When you type in Google: Why are Russians…, Google automatically gives you three suggestions. The second and third suggestions are two stereotypes on which I catch myself wondering about as well: “Why are Russians so tough?” and “Why are Russians so crazy?” But on the top of this suggestion list you can find the topic I would like to address today, being: “Why are Russians so rude?”
I am a Dutch girl currently living in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. Throughout the article I share my personal experience that comes from meeting Russians across the world. Occasionally I visit Spain and it is basically impossible not to get annoyed by the Russian tourists at some point during your holiday. Those rich Russians in Spain, that are rude to waiters, loud at the pool and conveniently take up all the space in the public areas, could really make my blood boil. This behaviour usually raised the following question: “Why are Russians so rude?”
A year ago I moved to Russia, and all the experience I have gathered so far has changed the above mentioned question to: “Are Russians actually rude?”
In order to answer that question, it is important to distinguish the average Russian citizen from Russian tourists. The Russian tourist is often a certain “type” of Russian. They are often richer than the average and they seem to feel the need to show that to everyone within a 100-meter radius. Notwithstanding, do not mistake the loud and obnoxious Russian tourists you encounter for all the Russian tourists around you. Other Russian tourists are also annoyed by them and sometimes even feel ashamed of these rude fellow Russian citizens. Many Russians have been telling me that during their holidays they try not to associate with other Russians and even try to hide that they are Russians themselves, just so people will not judge them. Being honest to myself, I also do not like to be recognized as a Dutch person on holiday and I would not like to be judged based on the barbaric, frikandel eating, loud and drunk Dutch, that are misbehaving when they go on a holiday to Mallorca, Salou, Chersonissos or any of those places the Dutch youth prefers. It must be emphasized that we cannot generalize a whole nation based on a group of rude tourists.
So what about the rest of the Russian population? People do not only complain about Russian tourists, but also about Russians in Russia. I am living my daily life in Saint-Petersburg: I use my car or means of public transport, I buy my groceries at the supermarket and eat out in restaurants. I must say that the amount of rude people is lesser than the concentration of rude people anywhere else in the world. Yes, sometimes someone cuts in line or impatiently pushes you aside while trying to catch the metro during the rush hours, but to be fair, the same amount of Dutch people are cutting in line on a daily basis (often topping what I have experienced in Saint-Petersburg).
Have you ever tried traveling in the London tube during the rush hours? Do not even think about standing on the left side of the escalator or change direction in the crowd because our polite islanders will turn into crude human beings (even though I consider the British to be among the most polite people in the world).
So what makes everyone say that Russians are rude? It may come from the fact that Russians are not considered to be warm and welcoming people since the end of The Soviet Era. We can easily assume that the memory of the Cold War still lives on in our grandparents’ mind and that is being passed on to the younger generations.
I admit it, Russians are quite straightforward. In a restaurant they do not ask you the standard “Hey, how are you”, they just briefly greet you and take your order. Also, shop assistants are often having a hard time to smile at least a little bit when selling you their goods. But is this actually rude? Some might got used to the (fake) smiles in the service industry, thus I can understand that when you are in Russia for a short period of time, you can arrive to the conclusion that Russians are rude. Although I am quite sure that those spending a longer period of time in Russia will change their opinions. There are numerous expats and students living in Russia that have nothing but positive words to say about the country and its people – and they all convey the same message: once you get to know Russians, they turn out to be great people.
From the moment I got to know the first people in Russia, my opinion has completely changed. Russians might have a hard crust, but in the inside they are soft like a pillow. They are always willing to help you (on the streets, in the store, anywhere) and the way they take care about their friends – and especially their family – is something that could set an example to the world.
So do not judge people by a group of misbehaving tourists or by your two day city trip in Russia, it is better to keep an open mind and get to know the real Russian culture.
Sophia Bruin (visit Sophia's FaceBook page)