This summer, I had an opportunity to go back home to Moscow, Russia. Spending a couple of months home reminded me that there are some notable differences between Canadian and Russian cultures. While my memories from Russia are still fresh, I thought I would tell you about some things that Russians do differently than Canadians.
Food. I could go on and on telling you about all the delicious and complicated dishes, but instead, I’ve decided to focus on the most significant differences. The first thing you will notice if you go to Russia is that typically our lunch is a four-course meal, consisting of soup, salad, main course, and a compote, which are drinks made of boiled berries or fruits. There are many different soup options on the menu. One of the most popular ones is borscht. To understand how much Russians like their soup, you should know that we have a special cold soup that we serve during hot summer days, called “Okroshka.”
Another thing you would notice is that the Russian diet is very rich in dairy products. You name what dairy product you want, and 99% chance you can find it in a local grocery store. You can find goat and cow milk, four different types of cottage cheese, different yogurts, and a wide variety of cheese.
Nightlife. If you are a night owl like me, you will find that the Russian lifestyle might suit you pretty well. Unlike in Canada, most grocery stores are open until 11 pm, and some stores are open 24/7. The same thing goes for drug stores, so if you feel unwell, you do not need to wait until morning to get the medication you need. Most restaurants are also open until midnight on weekdays and possibly longer on the weekends. I do not think I have ever seen a cafe that closes at 2:30 or 4 pm. And if you are planning to go to a nightclub or a party, be prepared to stay up until 5 a.m.
Do Russians smile? If you ever knew a Russian classmate or teammate, you might have noticed that they did not smile much in class or while walking down the hallways. You might have even thought that this person is rude or very serious. But, most of the time, it is probably not the case.
Let me explain. In Russia, we grow up hearing an old saying, “smiling without reason is a sign of a fool.” Thus, from an early age, we learn to carry ourselves seriously in public. It does not mean that Russians do not laugh or smile. We prefer to do it around the people we know and feel comfortable with. Once you get to know a Russian person a little bit better, you realize that we are not as serious as we look.
University education system. The university education system in Canada is quite different from one in Russia. It all starts with the fact that if you get a particular score on the graduation high-school exam, you can study in a university or college for free. Moreover, if you are studying well, your university might grant you a scholarship, which you can spend in the way you want. Another difference is that you must choose your program before you begin your post-secondary education. Based on the program you commit to, you receive a set schedule of classes you must take. Students cannot choose what classes they want to take to complete their degree. And while completing your four-year bachelor’s degree, you study with the same group of people.
When you start your post-secondary education, you must choose your program before you start your classes. While some people like this style of teachings, others would prefer to have more freedom to choose what and when to study.
Driving. You might have seen some videos of crazy Russian drivers, but it is not what I wanted to talk about. You might be surprised to learn that we have a lot of speed cameras that catch drivers who exceed the maximum allowed speed. However, those cameras will not detect drivers speeding up unless they speed up over 20km/h from the limit. For example, to get caught, you need to go 80 km/h in a 60 km/h zone. Moreover, it is legal to have an anti-radar in your car that would tell you that there is a camera and you should slow down.
I hope you found it interesting to learn about things that are different in Russia! If you want to know about any other specific topics, let me know, and I will write a second part!