What I took from this was that when I am standing around looking at my watch and seeing that my friend is ten, fifteen, fifty-two minutes late, he is looking down at his watch and seeing a pigeon, a bar of soap, or perhaps a fish—probably a fish.
This goes doubly so for trying to be personable in line somewhere. In America, I will often be next to someone in line who will say something like “how’s it going?” “did you hear about Climate Change?” or, “what do you need all that rope for?”
But in Russia it is different. I stand in line quietly suffering together with others,
When my mother came to Russia and saw my kitchen full of mismatched chairs and a stained wobbly table she asked: “Well, where is the Russian Target?”
If you haven’t been to America, Target is basically Walmart in a collared shirt and Walmart is the backdrop to at least 50 percent of those photos you’ve seen of obese Americans motoring their way through aisles of junk food and fake jewelry.
The thing about Russians is that they know how to make things last and aren’t going to throw something away just because it is broken. It is a quality I admire very much. In a world of ever-growing wastefulness, Russians conserve what they have and make things work without running out to buy the next made-to-break table, chair, sofa, bed, president, etc. that they can find.
Americans who watch the news will often see Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking Russian while using an English translator even though he understands English perfectly. There
Sometimes I will find myself speaking to a group of Russians where someone will listen to me speak English and then respond in Russian to their friend, who will then translate it to me. Or a Russian might simply sit quietly and listen and not say anything at all.
Assuming they don’t understand is a foolish mistake. Many Russians understand English very well but do not like to speak it because they are shy about their accent or worry about making mistakes, or maybe they are just waiting for you to reveal yourself as a psychopath intent on following them home to chop them to bits and eat them.
(This also goes for Russians who go abroad and think no one around them can speak Russian.
я слышу тебя [I can hear you].)
“Do you want me to buy something for tea?”
I learned about Russians and tea long ago in Thailand when I met a Russian with a portable water boiler who told me, “Russians love tea.”
And I said: “Like the British?”
And he said: “Screw the British”
If you have Russians over to your apartment, be prepared with tea and something to go along with it; cookies, cakes, etc. (In general, when you visit a Russian’s home, bring something.) Even if someone is just stopping by my apartment, I will often offer tea or coffee, as happens whenever I visit a friend. Russians drink tea when they’re happy or
Benjamin Davis is an American journalist and author of The King of Fu living in St. Petersburg, Russia. Now, he primarily writes magical-realism flash fiction stories about Russian culture, self-deprecating mishaps, and babushkas: benjamindaviswriter.com.
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