Friday, March 31, 2006
Adopting From Russia: Culture Shock
Lisa recommended a great book called The Russian Adoption Handbook by John H. Maclean. It is a really good resource to guide you through a Russian adoption. This book has some very interesting information about Russian culture starting on page 243. The first time I read this stuff out loud to M we were laughing ourselves to tears. I think it was the mood we were in. Now that I reread it I do not find it all that funny, but it is still interesting.

1. If you smile and look up a lot, Russians will think you have a mental illness, that you are the village idiot or that you are an American.
2. A Russian might join your table at a restaurant if he or she came alone.
3. It is impolite to show people the soles of your shoes. (No flipping off necessary, just lift your feet, or cross your legs if you want to be offensive).
4. Russians are all members of the “hat” police. If you are not wearing a hat something is wrong with you. A ball cap is not a hat. Your child better be wearing a hat.
5. Swimming in August is bad luck. (So... swim in January??)
6. Russians love a good dip in a banya (homemade spa) and then to run out in to the snow. (How nice and…cold)
7. Fresh air and breezes cause diseases. (Of course)
8. Stick garlic or honey up your nose if you have a cold. (This is sure to work)
9. You will lose all of your money if you whistle inside a building. (Just don’t appear happy anywhere and you will be safer.)
10. Only give an odd number of flowers, even numbers are for the grave only. (So, I suppose a gift of two or four flowers is a wish for their death? Unsure here.)
11. Plastic flowers are also only for graves.
12. Men openly kiss men. Women openly hold hands while strolling. (Such affectionate people)
13. Many English words, such as "FUN," have no exact equivalents in Russian. (Is this related to the somber faces?)
14. Russians do not stand with their hands in their pockets. (You should not either, of course.)
15. Russians do not sit directly on concrete unless they want to become sick and/ or sterile. (Concerned for your welfare, a babushka might scold you for doing this.)
16. Russians do not announce that they have to go the restroom. (Don’t embarrass yourself.)
17. Russians never serve drinks without food. (Any food will do)
18. Be careful in complimenting something in a home. (Your host may offer it to you.)
19. Russians pick and choose the laws they want to use. (These laws may or may not serve to protect your safety.)
20. If someone gives good wishes, or you talk about your good fortune, you must spit three times over your left shoulder and knock on wood to keep your good fortune. (I am assuming that the spitting part is not offensive unlike the display of the bottom of your shoe.)
21. Russians do have a sense of humor; such as, the following:

Favorite saying in Soviet times: “They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work.” (This should have been my motto when I worked at Little Caesar’s Pizza- my first job)

Chuckcha bought a refrigerator.
Neighbor asks: “What do you need this ‘fridge” for? You live in Siberia.”
Response: “To warm up during the winter. Imagine the joy- it’s -40 outside and +4 in a refrigerator.”

A man shows some friends his apartment in Russia.
One guest asks, “What’s that big brass basin for?”
“That’s the talking clock. I’ll show you how it works.”
He pounds the basin with a loud hammer.
Suddenly, a voice on the other side of the wall screams, “It’s 2AM, you jerk!”

Ha Ha!!

For more Russian etiquette check out:

Maclean, John H. The Russian Adoption Handbook, New York, iUniverse Star, 2004


Anonymous Anonymous said...
You might want to double check your observation about flowers. I believe it is Even number for the grave and odd for the living.

I found a site that allows you to send flowers to a living loved one in russia and they are in odd numbers.


Blogger jeneflower said...
You are right. I will fix that.

Blogger Elle said...
I love that book. I whip it out every time someone gets a referral from a region other than Khabarovsk. I have read all about Kemerovo, Kalingrad and Moscow regions. I sat down and actually read the book cover to cover when I got it last year. I couldn't get along without it. In fact we followed John's instructions for filling out the I600A to the letter.

Glad you like it!

lol... it's funny 'cause it's true.

Blogger Gaye & Andrew said...
I love that book too. Especially now that we are traveling back in 2 weeks...and I have never been to Moscow. Kaliningrad, #2 totally happened to my mother-in-law & I on our first trip...

2. A Russian might join your table at a restaurant if he or she came alone.

We were sitting together at a table in the hotel bar/lobby drinking a beer and playing gin rummy (funny, beer, gin & rum)...anywho, this crazy guy with dracula fingernails sat with us and would love leave. We got scared and went to our room.

Blogger Liv said...
'Chuckcha bought a refrigerator.
Neighbor asks: “What do you need this ‘fridge” for? You live in Siberia.”
Response: “To warm up during the winter. Imagine the joy- it’s -40 outside and +4 in a refrigerator.”'

I can relate. During the winter we usually have a month straight of temps in the -40's. By the time it gets back up to 0 it's amazing. Getting up to freezing? It's like the tropics. My motto- Any day above 0 is a good day.

Blogger Rhonda said...
They will probably think I am the American village idiot. HA. That was a good list, and so interesting. I didn't know about the flowers thing.

Blogger Starfish said...
As a perpetual leg crosser, I would be afraid I would offend half the country! It's great that you have such a resource!

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