Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Guide To Russia

I caught Pisa writing this (a day before final exams) to her folks who are coming on the 20th. I took a copy off her, edited and pasted it here. Handy for myself and an idea to anyone who is traveling to Russia.

1. Don't expect to be treated well in the airport. Turn on your phone as soon as your out of the plane. Try to contact whoever waiting for you outside. Also, they don't speak English. If your passport is taken for inspection and no sight of return even after 45minutes-1hour, DO NOT PANIC. They will come back.

2. When going through the Green Lane, avoid making eye contact with the Customs. They are rude and nasty. You probably won't be checked, but if you are, try hard to understand what they are saying. They won't see everything (lazy MOFOs) but if they see something and bug you about it, just smile. It traumatises them.

3. Walking on Russian streets is relatively safe. As long as you have at least one Russian-speaker with you, you don't have to worry about anything.

4. Make sure your pockets/bag is always safe. Remember, it's like India with white people. (Hehehee Pisa wrote this okay, I didnt :P)

5. While Russia is full with all sorts of people, coloured foreigners are few and far. Especially lala tourists like you, curious at everything in sight, snapping pictures left and right. Ooohh, some of the Russians HATE find it highly offensive when the camera is aimed at them. Watch your view.

- Gypsies (Romanies, not to be confused with Romanians) are highly skilled at robbing the pants off you. Notice a brown female who doesn't strike you as Arab/African/South East Asian, dressed in colourful rags, stay away. She'll do some voodoo shit on you. Yes, real gypsies.

- Central Asians are usually perverts/thugs/robbers. They are everywhere. No need to worry about them. You just avoid coming in contact with them. If one of them approaches, turn away and ignore them.

- Skinheads are no longer dress in the classic outfit, not as easy to identify as they used to be. If you suspect one in the same wagon giving you the evil eye, under no circumstances are you to show fear. Just get out at the next station. They are likes dogs, they can smell it.

- Goths/punks/hip hoppers are absolutely nothing to worry about. They love us, and we love them. Easily identified.

- Blacks are not your Will Smith, Denzel Washington or African Americans. Blacks means they can be from anywhere from Togo to Guinea Bissau. They are safe and friendly. As long as you have no business with them, they wont sell you dope bother you. Maybe just smile and all you'll see is teeth.

- Militia aka Cops/Police are almost always armed. Expect to see guns everywhere. Cops are disgustingly corrupt. They have the right to stop you anywhere and check your passport. If stopped, make sure you have at least one Russian-speaker standing with you. You are tourists, you will have absolutely no problems.

5. As backwards as it may look, everything is relatively high tech. Expect high speed free internet if you're bringing a lap top along. Russians aren't really violent by nature, they are just cold. If people don't smile at you, don't take offence. If they do, question their motives. The friendly ones are dangerous, unless identified to belong to certain social groups mentioned above.

6. Customary tip of 10% of the bill in restaurants. No where else will you have to tip. The only currency accepted as payment in Russia is Roubles. Roubles are like the Ringgit, you can't change it outside of Russia. Leave all your Roubles behind before you leave.. with ME!! :P

7. It is the 6th biggest city on the planet. 6th and not the 1st only because they don't know how many unregistered people there are. Estimated population: 26 million. It's a gigantic city and Russians have a very complex culture. Unlike Americans and English, they have very Eastern ways of life. They are very proud, and they are ALL highly intelligent. They are also highly educated. Literacy rate is unbelievably high, despite poverty levels.

8. Cars you've never dreamed of seeing on the roads will be easily spotted here. The highest number of billionaires live in Moscow. They are rich, and they are incredibly extravagant. Mercedes is considered mid range. You'll see the rich in Chrysler's, Porches, Hummers and others that leave your mouth agape.

9. Don't be fooled by the exchange. Moscow is very expensive. Be prepared to shell out tonnes of cash in the event of an emergency.

10. You throw a stone you will hit at least 50 girls named Olga, or 50 dudes named Sasha. The Russians have a thing called "patronymic" name. They carry the first name of their father as a middle name. As such, you address a Russian by his first name and his patronymic name. Not his surname. Heh.

So, if the Russian dude is Igor (name) Ivanovich (patronymic) Ivanov (surname), you'll say "Hello Igor Ivanovich". Not to say damn important but it's good to know.

11. Demographically, Russians are regressive. No baby booms for them, a high rate of infertility. Women aren't producing enough, or can't produce enough. And old people are dying. Maybe even the young ones. Ohhh well..

12. Upon exiting Russia to go into Europe, there will be confusion on Russia's part. They will not be able to understand how you can enter Europe without a visa, since you aren't from a country that signed the Schengen Treaty. Don't worry. Assure them that you don't need a visa, and that they can call and find out.

13. Security: High tech means high tech. They have the super body scanner located in Domodedovo Airport, none in Sheremetyevo. You'll be forced into metal detectors. In shopping centres, bowling alleys, wherever. They have very good anti-terrorism security. Every single shop you enter is manned by security. From McDonald's to upper class boutiques, these Russians believe in security. Most security guards either wear suits or company uniforms. Easily identified. "Security" was created to give idle men job opportunities, and it's a good idea too.

14. Old people here are very self sufficient. They are rarely accompanied by younger people, and you'll see them shopping, paying bills, doing everything by themselves. Anyone above the age of 65 is a war veteran, and there are a lot of them. They miss the Communist days. Everyone was equal, regardless of race and age. Some miss it so much, they become bitter and hateful to the world.

15. Most Russians can speak at least 2 languages : Russian and German/ French/ Spanish/ Italian. Hahahahaha good if you know any of this combination.

16. You cannot drink water from the tap. Russian water is known as heavy water. Bathing in it may cause mild itching for the first few days. When brushing teeth, use cold water instead of hot.

17. Girls are unbelievably gorgeous. Expect to see some of the most beautiful girls on the planet. In summer, you'll see more than just girls.. you'll see their parts too LOL

18. Sunrise in summer is 0400, sunset is at 2300. Getting used to the night-day cycle here might take a little time, but it gives you the opportunity to see as much of Moscow as possible!!

19. Everyone smokes. 'nuff said. 14 year olds and grannies alike.

20. This is from myself: Eating outside is heaven. There are many cuisines from Argentinean to Tibetan. Try to find out the price range so you wont get a heart attack hard feelings when paying the bill.

ENJOY YOUR STAY IN MOSCOW!! (AND OTHER STATES IN RUSSIA)

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