I would like to say that Russia is a safe and civilized country. But with so many citizens we also have some problems. I have thought of all possible situations and decided to warn you even about most unlikely events as I believe knowledge of some facts can help you avoid unpleasant experiences and enjoy your stay in Russia to the full.
- Bicycles.It is very important that you understand that you should not cycle in Russia on motorways, especially in winter. It is very dangerous. If you want to live you mustn’t cycle on motorways. In summer you can hop on your bike and set off to another town, but you should keep strictly to the paths among fields and woods.
Russians are starting to recognize the merits of cycling, but still this type of vehicle is not very popular. There are not many cycle lanes in towns and some people try to get to their destination using the road meant for cars. Accidents happen. So I wouldn’t recommend cycling on roads in cities either. Stick to parks and pavements.
- Gays. Let us discuss this highly sensitive topic. Russia is now depicted as a gay-hating country. But the truth is Russians are tolerant towards gays. Let me try to explain something to you. Nature arranged things so that every species could multiply, for this a female and a male should make a union. Russians, backed up by their religion, believe this is the way life should be. Deviant pairs are seen as a danger to a country’s population. This side of the problem is particularly acutely recognised in Russia which with her vast territory has always been a coveted prize and an irritant. It’s a known fact that not all gays are born-gays. Some become homosexual out of ‘curiosity’. That is why it is prohibited in Russia to propagandize homosexuality. That is why no LGBT demonstrations will be allowed in Russia. In big cities you can look whatever you like and nothing will happen to you, but you will be stared at for sure. As for small towns I recommend not being conspicuous (heels and make-up on males), as guys there are not as tolerant and you can end up being beaten. If you are male do not say to Russian men that you are gay. Russian girls on the contrary are very friendly to gay guys. To sum up: don’t be afraid to come to Russia if you’re gay but don’t be too outcome in province.
- Girls. Well, universal rules of precaution will do. Try not to wave down, better call an official taxi.
- Zebra. Drivers must let people pass on zebra crossings. But they don’t. So be very careful while crossing a street even if you see a green light. Look first to your left then to your right. Regions differ in politeness, by the way. In Moscow drivers are more polite than in Saint-Petersburg, which is surprising. I cannot measure the politeness of drivers in Irkutsk, I only know that these guys are crazy.
- Water. Only in some towns tap water is drinkable. In most towns it is not and Russians buy filters to use this water for drinking and cooking. Ask a local if the tap water is drinkable in his town.
- The cold. It’s cold in Russia in winter. You should be adequately dressed. For +4-+10 C a coat will do, for -10-+4 C choose a down coat, for -… – -10 C better to prefer a fur coat or a sheepskin coat, a very warm down coat will also do.
- Xenophobia. Russians are very tolerant to different nations and religions. But I regret to say that there exist in Russia small groups of inadequate people incapable of judgement. Russia has world’s 2nd largest number of migrants, mostly from the Caucasus and Central Asia. The former blame the latter for all evil in Russia and sometimes even attack them. Such acts of aggression are very rare, but they exist that’s why I would like to warn you. If you look like a person from Central Asia or Caucasus and someone starts acting aggressively towards you start talking in English, say the name of your country for them to understand that you were mistaken for someone else.
- And here I would like to write something about black-skinned people. Guys, you should understand that you will be stared at. No offense, only you are unusual. If a girl wears an unusual beautiful dress she will be stared at also in Russia. Russians are outspoken as well as outstared. “Negro” -“Negr” – “Niger”. I dare say you hate this word and think it is offensive. In Russia you should relax. Only several people know that “negr” is considered offensive by you, others think that it’s a normal word to mention a person with black skin. We had no slavery, we don’t understand how painful it can be for you. In America it is normal to say ‘black’, in Russia a word ‘black’ – ‘chyorny’ is considered offensive. So you will not be called blacks. In Soviet films black-skinned people are called ‘negry’. And Russian love American films where black people address each other as ‘nigger’. Russians think that ‘nigger’ is a friendly way to address a black skinned person. So, be positive and unusual, no offense is there.
- Pickpockets. Just like in other countries take care of your bags and personal belongings. If you are sitting near the doors of a public transport vehicle (e.g. metro) do not use your mobile phone or hold it tight with both hands as thieves can snatch it from your hands just before the doors close. And you are left with regrets.
- Gypsies. Gypsies are different. In Russia there is a group of antisocial elements, Gypsy by origin and female by sex. They wear long skirts and scarves and make an impression of people living on the street. Their trade consists in asking for money carrying mostly intoxicated babies. But some use hypnosis to extricate money and valuables from you, they even see people to their houses and take everything they want from there. Poor victim realizes what happened only later when the thief is far away. So, if you understand that you are approached by a gypsy on the street, do not look at them, do not stop and do not listen to them.
- ‘Help me!’ in Russian will be ‘Pomogíte!’ Emergency number in Russia 112. Thus you can reach police, ambulance, EMERCOM (emergency) and fire brigade. Each service also has its own phone number – 01 – fire brigade, 02 – police, 03 – ambulance.
- BEARS 🙂 if you meet a bear do not turn your back on him, do not walk or run away from him with your back turned to him, don’t look him in the eye and try to speak with him in a loud frim voice (do not yell or imitate roaring even while defending), do not touch bear cubs. The best way to avoid such an encounter to make noise while walking – speak loudly, sing or do something else which will make a bear aware of your presence, and don’t leave any food around you, it will attract bears, and don’t use bears’ roads in taiga, make your own. Bears can look aggressive, but in reality they can feel confused because they don’t know whether you are dangerous or not. So they can try to impress you with their height and power by standing on hind legs and roaring but it doesn’t mean they are going to eat you. And they are curious animals in general. If a bear started to move to you, do not make a step backwards. If a bear tries to defend his territory from you – play a dead man with your chest turned to the ground. If a bear is a man-eater – defend – show that you are dangerous, make loud noises, try to look more tall, lift rucksacks above your head. And God save you! Bears which you meet in winter are dangerous because all nice bears are sleeping in this time of the year