I decided to leave on break my daily life, in order to take a new one in my arms and only when I started living here, I understood that ‘Russia’ is not written on the walls. The well-known Italian saying, ‘between saying and doing, there is a sea’, was right. I just assumed that, given the short distance which separates Italy from this country, there weren’t enormous differences. However, in a very short time, I figured out how everything was totally dissimilar: not nicer, not uglier, simply belonging to a world of its own. This country is definitely the bridge between the West and the East: Russia is a convoluted rebus, where half - measures do not exist and I can’t explain why, while I was looking at the Church of the Savior on Blood, I felt how a bond had been cemented.
An Italian in Russia will be definitely impressed with the different cultural code: since my first day, an extensive series of contradictions and news welcomed me. From the car window I scanned the landscape; the houses all looked the same, the sky was incredibly grey and our way was traveled with great speed. Minute by minute the Russian driver told me about his culture and habits, creating in me a sort of curiosity and many expectations.
‘Never judge a book by its cover’! The typical Russian house has a big inner courtyard and the rusty playing field is unfailing. If you are Italian, looking for a specific address, leave the usual cliché of the entrance clearly visible from the street, because a side one is more common. At the beginning of my stay I couldn’t find the entry of a beauty salon due to this habit and two weeks ago happened the same for a local tavern, but I was aware of this habit and I asked for information.
In Saint Petersburg a tourist is surprised by the several subways, which reveal real underground cities with exposures, stands and musicians and, generally speaking, we are suspicious of them and we would boldly prefer to cross the street.
In winter they are comfortable, hiding from the cold and creating a special atmosphere.
The Italian is upset by the non- potable water; we are failing to realize how such a big and amazing city hasn’t this service, but it’s simply due to the old water system and day by day it becomes ordinariness. This is not a real problem, since you can find supermarkets open 24 hours. I could write an entire book about them; Russians call them ‘produkty’ and I could find many more differences than in the supermarkets located on the other side of the world, but you know ‘this is Russia’ and I like it just the way it is.
The first impression for a foreigner is a mixture of shock and ‘I would like to try it’. We are curious about the pressed pink salami (what it tastes like?), the dried fish in plastic baggies, the gum Orbit which after 20 seconds stop tasting, the dried fruits and candy you can freely take using a paddle, the fresh cream cakes typical of a bakery, the thousand types of tastes of kasha and so on. The variety of provision is so great, that it’s impossible not finding something to your satisfaction!
If it’s late and the public transport is closed, no worries, download the app of Uber and order your cab. In Italy taking a taxi is so expensive that it’s absolutely not common; once again I could not believe how the whole city was connected thanks to this private cheap car transport and, speaking to the drivers, I discovered how this was a second job. One of them was a cook during the day, the other was a carpenter.
An Italian will never get over how there are not blinds or shades in bedrooms, considering that going towards the summer there are 18 hours of daylight. Here it’s common using curtains, which force you to buy a mask if you don’t want to wake up at 4 every morning. Between the gold of the domes, the city belches history and contrasts, and you can notice how Russian women are more groomed and, please, remember that here, if you enter the house of a Russian friend, you have to take off the shoes.
If I had to define Mother Russia in a word, it would be: slishkom.
This means ‘too much’, because Russia is like a peacock which suddenly opens its beautiful tail, creating an extraordinary chaos. Russia has too much suffering, too much personality, too much power; it goes to infinite directions, from the wood of the traditions, to excesses of the luxury.
This country is emotions and feelings, it is a mystery and life itself won’t be long enough to let it all out.
Author: Lara Marelli, Italy
St.Petersburg: useful links and infoRead
Saint-Petersburg - city of lightRead
Why doing an internship in RussiaRead
Spring and Labour Day or PervomaiRead
White Nights in Saint-Petersburg: perfect for summer internshipRead
Victory Day Celebration - May, 9thRead
The Night of Museums in RussiaRead
Saint-Petersburg City DayRead
Stereotypes about Russia. An expat’s experience – interviewsRead
Russian Cultural Dimensions: Environment, Time and ActionRead
Expats about communication and language barriers in RussiaRead
ProfIntern at the Youth Association forum for a Greater Europe (Paris)Read
Saint-Petersburg Reminiscences, Chapter 1: Arrival to Saint-PetersburgRead
Saint-Petersburg Reminiscences, Chapter 2: Downtown wonders of Saint-Petersburg, at first glanceRead
Saint-Petersburg Reminiscences, Chapter 3: Weather in Saint-PetersburgRead
Living in Saint-Petersburg – Feed yourselfRead
Living in Saint-Petersburg: Public transport for startersRead
A European in Russia explains: “Are Russians rude?”Read
My Experience of Engineering Internship in RussiaRead
Russia takes 6th place in Study EU Country Ranking 2017Read
Environmental internship – my favorite tasksRead
The controversial love between Russians and Italians: so far, yet so closeRead
‘Russia’ is not written on the walls 2Read
5 reasons to Visit FIFA World Cup 2018 In RussiaRead
Thirst for learning knows no boundariesRead
Russian superstition a foreigner does not know aboutRead
Life in Russia beyond expectationsRead
Broken stereotypes about RussiaRead
Why Russia is a great internship destination?Read
What makes Moscow so...Moscow?Read
Back to France with new projects after Internship with ProfInternRead
My success story: how I launched my online boutique!Read
A week in the Bordeaux Vineyard with Alaïs. First experience as a wine guideRead
Top 5 things you’ll never see anywhere else but in St. PetersburgRead
What are traditional Russian meals for New Year and Christmas?Read
January - month of holidays!Read
Winter leisure activities in RussiaRead