Russian People: 10 Stereotypes and Facts

If you are planning to travel to Russia, you might face many stereotypes about Russian people and culture.  Of course, you already know some of them because you watched famous films like Red Heat, Operation Red Sparrow, Rocky IV, GoldenEye etc. However, you cannot say for sure what is actually true, unless you have a Russian friend. Keep in mind that not all Russian people fit these stereotypes.


Read on and discover the truth about the most popular stereotypes about Russian people and culture.


1. Russians love Vodka


Stereotypes:

  • Russians drink vodka for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Russian people drink more alcohol than people in other countries.
  • Vodka is not just a common drink in Russia, it can be used as a present, payment, currency or bribe.


True:

  • Russians do not drink vodka all the time. Most people in Russia drink vodka only on big celebrations (New Year, Birthdays, Promotions). However, many people like to drink beer.
  • Top 3 countries that drink the most alcohol: Moldova, Belarus and Lithuania. No, Russians do not drink more alcohol than in other countries.
  • It's common to give a good bottle of vodka as a present or good "favor". Besides, in WWII vodka was used as a currency among USSR.




2. Russian babushka


Stereotypes:

  • In Russian language "Babushka" (Ба́бушка) means granny and that is how Russian children call their grandmothers.
  • Babushka wears a scarf wrapped around her head and usually she is a very lovely old woman.


True:

  • "Babushka" or "Babulya" (Бабу́ля) may be used to call any old woman.
  • If you see an old woman with a scarf wrapped around her head, don't be surprised if she cuts in front of you in the line for the metro. If she rolls over your feet with her trolley bag, you should say "Izvinite" (Sorry). If in public transport, she may ask to empty your seat for her. Remember, she is always right!


Buranovskiye Babushki - Eurovision Song Contest (2012)



3. Russian bear


Stereotypes:

  • There are a lot of wild bears running around Russian cities.
  • Russians tame bears instead of dogs.


True:

  • It is not common at all to see wild bears, not even in little countryside towns.
  • Russians barely tame bears, apes, parrots, reptiles and other exotic animals.




4. Russians are superstitious


Stereotypes:

  • Russian people believe that superstitions work.


True:

  • Most people in Russia do not believe that these things work, they are mostly habits.


Note: the most common Russian superstitions:

If you don't want something bad to happen - knock on wood

If you don't want to be moneyless - do not take out the trash in the night and do not whistle inside the house

If you don't want to have bad luck - go the other way if a black cat crosses your path



5. Russians show no emotions


Stereotypes:

  • Russian people never smile.
  • Russians usually never panic.


True:

  • Russian people usually smile at the people they know. In Russian culture smile is the sign of friendship and good relations. 
  • If something bad happens, for Russians it's not common to run around with panic faces. They will try to help or act according to the situation.



The best reaction to the Russian meteor



6. Russian girls are beautiful


Stereotypes:

  • Russian girls are gorgeous
  • Girls in Russia like to blow the money


True:

  • Every Russian woman knows how to take care of her beauty. Since childhood mothers teach daughters how to be beautiful: how to use cosmetics, how to make new hairstyles etc.
  • Most Russian girls like to blow the money... but with a reason. They believe that getting lavish outfits and flawless makeup is the basic rule to be a trophy woman. Also, girls in Russia invest a lot in their education. Try to strike up a conversation with them, and you will see they are not only personable but also extremely intelligent.


Instagram: @ciklonica


7. Russians like to show off


Stereotypes: 

  • Russians like fancy clothes.
  • People in Russia do not like to like cheap things.


True: 

  • People in big cities, like in Moscow or St. Petersburg prefer to dress fancy. Take a walk around Moscow downtown and you will see a lot of people in suits, women wearing high heels. Even when Russians dress simple, they give preference to famous brands. However, nowadays in Russia, it's not common to dress so flashy. Most people like muted and dark colors.
  • There is a crazy type of Russians that love to make a "wow factor". For instance, some people prefer to buy a luxury car (even in credit) instead of good quality apartment/house. The ones who can't afford premium cars, they get expensive cellphones, watches, clothes etc. However, most people in Russia prefer to buy good quality stuff for fair price, and they always follow an old saying "Cheapest is dearest".



"Dead-Man's-Bluff" film (2005)



8. Russians smoke a lot


Stereotypes:

  • Russians are chain-smokers


True:

  • Smoking is a huge problem in Russia. Nowadays Russian government make anti-smoking campaigns. For instance, in any store in Russia, you won't see tobaco products in a showcase. They must be hidden from sight, according to Russian laws. However, there are still a lot of smokers in Russia. You might face people who smoke not only in the streets, but also on the trains.




9. All Russians are communists


Stereotypes:

  • Russia = USSR 2.0
  • All Russians are communists


True:

  • The time of Soviet Union passed, but people still associate Russia with USSR. Nowadays, Russian Federation is a modern and open country, everyone can travel and discover Russian most beautiful places without any problems. Russia invest a lot in new technologies: high speed Internet, contactless payments, new mobile applications where you can buy or order anything. You won't face any inconvenience when staying in Moscow or any other Russian city.
  • According to statistics, Russian Communist Party (КПРФ) has the second place in all elections. In Russia there are still a lot of people who believe in the ideas of socialism. However, most of Russian people, include new generations, have liberal views.


"The Simpsons" Season 9, Episode 19




10. Ushanka


Stereotype:

  • All Russians wear ushanka hats


True:

  • Russian winter uniform for police and military still include ushanka hats. There are also a lot of people (not only in Russia) who prefer to wear these hats, simply because they are cozy in the cold season. 


Russian astronaut wears Ushanka, "Armageddon" film (1998)




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