The first question they asked me when arrived in Krasnoyarsk: have you felt any kind of cultural shock? My answer, in general, is no. Maybe because I already lived in Russia, I know the traditions, and I know exactly what to expect and what NOT to expect. However, which are the more tangible differences?
- QUEUE. It is known that Italians are “masters” in skipping the queue. We hate queues as we hate waiting. That is the reason why we try in every way to wait for the shortest possible time: we “dash” in the queue as a vulture on a prey, we seek someone who is standing foremost than us in the queue, and the most audacious invent the most boor excuses to go next. We look at each other distressed, puffing to the left and to the right, cursing, all because “The line that you didn’t chose is always the fastest”. Nevertheless, what does “overtaking” in a queue mean in Italy? Sometimes real popular uprisings. What about Russia? I have to say that the queues are linear, and Russians are civil and calm. Except for most of the “Babushkas”. There is this duality between the “Elderly lady with a cane, cute, gentle, in need of help” and “Old lady who turns into Flash and passes you unflinching”.
- AT THE RESTAURANT. In Italy, it is usual to find bread and breadsticks on the table; to follow an order in serving dishes, and the meal finishes with a coffee and/or a tonic liquor. Forget about all of this in Russia. Breadsticks do not exists, you order and/or buy bread depending on how many “half slices” you want, and there will not be an order in serving dishes: you consume various dishes at the same time. In general, they consider pasta a side dish, as well as rice. Moreover, do not be surprised to see a Russian drinking cappuccino or hot tea while enjoying a soup, meat or fish.
- COFFEE OR TEA? You know that Italians have the cult of coffee. There is a variety of types and we follow strict rules when we have to drink a certain type of coffee. For example, cappuccino is socially acceptable only at breakfast. For Italians, the action of “drinking a coffee” or a coffee break in the office is a sacred moment, it is short and a moment of social interaction. We usually tend to taste a coffee standing, but if you have time, it is an opportunity to stay in company, and you can also enjoy it sitting at the bar. Russians love tea (and I understand that. When it’s cold, it is a pleasure tasting an hot drink that can warm you), cappuccino and latte (Attention: for them “latte” is milk mounted with a drop of coffee! While in Italy, “Latte” means simply “Milk”), and they drink it at any time. It is for this reason that the typical Italian is horrified when is in front of a Russian who drinks cappuccino at lunchtime, accompanied by a full meal. I don’t want to criticize them too much for this, but if we want to discuss the refinement of the palate and the combination of flavors, coffee and/or milk before or during a meal tends to leave in the mouth a taste (good, but intense) that alters the taste of the dishes that you taste.
- CLOTHING. Italy is known worldwide for its famous and important brands that operate in fashion. Brands of international resonance, which do honor to our land. The average Italian can’t afford to buy designer clothes as Prada, Gucci, Armani, Ferrè, Dolce and Gabbana, etc. even if, thanks to the outlet, you can find clothes of famous brands at discounted prices, as they sell items of the previous collections at the most affordable prices. The average Italian tends to dress in a cheap manner, trying to be classy, but he/she is not always successful.
- VOCABULARY. Italians have a vocabulary that is much more “broad” with regard to profanity, and we invent all sorts, even in the religious field. More and more often, some terms are used as a “normal” expression in the daily talk, without having the complete awareness that the terms used are often an imprecation. Russia also is full of swear words, but in a lesser amount and less fanciful, vulgar, and derogatory way than in Italy. One strong point, therefore, to Russia for the “bon ton”.
- DRIVE. The average Italian, especially the one that lives in large cities, where traffic is often congested, is impatient, curses, shouts out loud, gesticulates, he’s always right…but woe betide touching the car. The car is considered as a son: it mustn’t get dirty and doesn’t get too damages. Except when the owner of the car is someone else: “Well, that is not mine.” What about Russians? The average Russian is civil and calm; you rarely see someone cursing against “unknown persons”. However, I have noticed that the belt is considered as an optional, and that lot of Russians drive in an unsafe way. With regard to the attachment to the car, there is this discrepancy between new cars kept with care and old cars held together with scotch tape.
- SMILES AND GREETINGS. Italians, regardless people from the North or from the South of Italy, have the tendency to greet everyone who is standing in front of them, and smile for everything. This does not mean that rude people do not exist. I am not going to judge Russians for their (at least initially) rigid and cold appearance. A foreigner who arrives in Russia for the first time might feel befuddled, but it is simply a cultural difference. Once you get to grips with the soul of Russia and Russians, you will discover that they are similar to Italians: friendly, nosy supporters, unreliable, cunning, suspicious at the beginning but then extremely generous.