian…feminines…are overly-obsessed with their age.”
What kind of weird habits have you noticed in your city? Let us know in the comments!