As much as this sounds like an unsuccessful tag line for a dating website, this is my first crack of the whip at online writing for some time. Feel free to shoot me down in fire.
Whilst writing this, I am sat in my spacious (shared), furnished (in the 70’s) and warm (oddly not sarcastic) apartment, situated in a lovely school kind of in Moscow (more on that later perhaps). My two months here so far have bazinga been less of a culture shock than I prepared myself for but don’t be fooled! This place is as different a place as the South pole is from the North… and there are NO penguins god damn-it.
To begin I thought I’d share my thoughts on the mind frame you need to adopt in order to get anything done for you by Russians, whether it be in banks, work or by friends; and it’s less of a mind frame as much as it’s an order. To get anything done, like a crappy 1970’s door, force the bloody thing until it breaks then kick it’s broken shards across the room as in general, NOBODY wants to do anything. Now this may come as a surprise as (again not sarcastically), in general the Russian people are as openly friendly and lovely as any a people you’d like to meet, these virtues however are always counter weighted with their culturally instilled propensity to not engage in anything not worth their time. So my first piece of advice is to make the task (transferring money, sorting out rent, breathing etc) worth their time simply by whingeing SO MUCH that it becomes too much of a problem NOT to do. You may be thinking, “awww maaayyn, this guy is just ranting, what a tit”, but truly, this is the foremost useful piece of advice I can give you in my experience so far and is subject to editing ie. me learning the language later.
There are 4 other ways however you can get shiz done however and like the great Baz Luhrman said: ‘I shall dispense this advice… now’
1. ‘The Blatant Tourist’
This method involves the beauty of complete ignorance which is exponentially more useful if you’re actually beautiful. Essentially, unleash an extremely poor, unrelenting torrent of crap Russian, basically outlining what you want over and over and over again (delete one ‘over’ if you’re really hot) to the person in question. This will inform said barman/bouncer/child with your wallet that you’re a nuisance and you aren’t going away therefore releasing them from their guise of apathy. Job done. Enjoy your pint.
2. ‘The Slimer’
I call this the slimer in part as it involves sticking to people whilst remaining green and also because I am one of this kind in a ‘Dastardly from Wacky Races’ kind of way. In this vein, I was luck enough to be paired with a roommate who speaks both English and Russian and who, for the first few hundred trips into the center at least, has guided me through the hard/medium and easy parts of daily life. Sometimes I allow him to take care of the easy stuff to allow my inner stubborn Russian to breathe of course, purely for cultural purposes.
3. ‘The Bra(t) Pack’
OK nice and easy this one, especially if you’re working with people in a similar situation, but if not you can pick up one of these handy ex-pats at bars in the center, I got mine from Waitrose. Essentially, you will have to become acutely aware of who around you can speak English, form allegiances with them and use pack mentality to charge your unwitting assailant with collective broken Russian, disarming cheesy grins and the fact that you know the Queen. All hail the Queen, she has a use after all. The Bra bit comes from the fact that if there are women in your group, this will lubricate things… not to be filthy or anything.
4. ‘The Master of Margaritas’
Learn Russian, easy. Confound the bus driver/babuschka/stripper with your profound knowledge of their beautifully complex language (if speaking to police though, this won’t work, refer to section 1). You masterful grasp of the language will make the Russians swoon right out of their funk like a stoner with a knock on the door! get ready to get Russian!