Russian Language Blog

Inherently Russian Behaviors Posted by on Feb 17, 2015 in Culture, Russian life, Traditions, when in Russia


My typical breakfast

My typical breakfast

If there are Russian people among your friends or family, some of the things they do may seem puzzling to you. Chances are they are thinking the same thing about you. You see, a lot of things we do on a day-to-day basis are inherently cultural. We, Russians, are certainly no exception. With that said, I hope this post sheds some light on the “mysterious Russian soul” you are dealing with.

  1. Russians drink a lot of tea (русские пьют много чая) Most Russians have tea (sometimes coffee) for breakfast. As the day goes by, they will have more tea after lunch, dinner, and in between meals. In other words, Russian people like their tea. If you are witnessing Russian people drinking 4 to 5 cups of hot tea on a very hot summer day, do not be surprised either. Actually, drinking hot tea on a very hot day helps to deal with the heat and thirst. Russians borrowed this tradition from the Far East.
  1. Russians eat sandwiches for breakfast (русские едят бутерброды на завтрак) In Russia, any good cup of tea or coffee for breakfast is usually accompanied with sandwiches. We typically use white bread, butter and any of the following: cheese, salami, bologna, honey, or jam. The sandwiches are always open faced, i.e. no bread on top. While there are other Russian breakfast options, sandwiches might just be the most popular.
  1. Russians swaddle newborn babies really tight (русские пеленают новорожденных) I am not really sure why Russians still swaddle their newborns. I do know that it is becoming less and less popular (thankfully!). The common explanation is that swaddling helps the baby cope with the stress of being in the new world, it helps the baby sleep better at night because it prevents excessive movement of the arms and legs. The newer research suggests that tight swaddling constricts blood flow, slows down motor development, and can potentially harm internal organs.
  1. Russians litter in public (русские мусорят в публичных местах) One of the things I noticed after I first came to America is overall cleanliness of the surroundings: clean sidewalks, clean lawns, etc. I certainly do understand that there are exceptions to this rule – larger cities and distressed neighborhoods tend to have their share of litter on the ground. In Russia, however, it seems like the litter never stops, it is everywhere and a lot of people are not shy about throwing junk right where they walk. I do not even dare to go into why that is: that would be a whole topic in itself. I simply hope that one day Russian people will conquer this disgusting habit.
  1. Russians hang rugs on walls (русские вешают ковры на стены) This one is hard to miss. If you have visited a typical Russian home, a giant “Persian” rug on the wall was probably the first thing you noticed upon entering the living room. Although it is worth mentioning that younger generations are getting away from this tradition and opting for a cleaner look.
  1. Russians look stern and unfriendly (русские выглядят сердитыми и недружелюбными) It’s not that Russians are unfriendly by nature. A lot of Russians simply look that way in public. Why? I am truly not sure… Hard life? Cold weather? Or perhaps, we are dealing with rudiments of Communism.
  1. Russians collect used plastic bags (русские собирают использованные пластиковые пакеты) A lot of Russian homes have a bag with bags in it. It does actually help reduce the amount of plastic pollution. However, this is not the main reason why Russian people collect used plastic bags. In Russia, you have to pay for your plastic bags at the grocery store, therefore people think twice before disposing of their used plastic bags. If you paid for it, you may as well use it to its full potential. It is worth mentioning that the bags are typically more heavy duty. As far as I know, paying for plastic bags is also quite common in other European countries, such as Germany and Sweden.

Some time ago I did a post about odd Russian behaviors. This article tries to expand on this topic and give you some information on what to expect when interacting with Russian people :-).

Всего хорошего! 


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About the Author: Jenya

Born in Russia, I spent the first twenty years of my life in Orenburg, Russia and Mogilev, Belarus. For the last eleven years, I've lived in New Hampshire and Michigan, US. While I continue to absorb and adapt to American culture, I am always thrilled to share my Russian heritage with those who find it interesting. Travel, photography and art play a special part in my life. Twitter: @iamnx2u


  1. Ann Crawford:

    We have to pay for our plastic bags in Ireland too Kenya. So I save mine as well!!!!

  2. Jenya:

    Ann, I believe this is a better way to do things, in the long run. It slows down the unnecessary accumulation of plastic :-).

  3. samonen:

    Ville Haapasalo, the Finnish actor who is quite famous in Russia, has been starring in several travelogue kind of series on Russia for Finnish television. In one episode he mentioned this littering habit. He showed a place in a forest in the middle of nowhere that looked like a dumping ground.

    What shocked me more was a Russian muzhik’s answer when asked about this behaviour. He was being quite boisterous about it, saying: “Oh, you have such a small country, when you throw a bottle away in the woods half of your country is covered by it!”. He was being funny but I found his attitude both revealing and obnoxious. Mother Russia can take it!

  4. Yulia:

    Tell us something new. Otherwise dont waste our time (and yours).

    • Jenya:

      @Yulia Yulia, just because this is not new to you does not mean other people feel the same way :-).

  5. Jenya:

    Samonen, that is an excellent example of how a lot of Russians feel about it. That is really sad. I hope one day they will find an effective way of dealing with this problem.

  6. Moonyeen Albrecht:

    Foreigners may also be surprised at Russian apartment buildings. The doors, stairwells, halls, lighting, elevators are abominable, dark and dirty, but the apartments inside may be wonderful. They told me that “nobody owns the entrance ways so nobody takes care of them.” I also had a Russian professor who said that Americans care a lot about the outsides of their houses, lawns etc. but Russians care more about what is inside their houses.

  7. Jenya:

    Moonyeen, very true 🙂

  8. Sullanfield:

    Don’t forget, every Russian has a stack of tiles hidden in a closet, just in case. A friend who’s lived in the US for fifteen years didn’t even realize this was weird until I pointed it out.

  9. Alex:

    Nice post! Shame about the littering, though. Any signs that it might change in the future?

    As for the “unfriendliness”, I noticed the same attitude in Iceland some years ago. It was only after 2-3 days that I realized a lot of people had been really helpful to me along the way. They just didn’t smile much 🙂

    • Jenya:

      @Alex Alex, спасибо! Yes, Russian people are pretty helpful too, but you have to get past the perceived “unfriendliness” and ask for help if you need it :-).

  10. Moonyeen Albrecht:

    As for Russians not smiling, I’ve heard that they think it is silly to smile at someone you don’t know. Actually that makes a lot of sense. Personally, I’m in the middle on this. However, when you consider the difficult times many Russians have lived through in the past, with the fear of being “turned in” by friends and neighbors, it seems perfectly reasonable not to draw attention to oneself and basically “just mind your own business.”

  11. Алексей:

    1. Не знаю насколько много – я, например, выпиваю в среднем за сутки 4-5 чашек. Утром, в обеденный перерыв, вечером дважды. Думаю, остальные пьют его не намного больше.
    3. Не слишком плотно. Скорее это защита от холода.
    4. Да, это так. Но постепенно это проходит. Мусора становится меньше, в городах чище. Думаю, со временем это пройдет.
    5. Это тоже проходит. Современные россияне не вешают ковров на стены.
    6. Русские дружелюбны. Мы не ходим по улицам с мрачными лицами))
    7. Собирание использованных пакетов тоже исчезает. Возможно, такая привычка появилась у людей, которые жили в Советском Союзе, когда только начали появляться пластиковые пакеты. Так вот, эти пакеты были редкостью. Они заменили плетеные сетчатые сумки (авоська). Сейчас людей, использующих их повторно становится меньше. Большие пакеты используются как мешки для мусора и выбрасываются.

    PS Писал по-русски, потому что английский я знаю еще хуже.

    • Jenya:

      @Алексей Алексей, большое спасибо! Я согласна с Вами по большинству пунктов. Что касается чая, то 4-5 чашек в день по американским меркам уже много. Насчет дружелюбности готова с Вами поспорить. После дипломатической улыбчивости американцев российская угрюмость очень бросается в глаза. Комментарии на русском я всегда приветствую – это возможность реальной практики для наших читателей, так что заходите еще!

  12. Andre:

    Moonyen is right. Smiling means something else for Russians. Casually smiling at a Russian can elicit the response “do I know you?”

  13. Calm Waiting:

    since such Jenyas (from 90s) left Russia, the ammount of litter in the streets has significantly reduced. Seriously.