Have you seen the big news? Likes this one: “Geomagnetic storm could give Boston glimpse of Northern LightsorSolar storm strikes Earth following monster flare? If somehow the MAGNETIC STORM OF THE CENTURY flew under your radar, it’s because you do not live in Russia. Here it’s the talk of the country, because the nation that defeated Napoleon & the Nazis and complains that Americans stole its -40C winter with their silly polar vortex becomes epidemically afflicted with every ailment imaginable every time the Sun has mild indigestion. Your friends, coworkers and strangers on the Metro complain of headaches, low (or is that high?) blood pressure, joint pain and catching cancer. TV networks run specials on countering the effects of the flare. Everyone lives in fear of losing Wi-Fi.

Lest you think that I am blowing this out of proportion and am making the Magnetic Malaise (TM, Copyright) into a Thing, look what I found in mental_floss‘ very helpful cultural digest:

4 Russian Travel Tips for Visiting America

On socializing with Americans:

You should not discuss their health unless you are visiting a friend in the hospital. What seems caring can be regarded as an invasion of privacy, lack of tact. You have to have some justification to show interest in their health. Do not ask the effect of a magnetic storm (not many Americans know what that is) on their well-being.

Emphasis mine. Yeah. It’s a Thing.

This compilation is full of little gems that are mostly on-point about how Russians see Americans (and actually about the US etiquette in general), yet had me laughing out loud throughout. A highly recommended read. Some more passages that jumped out at me:

On gender relations:

Welcome and introductions: men and women tend to shake hands. Mutual kissing and kissing ladies’ hands is not accepted. Also, women play a greater role in business. Often they insist to be treated exactly as an equal and not as a lady. In this regard, it is not acceptable to be excessively gallant

Yeah, I am still fighting my handshake battle in the office and at business meetings in Russia.

On ‘professional’ drinking:

You may be invited to a picnic – if you’ve known each other for several years and are social outside the office. As a rule, the invitation will be only on a weekend, and you don’t have to prepare for something extravagant. Everything is the same as ours, only with far less booze.

Who needs to leave the office to have a drink or three? Strange peoples, those Americans.

On positivity:

US etiquette requires that you smile in each and every situation. If you want to travel to America, be prepared to give a smile not only to friends and acquaintances, but also to all passers-by, in shops, to the staff at the hotel, police on the streets, etc.

However, it would be wrong to believe that the Americans with their smiles only create the illusion of well-being and that their smiles are stretched with false joy. This is not so. Americans: they are a nation that truly feels happy. These people get used to smiling from the cradle onwards, so they do not pretend to be cheerful.

Wide, genuine smiles is pretty much how I spot foreigners in Moscow.

Would you add anything to that mental_floss list? What tips would you give to foreigners visiting your part of the world?

Composite Skyline


  1. I think I’ll err on the side of caution and not ask anyone how a magnetic storm front is affecting their well being. Mostly because I’m not sure what I’d do with the answer.

  2. Magnetic storms?! I can’t remember ever hearing a Russian talking about that, though I know a lot are obsessed with the air pressure.

    Also, I just have to say that I find it so strange that so many people around the world assume Americans are being fake by being friendly. We’re not, I swear 🙂

  3. Smile, yes, but be weary of eye contact. If you engage in more than 4 seconds of eye contact, I think you are officially engaged or something. Always have something else to look at, that’s our mantra.

    • I just got back from a date (w a Russian!!!) and he kept getting frustrated that I would get out of his car by myself, not sit like a sack of potatoes waiting for him to open the door.

        • Russian girls? Russian guys? I wanna know the deets! Usually I stick to expats, but this was…interesting. And I have a bouquet of flowers to show for it!

          • One friend went on a date with a guy who read her all of his poetry on their first (and only) date. Another invited a guy she met in a bar and his friends to her St. Patrick’s Day house party and he showed up the next day on her doorstep with a bouquet of flowers and refused to leave.

  4. Pingback: PROCESS STORIES* | Home & Away

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