Russian Vocabulary: Finding and Getting Places in Russia

Posted on 01. Jul, 2015 by in language, Russian for beginners, Russian phonetics, video

                  Any new place is not easy to navigate, let alone a place where a different language is spoken. In an attempt to help people who are traveling or relocating to Russia, I put together a list of questions along with some explanations that should make the experience easier. To help with pronunciation I also recorded a short video that goes over the entire list. The only thing left for you to do is master the list in its entirety (wink). Good luck!
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Вы не подскажете, где находится туалет?
Could you tell me where the bathroom is?
In Russia finding a public restroom could be a big problem, finding a free one can be an even bigger problem (unless you are still at the airport or sneaking into a McDonald’s). Be prepared to pay for a trip to a public restroom when nature calls, and don’t be surprised when they hand you a pre-measured piece of toilet paper after you pay :-).
Вы не знаете, где ближайшая остановка?
Do you happen to know where the nearest bus stop is?
Вы не знаете, где ближайшая станция метро?
Do you happen to know where the nearest subway station is?
Скажите пожалуйста, где ближайший банк (продовольственный магазин)?
Could you tell me where the nearest bank (grocery store) is?
Что Вы посоветуете?
What do you recommend?
Извините, мне нужна помощь.
Excuse me, I need help.
Где можно попить хорошего кофе?
Where can I find good coffee?
Где можно недорого поесть?
Where can I eat inexpensively?
Извините, когда уходит последняя электричка?
Excuse me, when does the last train depart (meaning trains that travel to/from suburbs)?
Электричка is a certain type of train that circulates between a major city and surrounding suburbs, it is similar to a subway train, yet a bit different.
Извините, вы работаете по выходным?
Excuse me, are you open on the weekends?
Вы не подскажете, как добраться до Красной Площади (американского посольства и т.д.)?
Could you tell me how to get to Red Square (the US Embassy, etc.)?
Feel free to add more questions to the list. I will do my best to add them to the post.
Всего хорошего!

A Whole Lot of Nothing: Sayings with Ничего in Russian

Posted on 29. Jun, 2015 by in Russian for beginners

blank notebook

Ничего́ (nothing) one of these seemingly basic words that you learn in the first months of learning Russian. However, it is also one that appears in a number of idioms and expressions that are not immediately obvious to the learner.

1. Ничего for doing well

Ничего is a popular response to the question “Как дела́?” It is a neutral answer, roughly equivalent to “alright.” Another answer with a similar meaning is “Норма́льно” or “Потихо́ньку.”

2. Ничего (стра́шного) for no worries

Ничего can also be a response to “Извини́те” (I’m sorry) or any other apology or explanation.

– Я забы́л поли́ть цветы́ (I forgot to water the flowers).

– Ничего́ стра́шного (That’s OK).

3. Ничего́ себе! for surprise

Ничего себе is used to express surprise or amazement. Many people oppose what they see as unjustified use of borrowed interjections like “ва́у” (wow) and prefer to use expressions like ничего себе or у́х ты!

– У мое́й ба́бушки бы́ло пя́теро дете́й (My grandma had five children).

– Ничего себе! (Oh wow!)

Ни фига́ себе is a colloquial and some would say vulgar variant of this phrase. There are many other similar expressions, some quite vulgar, that follow the same syntactic pattern and convey amazement.

4. Ничего for approval

Ничего can also mean that something or someone is alright or cool. “А до́мик у них ничего” (Their house is not too shabby). When used about a person, this usually refers to their looks. “А сосе́дка-то вполне́ ничего́” (Our neighbor is quite alright).

5. Ничего не поделаешь for acceptance

Ничего́ не поде́лаешь is used to express resignation and acceptance of the situation. Literally, the phrase means “there’s nothing we can do.”

Ничего не поделаешь, пришло́сь встре́чать Но́вый год в аэропорту́. – We had no choice but to celebrate the New Year at the airport. [As you may know, New Year’s is the biggest holiday of the year in Russia, and you don’t want to miss out on it.]

Are there any other expressions with ничего you can think of? This seemingly simple word is used in ways that may be unique to Russian and not obvious from its primary meaning, so I hope this post is useful. I would like to finish it with a song that makes extensive use of this word.

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Social Networking in Russia

Posted on 24. Jun, 2015 by in Culture, General reference article, News, Russian life, Russian movies, Soviet Union, The Russian Emotion, video, when in Russia

The age of the “Social Network” is upon us. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others, have popped up over the last ten years or so and dramatically changed our lives. These sites have greatly impacted our lives and they have been responsible for many things such as: increase in narcissistic behavior (i.e. selfies), entertainment, sharing photos and experiences with friends/family, overthrowing governments, and so on. The point is this: social networking is powerful, here to stay, and flourishing everywhere. It is interesting to note that the same social networking sites that flourish in one country may be obsolete in another. This post is about the social networking sites that are popular right now in Russia.

I recently “Googled” which social networking sites are popular in Russia right now and the results were interesting enough to inspire me to write about them. One particularly interesting fact was that Facebook was number four in terms of users per month. I will briefly describe four three most popular sites – you likely already know what Facebook and Twitter so I’ll leave them out.

It is worth mentioning that the data used for this blog came from and

1.VKontakte (VK) is currently the most popular social networking site in Russia with just around 53 million users. VKontakte is the largest social network in Europe and it allows its users to send messages, create groups, share photos/audio/video, and so on. Nearly 25 percent of its members are under the age of 18. The odd resemblance to Facebook makes me wonder about who is really behind this project :-)…

The second most popular site is 2.Odnoklassniki (classmates). This site deals with helping current and former classmates and friends connect with one another. What I found interesting about this site was that you had to be at least seven years old to have an account.

3.Moi Mir (My World) is next on the list. It is run by and attracts older people. Like Odnoklassniki, people go there to socialize. Nearly 70 percent of its members are women and over 50 percent are over the age of 45.

Moi Mir

4.Facebook is phenomenal on the world’s stage, however, in Russia it is still climbing to the top. It does well in terms of number of subscribers but not in terms of activity. For that matter, 5.Twitter averages a great deal more posts per month than Facebook – Twitter averages about 12 times more posts per user per month.

Rutube is Russia’s version of Youtube and it is immensely popular. For those learning to speak Russian, you might really enjoy all of the videos on every topic imaginable. You must be able to read a bit to navigate the site but it is well worth it.

Although there are so many social media sites to visit in your own country, it can be fascinating to check out those in another. For those of you that grew up in another country and emigrated, these sites can really help you when you are homesick or just trying to reconnect with people. You might agree that there has never been an easier time to connect with people – the world is getting smaller by the second :-)