People Actually Do Smile Here (just never on the street)

September 10, 2011

One of the mainstream (normal class with Russian students) classes I tried out this week was about diplomacy, and it was a lesson in Russian classroom etiquette probably more than it was about diplomacy for me. Yes, professors really do answer phones in the middle of class, although of course, students are not allowed to have phones on at all. Anecdotes “анекдтоы” seem to permeate every aspect of Russian life – in this particular class almost all of the anecdotes, little funny stories, seemed to involve American stereotypes or at least Americans. The other students, who had very nicely grilled us about ourselves before class were giggling every time the professor mentioned the U.S. Russian students, in both the class on diplomacy at RGGU and at the class on stage speaking were much more truly friendly than a typical group of American students would be. Tabbey and I agreed that while we would certainly introduce ourselves to an exchange student and ask them a few basic questions, we would not invite them to tea immediately after class to get to know each other better. People really do say “Давай познакомимся!” (let’s get acquainted), and they really mean they want to hear all about you and your life. After the impersonality and lack of emotion in much of life in Moscow, it is refreshing to see the human side of this big Russian city. When Tabbey and I introduced ourselves to the professor at the end of class, she said it wasn’t at all clear we were foreigners, SCORE! (Well not at all clear, until we opened our mouths…)

My first soccer practice with a team from MGU was a great way to feel like my life here is somewhat normal. I also now know why there were some amazing Soviet athletes – the younger of our two coaches is demanding! Thankfully, I only understand about ¼ of what he is saying, so it’s impossible to get offended. I am also probably missing some important communication, but oh well. Try this for listening comprehension: a medium-sized gym where every sound echoes and reverberates so as to completely muddle up any other sounds. I defy any of my professors to meet that challenge… New goal: Be able to understand my soccer coach. (Other goal: remember to grab something to eat when you accidentally arrive at the training facility two hours early because you misheard the coach on the phone. 12-10:30 without food = unhappy Hillary at the end of practice). The girls on the team are awesome – I helped one of the three Mashas (there are three Mashas and 4 Katyas, apparently) with her oceanography homework, which she had to write in English. After practice all the other players wanted to know how to swear in English – like really forcefully swear. I was a little disappointed in myself that I couldn’t come up with much, but Russian мат (mat) is a lot more expressive than any words we have in English. Something else to work on…

Agenda for this weekend: museums, museums, museums….

Until I become a bit more cultured,


also working on being more tech-savvy…still problems loading pictures through this internet connection, but some are on the way!


5 Responses to “People Actually Do Smile Here (just never on the street)”

  1. Debbie said

    Thank you for writing this blog. It is so much fun to read. I am learning a lot about another culture through the three of you.


  2. Carol Ames said

    Thank you for the peek into real Russian life Hillary and to all of you for your very descriptive stories. Keep them coming.
    So glad you have soccer for fun and exercise.

    Carol Ames (Hillary’s grandmother)

  3. Karin Ames said

    I am so enjoying the blog! It was an inspiration for you three to do it together so we readers can hear a variety of voices:).

  4. sydschulz said

    watch the wire. then you will no longer doubt English’s capacity for expressive language.

  5. Did you actually go to soccer practice for 10.5 hours? That’s a LONG soccer practice…

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