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If you Are Planning a Trip to Russia, Make Sure to Read This…

If you have been in Russia or Eastern Europe and stayed there for at least a week, you can skip this article and go straight to the comment section to let all of us know about your experiences. If you have never been there and are planning a trip to Russia, here are a few things you should know about.

Three things which impressed (not in a good way) my American husband were: lack of privacy, unfriendly store clerks and public toilets.

Lack of privacy in Russian and some Eastern European countries freaks out many Western people, who come from individualistic cultures. There is no word “privacy” in Russian language, so don’t be surprised if your Russian woman reads your emails or if her mother enters the room where you are staying without knocking.

I remember we went to the outdoor market where they sold mostly clothes and shoes. My husband liked a pair of jeans (which cost more than designer jeans in the U.S.), so he wanted to try them out. The seller told him to come behind the stand and try them on. Remember that this is an outdoor market with hundreds of people, so you can’t really hide behind the stand (if you have been at farmer’s markets, you know what I mean).

I translated this to my husband, but he didn’t seem to get it. What do you mean I try them out there?

The seller saw his confusion and said: if you want I can hold a towel to cover you up. Nobody wants to see your underwear anyway.

I didn’t translate the underwear part to my husband, but it didn’t matter anyway. He was too uncomfortable showing his bare legs to the crowd, so we left the seller confused and frustrated, because she couldn’t understand what the problem was.

There were some fitting rooms on the market, but they were smaller than portable outdoor toilets (you know, the blue ones) and the lines were way too long anyway.

Another thing which stoke my husband was how mean some waitresses and store clerks were. He was used to decent customer service (another concept which doesn’t exist in Russia) and simply couldn’t understand why a cashier was looking at us as if we owed her a hundred dollars and why waitress didn’t bother asking how our meal was and whether or not we wanted anything else.

If you are rich and are planning to visit only fancy restaurants and expensive boutiques, you will not have this problem. Everyone there is nice and friendly. But if you belong to a middle class and can’t afford to spend $200 on a meal, don’t be surprised if people are not as polite and helpful as you expect them to be.

The last thing which I want to say is public toilets. While there are normal public toilets in Russia, many of them are rather exotic. My husband went to one during his first week staying in Russia and even though it was more than 6 years ago, I think he is still recovering from the horror he had to face. If you can, avoid public toilets or at least carry paper and hand sanitizers with you. You will thank youself later. ;)

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6 Comments so far

  1. Anonymous on April 1st, 2010

    What would you like to know?

  2. Russian Wife on April 1st, 2010

    Just curious if there was anything that surprised or shocked you while you were in Russia/Eastern Europe. ;)

  3. stuart on April 27th, 2010

    Yes, just about everything. The rude people, more than anything, especially when you are friendly!!

  4. mike mitchell on September 16th, 2010

    These scams may continue after you marry.In my case my Moldovan wife suddenly found relatives with costly illnesses or expensive house repairs.Beware of a wife that wants you to purchase “together” a flat or house in her home country.You may find that suddenly she doesnt want to move to your country and you are obligated to continue supporting her and the residence to protect your investment.Then you realise you cant work in Eastern Europe and ultimately return home without your wife and a large chunk of your life savings.

  5. jaguar on September 20th, 2010

    yes! i went a while ago, back in 2000 to Moscow and Volgograd. thought the meeting with the girl did not turn out well, the experience was fantastic. most people were very friendly, though we did encounter a group of Russian men who were not happy to see me with a Russian lady, oh well. to bad for them. i went to Gorky Drama Theater, visited the monuments in Volgograd and had a fantastic time. i even took the train from Moscow to Volgograd and back. wonderful country!

  6. D. on February 18th, 2012

    I was in Moscow for three weeks in Aug.-Sept. 2011. Stayed in the home of my wife’s relatives. Amazing experience. We didn’t encounter any rudeness that I can recall. It is ESSENTIAL to learn the Cyrillic alphabet before you go. There are no transliterations — everything is in Russian. You should learn some basic Russian words, too. Otherwise it will be much harder for you.

    Wonderful web site, thank you! Wish I’d read all this before I began dating my wife. The good news is that we are very happy.

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