Every country has its own way of doing things. Russia is no different. Here are the 10 things I noticed during my recent visit to Russia that were different from what I am used to in the United States of America. As a general disclaimer, this list is based on the two cities I visited; Moscow and St. Petersburg. So without further ado, here are my observations from Russia with love!
AC or Air Conditioning. I have to start with AC because this was something we noticed or lack thereof as soon as we got into our taxi from the airport in Moscow. Summer in Moscow can get pretty warm and most Russians love being warm. A slight breeze will make them pull out their jackets and covers. Blasting AC in an enclosed space is almost unimaginable. So if you ask your taxi driver to turn up the AC, I am pretty sure you will hardly notice it. Sometimes it is just better to roll down the windows; something that we did often. Furthermore, most homes and businesses don’t usually have AC. Coming from America aka Land of Bone-chilling AC, this was something we really struggled with.
Transportation. Russia is a pretty big country. It has 11 time zones! But getting from one place to another especially in cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg was pretty easy and fairly cheap I must say. Cost of a trip on a metro (getting in and out of metro station) was about $0.50 – $0.60 USD with a Troika card compared to $2.00 – $3.00 USD with a metro card in NYC. Yandex taxi, also known as Y-taxi is equivalent to Uber. The most we paid on a Y-taxi was about $20.00 USD from the airport to a popular neighborhood in Moscow, Leninsky Prospekt. Otherwise, our taxi fare usually floated between the range of $4.00 – $6.00 USD even in rush hours.
Metro Stations. I cannot mention transportation without mentioning the beautiful metro stations in Russia. They were very clean and unlike most American stations, the metro stations in Moscow and St. Peterburg were filled with art and sculpture. It was a museum or a touristic site in itself. Even the least decorated were worth taking pictures. We stopped by many stations just to take pictures. Many companies also provide guided tours. During the world war II, these underground metro stations were used as bomb shelters. One of the stations even has Stalin’s secret bunker!
Outdoor Seating in Restaurants. One thing you immediately notice when you go to a restaurant in Russia (Moscow or St. Petersburg) is almost all of them provide you a blanket if you chose to sit outside. Although summer in Moscow can get pretty warm, mornings and evenings can still get a bit chilly. Blankets add an extra level of coziness to an already lovely evening! And if you are extra lucky, you might even find cushions on your seats!
Table for your handbags. While we are on the topic of restaurants, let’s talk about holders for your handbags. Yes, it is a thing! All restaurants have it. It is a small structure that looks like a short table that holds your precious cargo so you don’t have to set them on the floor. If you don’t see them at first, just ask your server. They will bring one for you. My bag was…hashtag blessed!
Water. Let’s talk about water. Drinking water like most country other than America is expensive. In Russia, it is more expensive than a pot of tea. A pot of tea might cost you about $3.00 USD but a bottle of water might cost you upwards of $5.00 USD. Furthermore, there is no concept of tap water unlike in America. All waters are bottled and are included in the menu. So if you don’t tell your server which brand of water you want, you will get the most expensive one from the list. We learned this the hard way halfway through our trip.
Coffee. America has a fair number of coffee shops that are dedicated solely to coffee. But all the coffee shops that I visited in Russia had a full food menu. Also, most if not all coffee shops had pelmeni on their menu. Not complaining. Another thing I noticed, Russia does not really have the concept of to-go coffee…or to-go anything in general.
Chivalry. In today’s world, we rarely see any chivalry in public. So small acts like men carrying flowers for their women or a woman carrying flowers on a date becomes a rare sight. However, this was a normal sight in Russia. Chivalry still exists here and it was nice to see for a change. This might also be a reason why Moscow and St. Petersburg have so many flower shops! May it be a small corner inside a mall or a general store or a proper shop dedicated to flowers or random women selling individual roses on the side of the road, I saw florist of all shapes and sizes throughout the city.
Apteka aka Pharmacy. I think people from Russia (Moscow + St. Petersburg) have an obsession with the pharmacy. I have never seen so many pharmacies within a block anywhere. They are called Apteka (аптека) in Russia and they are everywhere!!! One thing is for sure, you will never have problems finding medicine if you get sick in Russia. Just make sure you brush up your Russian reading and speaking skills 🙂
Road cleaning. While I was in Russia for the World Cup, I noticed the city cleaning the roads pretty frequently. They would sweep down the roads and spray water in other to minimize the dust. I haven’t seen that in any city. I assumed Russia was trying to put a good impression on all the tourists that were visiting. It turns out this is something the city always does on regular basis!
So what do you think? Did I get it right? Have you visited Russia? Do let me know if there were other things you noticed during your trip!