Five things not to do when in Russia (all of which we did do…)

A couple of weeks ago, we took a trip to Russia (my first!) to explore Yaroslavl, the city we’ll be living in. After a couple of days, we left back home having the feeling that we hadn’t committed too many cultural blunders. Until we read the “Russian for dummies” chapter “Ten things you shouldn’t do in Russia” … 🙂

1. Don’t keep your shoes on in someone’s home
When we went househunting, we entered the first house without taking off our shoes. A major mistake, we learnt later on, when we visited some other houses. As it would be too time-consuming to take off our shoes and put them back on at every house, we received some of those flashy blue plastic shoe covers!

2. Don’t propose a toast using “Na zdarov’je”
I was so proud to be able to use one of the few Russian words I knew when toasting with “Na zdarov’je”! The Russians at the table didn’t dare point out my mistake (they all laughed politely), so it was only later that I discovered that “Na zdarov’je” is rather used as a traditional toast in Poland. In Russia, it’s reserved for a specific occasion (to be used by people who are thanked for a meal).

3. Don’t dress too simple
When we had asked our hosts beforehand whether we needed to pack formal clothing, they had confirmed us that wouldn’t be necessary. But we did feel quite underdressed when going out for dinner!

4. Don’t say “excuse me” after burping
Like in many other countries, burping is considered very rude in Russia. However, where we consider it polite to excuse ourselves if we can’t avoid a burp, Russians just pretend nothing happened.

5. In church, don’t put your hands in your pockets and don’t stand with your back to the altar
Of course we seized the opportunity to visit some of Yaroslavl’s many beautiful Russian orthodox churches. Luckily we did so with a guide, who tactfully gave us the above tips. Also good to know: women should always cover their head in church but men shouldn’t.

Oh well, I’m sure these won’t be the last mistakes we’ll make! To be continued … 😉

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