Hopefully this HuffPo questionnaire “You Know You’ve Been in Russia Too Long When…” will lead me to the answer:

Stelka on the Moscow River embankment -- a little expat haven.

Strelka on the Moscow River embankment — a little expat haven.

You know you’ve been in Russia too long when…

     1. In winter, you choose your route first by determining which icicles are least likely to impale you on the head.  

Hey! Between the snow, slush, a foot-thick layer of black ice and said icicles, finding a walkable path in the winter is harder than completing a Wipeout course!

     2. You win a shoving match with an old babushka for a place in line, and you are proud of it.

Have you seen the size and brawn of these babushkas? That’s why Nazis never stood a chance.

     3. You drink the brine from empty pickle jars.

Great hangover cure! So refreshing!

     4.  Your coffee cups routinely smell like vodka.

How many posts have I already written about booze?*

     5. You know more than 60 Olgas.

Actually I know only 2 and both from work.

     6. You wear a wool hat in the sauna.

I wear nothing in the sauna 😉

   7. You no longer see any significant difference between America’s Republican and Democratic parties.

That will never happen. I love US politics in all their dysfunctional glory. Nate Silver is my homeboy.

Image credit: Wired.

Image credit: Wired.

   8. Babushkas turn to you on the street inquiring about former and current street names.

When they do, they are sorely disappointed, even if this takes place around the corner from my apartment. I have a remarkable knack for getting lost in Moscow, including on the metro.

   9. Doors are not supposed to be pretty, they are supposed to be metal with triple bolts.

Of course. And you need more than one door.

    10. You are envious that your ex-pat friend has smaller door keys than you.

No. Size is power.

    11. You don’t throw away any bags, jars, cans, wrapping paper, string, rubber bands, broken shoe laces, boxes — because you never know when you might use them.

Eh. Would have been true 10 years ago, but right now you can get all these bare necessities at any shop.

    12. You’re excited when you accomplish 3 things out of a list of 10 to do that day, and consider it a very effective day!

Even accomplishing one item is a success if said item involves 1-any kind of office (banking, notary) or public social service (clinic, social security, passport bureau), and 2-traveling above-ground. Between the hostile bureaucracy and the traffic jams, doings things quickly and efficiently is simply not…doable.

Moscow traffic. Image credit: English Russia.

Moscow traffic. Image credit: English Russia.

    13. You think that rotten milk and sour cabbage are “nice” stairway smells.

I will never think that. But I do enjoy fermented milk (kefir) and sauteed or pickled cabbage.

    14. You see every vehicle as a potential taxi.

Yes, with caveats: in the Center, nobody stops because half the cars are Benzes and the drivers don’t need the extra cash. Outside the Center, you might be risking your health and safety by getting into a beat-up Lada 7.

Every day I see at least one of these guys on the road -- rust and all. Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/29295059@N06/3562555340/

Every day I see at least one of these guys on the road — rust and all. Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/29295059@N06/3562555340/

   15. You can successfully negotiate the metro at rush hour with no broken eggs.

I have a long way to go to this level of skill, and hopefully will never get there. I avoid the rush hour at all costs. I’m a delicate little thing. Russia hasn’t toughened me up quite yet!

So, aside from language fluency, what makes you feel like a native in a foreign land? 


*Dad, please feel free to not go back and check.

25 thoughts on “HAVE I BEEN HERE TOO LONG?

  1. No.3 – EEEEEEEK!
    No.11 – a very wise strategy, I do that all the time. Rubber bands holding together bundles of asparagus and broccoli – very handy! In London, the streets were always littered with thick rubber bands dropped by the postmen, and we used to pick them up. Nobody ever has to buy rubber bands there, except for the post office 😉

    • #3 – don’t knock it till you try it.
      #11 – if I buy food at a store it’s usually pre-made and pre-packaged, with all the requisite rubber bands 🙂

  2. I can identify with so many of these but have to side with LOTC on number 3! Ewwwww 😉 With the babushkas (and Latvian equivalent) it’s kill or be killed. I never feel guilty about taking out an old woman anymore 😉 They’re far tougher than I am!

  3. I definitely fight babushkas — I started out with respect, which quickly turned to fear, and finally to self-preservation.

    Also, I don’t think I know 60 Olgas, but definitely Svetlanas.

      • sheesh! I haven’t paid attention to news about dieing, but Belgium isn’t really known for its news (we saw a guy who jumped off a bridge this summer and couldn’t find one bit of info on it). I just see them dangling everywhere and I have a very vivid imagination. Not good.

  4. A typo in your post: I know, they push through like tanks! THEY have sacks full off eggs Must be “of” not “off” of course. And yes, I did not bother checking how many times you wrote about booze. The picture of Moscow traffic jam (Sadovoe Circle?) is mind-boggling: 12 lanes and counting? Pa

    • Thanks for spell-checking my comments, DAD! 🙂 And yes, that’s the Garden Ring, and it’s actually 18-lanes wide where my old office used to be (near Park Kultury).

  5. Living in Rome, I can answer ‘yes’ to numbers 2, 7, and ESPECIALLY number 12. A visit to the Post Office can be a full day out – always best to pack a lunch, reading material and a folding chair…plus wine for when you’ve totally lost the will to live.

    • Are the Italian women really that bad? Everyone in Rome was very polite when I was there 🙂
      But yes, I also noticed that #12 is prevalent throughout most of western Europe. I have been totally ruined by American commitment to efficiency and customer service!

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