Good tourists enjoy themselves and make favourable impression on the locals. Here I will give you some tips on how to be a good tourist in Russia.
- Be open-minded. There is a tendency to use grey and black to depict life in Russia in foreign countries. I don’t want to dwell on the reasons for this, each person kindling negative attitude in the hearts of his countrymen has his own aims in view and more often than not his position serves someone’s interests rather than reflects his attitude to Russia. Try to free your mind of preset judgements and predetermined clichés. I noticed that some people from Europe and North America tend to regard Russians as lesser Westerners hoping that some day they will join the civilized and democratic world. Would you, guys, think while in China that the locals should share your values. I doubt it. It’s all very easily understood, it’s in people’s nature to wish that your relatives and friends share your views and Russia being a part of the Western civilization, it’s only natural that peoples living to the west of Russian borders hope we will share their beliefs. But Russians want to have their own way. Our history and our land have made us different. Try to accept us as we are not as you would like us to be.
- Do not be afraid. I noticed that people ask on different forums whether it is safe to come to Russia. It is safe, there is no discrimination and ill-will towards any nation. Of course, we have problems. But still the level of crime in Russia is not so high as to make you apprehensive. Only don’t fight with the police, the consequences are to be afraid of although the people of Russia will side with you in your cause.
- Accept our rules. Instruction for men: when there is a woman in your vicinity there should be two thoughts in your head:
- What may this woman need in terms of comfort and happiness?
- What can I do to make her feel more comfortable and happy?
You can at least: open and hold doors for women and let them pass first; lend a helping hand to an accompanying woman who is descending the stairs; carry bags for women; pick an item which was dropped by a woman; pour drinks at the table; dress and undress a woman (we are talking about jackets here); see your woman off to her house; sit in public transport only if there are no women around; if an accompanying woman is cold give her your jacket.
Instruction for women: relax and enjoy.
- Behave yourself in churches. As most Russian attractions are of a religious nature you should get acquainted with the rules not to be shot down with reproving glances of the locals. There is a strict code of behavior in places of worship. Men can only enter churches bareheaded and in trousers. Women should have their hair hidden by a scarf, wear a skirt that hides the knees and no crop tops or undershirts are admissible when entering a church or a monastery. You should not take photos of priests and monks unless they permit you to do so. If you wish to be present at the service you can only stand at the entrance if you are not an Orthodox Christian.
- While on escalator stand on the right walk on the left.
- Do not be intimidated. Let us talk about a smile. For Russians a smile means ‘I like you’. Can you smile at a stranger? Yes, you can. But only if you are in a flirty mood or you both see a cute playing kitten or something funny has just happened nearby, you can even exchange jokes. To smile in other encounters with strangers is unnatural. Because you never know what your counterpart is made of, does he share your beliefs, would he save your life if need be, how can you judge a person after such a short period of time as a second. And fake insincere ‘polite’ smiles are discouraged from childhood. That is why Russians don’t smile at the streets. If you will be walking a street in Russia smiling you will be considered a person who cannot control his facial expression or deeply in love, which is a form of madness. You will be pitied. So, don’t think Russians are hostile in their demeanour they are only unsure whether they like you or not. One more point, Russians are very opinionated and outspoken. If you hear from a Russian that you are wrong, it only means that you are invited to come up with stronger arguments than before and try to convince a Russian that it is him who is wrong. Then you can drink together. But it is only to find out that the truth is unattainable.