In general, all stereotypes have something in common: they’re made up by someone, a journalist, a politician, a newspaper, a government and then they infiltrate people’s minds, first as opinions and later on, by constant repetition, as «truths». The best way to verify if there is some truth in stereotypes concerning a country is of course to visit the country and to find out what real life looks like.
So that’s what I did. I came to Saint Petersburg just before the semi-finals of the football world championship and saw that there were no drunk hooligans roaming the streets, no bullying police officers, no aggressive Russian fans and no dirty streets. Quite the contrary, everything was very well organised and people were polite, disciplined and respectful. I’ve been to several other meetings, activities and gatherings and every time it was a pleasant experience. I think that living in a city which has produced the world’s most renowned artists and where beauty is an aspect of everyday life contributes to a feeling of belonging to the best of what mankind has to offer. And this can be found here in Saint-Petersburg. So if you ask me: What is it then? I’ll tell you: You’ll have to come here and see for yourself! But of course, you could also say that I’m exaggerating and believe that all Russians are still driving Lada’s, drink vodka all day long, sleep on the streets and aren’t free to say what they think. One thing that I hope will disappear very soon is the obligation to have a visa in my passport.
Author: Jerome Roosen, our intern from Belgium