Are you planning a trip to Russia, perhaps in connection with the FIFA World Cup? Russia is a great place with lots of things to do and lots of places to explore, but what are the customs for giving tips and why should you always have your passport with you? In this blog post, I share five things you should know before going to Russia for the first time.
When going to Russia, the language barrier will undoubtedly be a challenge, as many Russians do not speak English or speak and understand very little English.
Although most Russians are learning English in school, it is not a priority for most students. In addition, Russian teaching is characterized by one-way communication and rote learning rather than interaction and practice, making it difficult to learn a language.
Logically, Russia has not had the same great influence from England or the United States as other nations, and Russians therefore do not use English to the same extent as other nations do. For example, all English films, series and cartoons in the cinema and on television are dubbed in Russian.
I would definitely recommend learning a few Russian words and understanding the Cyrillic letters before going to Russia.
Cash is a must
Cashless payment is very common in Russia, but you can easily come across a cafe or an attraction where they do not accept cards. That’s why it’s a good idea always to have some cash on you, no matter where you are.
You should also be aware that prices are often higher if you are a foreigner, especially at tourist sites, such as museums and churches.
Don’t expect too many smiles
Russians usually look very rough and mean in the public space. It is also not uncommon to experience people pushing or that someone will even speak loudly or even shout in certain situations.
Basically, it is all about cultural differences.
First of all, it is not common to smile to strangers in Russia, not to mention to say hello and to ask how you are, as they do in the United States. It is considered to be an insincere gesture.
Secondly, there are many public authority places where you have to be tough and fight for your right to get the service that you require. This requirement of having to be sharp-elbowed combined with a mistrust to the authorities results in Russians constantly having their guard up, which may seem cold and hostile.
Behind the cool facade, Russians are usually very warm and hospitable people who are very easy to get close to and become good friends with.
Don’t forget to bring your passport
It is very common to be stopped by the police on the street and be asked to show your documents. You should therefore always have your passport or a copy of your passport on you, as well as your immigration card which you will receive when going to Russia.
Russians have two types of passports: a domestic passport and an international passport. Russians always carry their domestic passport with them and it is used for many different everyday situations. Read more about them here.
Tips are not required
It is not expected that you leave tips in Russia, whether it is at a restaurant, an excursions, for taxi drivers or hairdressers. However, it has become more and more common in the last couple of years and people will certainly not think you are strange if you give a tip for a good service.
If you have been somewhere, where there has been a waiter or other kind of person who has provided a good service, you can leave a tip. The most common and easiest way to do it is to round the bill and say you do not want money back when you pay. Let’s say, for example that your bill is 450 rubles. You then give 500 rubles and tell your waiter that you do not need money back (in Russian – “mne ne nuzhna zdacha”).
In some tourist places, especially in the metropolitan areas of Moscow and St. Petersburg, it can happen that the bill contains a service fee.
At fast food and buffet places in Russia (Stalovaya), you do not give a tip at all, as you do not have a waiter as such and the interaction between you and the employee is so short that it does not make sense to give leave a tip.
Question for some of these tips going to Russia? Comments? Ideas for other topics/guides for my next blog post?
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