Let’s be honest – you most likely think that Russia is chock-full of evil criminal masterminds and former KGB members, has dangerous bears walking the street, freezing cold winters all year long, and is populated by weapon-toting locals who a) never smile b) are hostile to visitors, and c) drown their sorrows in vodka. Right? We thought as much.
But, the reality is quite different. Here, we break down the most ridiculous myths about Russia.
It’s always winter in Russia: FALSE
Okay, firstly, most of Russia has a continental climate, which means that there are long cold winters (dropping to -30°C) BUT there are also warm, shorter summers (an average of 32-35°C which can reach 43°C) as well! So don’t forget to pack a pair of shorts for a getaway to Moscow in July.
All Russians are cold, grim-faced and unfriendly to travellers: FALSE
Russians are actually very welcoming, open and hospitable. They enjoy having guests over and enjoy being guests themselves. This means that if you get to know a couple of locals in Russia, they’ll treat you, in general, like royalty.
Also, the grim face in public is a cultural norm
but Russians still smile plenty when the occasion warrants it.
They do not drink water, only vodka: FALSE
It’s true that a lot of Russians do drink a lot of vodka – but to be fair, here, the vodka comes in many delicious flavors, is ridiculously cheap (allegedly it was once cheaper than water), and it gets you drunk, so . . . why not?
And while that’s true, not everyone drinks vodka, and most don’t drink it exclusively. Beer and wine are widely enjoyed as well.
Everyone is either a criminal, KGB operative or in the mafia: FALSE
We understand that years of watching Russians play the ultimate bad guys in everything from Mission Impossible to Tintin, this may be a difficult one to accept. It’s usually bad PR.
They eat a lot of soup: TRUE
Russians have a lot of different soups – from traditional shchi (cabbage) to borsch (beetroot) and solyanka (a thick, spicy and sour beef and pickled cucumber soup) to okroshka ( a chilled summer soup) that are all equally delicious, and feature prominently in daily meals.
Bears walk the streets of Russia: MOSTLY FALSE
We’re used to seeing cows and people populate Indian cities, but in Russia, their most iconic animal – brown bears, tend to stick to their forests. A few have made rare cameo appearances in towns
on highways, and on hiking trails, but its still a far cry from seeing them strolling down a street, wearing valenki (felt boots) and ushanka (hat with ear flaps).
The police are corrupt: MOSTLY TRUE
The Russian police have acquired a reputation for being corrupt (probably not more than they are in India), with ordinary people having to pay bribes to them. Just keep your passport safe, handover photocopies only if stopped for a passport check.
It’s a dangerous place to travel: FALSE
Nope, Russia is no more dangerous than other part of the world. If you practice normal common sense and basic safety rules such as keeping away from ‘dangerous’ places in cities and from large forest areas during the night time ( incidentally, also numbers 4 and 5 in ‘Horror Movies 101: Rules For Survival), you’ll be just fine.
Putin is everywhere, being a badass: SORT OF TRUE
to being a master of martial arts, firing guns, flying planes, to riding around, shirtless… a lot.
Okay, okay, while many of these are true, some are Photoshopped and are PR stunts; either ways, while you may not bump into him while in Russia doing badass things, his superhuman-like omnipresence is undeniable.
Russia’s a constant surprise: TRUE
This is true, but in the best way possible. From seeing the beauty of jewel-encrusted Faberge eggs to getting hit in the face by one of the trick fountains at Peterhof and tasting cucumber vodka or seeing dancing baboushkas for the first time
there’s always a new discovery waiting around the corner.
So, clear your mind of preconceived notions
and prepare for new experiences as you set off on an extraordinary holiday to Russia!