Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cultural notes

1) I've noticed that some Russians use their middle finger to point to things! While it's still not a good idea to stick your middle finger in someone's face, I noticed that even children as young as 1 year old use their middle finger when asked to point to various letters, numbers, etc. To me it feels so awkward! Does that mean that this is something learned?

2) Totally different topic: customer service. I rarely meet a Russian store employee who is visibly overjoyed to be helping a customer. You don't get the impression that they want you to make a purchase. On the other hand, what's surprising is that they try to help you find a bargain. Everyone understands that the cost of living is really high here. I was buying a train ticket and asked for a certain train number and the woman helping me said, "Oh, that's going to be really expensive. Let me look for an alternative." Maybe I looked like someone who didn't have a lot of money! Or maybe she had to sell those seats anyway. I don't know. It felt like the opposite of the States where they act polite but trick you into spending more money than you had planned.


  1. The first days back in the States, when I go into a store and there is actually a salesperson attending me . . . my thoughts are, "What do you WANT?" HA! Then, I get used to it again! : )

  2. I've noticed the same thing about the middle finger here in Finland!

    I found your blog through a comment you left on Kate's . . . hope you don't me me following along:->

  3. We noticed while visiting in Slovakia a number of years ago that the Slovaks peeled their banana's from the non-stem end, using the stem as a handle. They used their teeth to get the peel started. I think nearly everyone in the States peels from the stem end. I did read somewhere that peeling from the non-stem end gives you fewer "strings/fibers", but not sure this is true. The Slovaks wear their wedding rings on their right hand and in the States we wear them on the left hand, but I think in Russia they wear them on the right hand like the Slovaks. Is this true? If so, why?
    Also, when I first came to MA from GA I was amazed that store clerks did not want to help me, but I think this has changed over the years or perhaps they are more helpful in Western MA where I relocated.
    Thanks for your posts.

  4. Про средний палец позабавило! Пока в СССР не проникли американские фильмы этот палец не обладал для русских каким-то скрытым значением :))
    У русских, как ни странно, нет собственных жестов, связанных с телесным низом. Правда, многие русские считают, что наша обсценная лексика богаче американской. Нашли, в общем, чем гордиться :)

  5. Just "translated" the Russian entry. Hard to believe Russian could be more vulgar than English, but what would I know?

  6. Пусть гордятся. :)

    Welcome, Barb!

    D'Anna, I am always taken aback by the "friendliness" in general!

    Hosea, I have never seen the banana peel alternative. Yes, the wedding rings are worn on the right hand here. I think it has something to do with the right side being "good" and the left side being "evil."

  7. Maybe this is why we have a 50% divorce rate, ha! I will ask Jenya from CC as she is Russian and may know. I did a quick Google search and apparently left means sinister and the right hand is the hand of a vow or pledge. I always thought the ring was worn on the left hand because most people are right handed and it is less likely to interfere with work.
    Watch for the banana peeling techniques. Have you asked any of your Russian friends about this?
    As you probably know, we got 1 inch (2.5 cm) of snow, not the 10 inches predicted.


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