Why are Russians so weird?

Konstantin Chalabov/Sputnik
This question is widely debated on various Q&A websites. We found out there are rational reasons for some of the seemingly perplexing “weirdnesses” you might encounter.

1. Distances and climate

Russians are weird because while you complain about a 3 hour flight that didn’t have a vegan meal option, they were traveling to and from Siberia in a train for a week one way with nothing but a t-shirt, a change of underwear, a pack of cigarettes and a few boxes of instant ramen,” Thomas Hulber, who lives in Russia, and claims that he has “seen some stuff”, wrote on Quora.

And yes, this is not an exaggeration. Russia is big, and commutes are, too. My friends from city of Tyumen (1100 miles from Moscow) considered it a routine matter to fly to their parents by local plane for a weekend, 650 miles to and fro, like a European would ride a bus. “I dated a girl from Russia. She grew up near Moscow. “Near” being about one hundred miles East. Where I grew up, if you went 100 miles in any direction, you cross a State or even a National border,” wrote Murphy Barrett.

Well, what qualities big distances can instill? First of all, it’s patience. Since their childhood, Russians have learned that the wait would be long. I mean, real long. So we have slightly different approach to time.

2. Time

“Never ever show up on time” is cited by a Tripadvisor user as one of core Russian habits. “My American boyfriend finally learned his lesson when he got reprimanded by my parents for showing up to dinner exactly on time. They were nowhere near ready!” – echoes another user from Denver, Colorado. Again, she has a good point here. We don’t like to make people feel embarrassed by showing up when they’ve just started putting plates on the table.

Among other traditional Russian longevities, Buzzfeed names long toasts, long anecdotes (no, not jokes. That thing that you can recite for 10 minutes straight are called anecdotes) and long conversations – all of these happening at the festive table. And no, we do not want to play a drinking game. Uncle has traveled here from Samara (530 miles from Moscow), dad has just arrived from work because he has long shifts, brother and his wife are having a rare weekend together, because their work schedules are not matching, and it’s the first time since 2015 when all the family is at the table. We’re gonna sit here until 4 in the morning, we have lots to tell each other… Hey, if you want to sleep, get some coffee, it’s just 11 pm, for God’s sake!

3. Language

It may be not obvious if you don’t learn or know Russian, but there are multitude of weird things Russians can do with their language, there can be tons of intonations and subtle irony in how you pronounce words or in which order you put them in a sentence. You may know that Russian language has high degree of inflection, which allows great wordplay.

“Russians have this “weird” thing where they can make almost any name or noun a diminutive. For example, DShK becomes Dushka, which roughly means “Heavy Machinegunkins”. They called their first real MLRS Katyusha, which is roughly “Katykins”. I find this hilarious and delightful.

They also can do this “weird” thing with “mat”, where they can, through joining roots, turn almost every word of a sentence into a swear. Like “Abso-freaking-lutely”, but for every word! Weird, sure, but also neat if crude,” Murphy Barrett writes. Among Russian, that latter thing is called “the three-storeyed swearing”, when you not only use the most rude words, also you invent new rude words from usual.

4. Multi-ethnic country

Russian is not the only language that Russians speak, and even ethnic Russians have several dialects. Generally, Russia is very diverse ethnically.

“Russians are weird. All cultures have their own idiosyncrasies but Ruskies take the cake. It’s hard to combine Vikings, Slavs, Mongols, and numerous other ethnic groups and that not get something that is outside the ordinary,” Stephen Powers wrote. And he just tried to approximate origins of Russians – but remember, Russia is really a multikulti land, where about 200 different ethnicities live.

And all these people rightfully call themselves Russian – they can be Asian, Indian or belong to Siberian ethnicity of Chukchi – anyway, they’re our guys. And it doesn’t seem weird from where we stand.

It’s obvious that with such ethnic diversity, Russian peoples embrace various and different indigenous beliefs, traditions and, yes, superstitions – we just love these small rituals.

5. Traditions and superstitions

Sitting down before heading for a long trip is just the most remarkable of Russian superstitions – most of them come from time out of mind and are connected to pagan, pre-Christian beliefs. Actually, superstitions are what connects Russians to our ancestors, who believed it is wrong to shake hands over threshold – because it’s a border between worlds, saw their left side as the devil’s lair and spat over left shoulder, and so on.

Some superstitions, however, come from very rational reasons. It is believed that spilling salt would cause an argument – naturally so, because up until 19th century, prices for salt were very high – it’s a natural conservant that helped preserve foods for long winters. And this habit of putting empty bottles under the table came from times when bills in inns and bars depended on the amount of empty bottles on the table.

So, in general, many Russian weirdnesses have their explanations. Are Russians weird, after all?

P.S. Russians are NOT weird.

“Russians are not weird. You simply just must not have exposure to any culture or environment besides your own. By that standard Russians could ask the same of you and your country,” argues Sydney Rankin.

“The only reason Russia is so weird is because it is different to your own experience, and this is true of your country as well, in relation to the home country of someone who has little or no experience of it. To a Russian, Russia is perfectly normal, and other places are weird, including whatever country you come from. My advice: Get out into the world, travel to “weird” places, embrace the “weirdness” and treasure it,” ESL Tutor Leo Moran wrote, and we couldn’t put it better.

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