What’s Physical Comfort for Russians? Posted by Maria on Oct 18, 2016 in Culture, when in Russia
Many visitors are surprised to find life in Russia, especially in large urban centers, closer to a developed country than they expected. At the same time, some fixtures they are used to may be missing. Conversely, there are some things that Russian are used to having and will likely feel uncomfortable without, no matter how well-equipped or developed the place they are staying is.
The notion of comfort for most Russians presupposes that they will be able to sit down comfortably to do whatever they came to do. Again, I’m talking about the idea here, not necessarily the practice. For example, in a classroom (в классе), Russian students will likely expect to be able to sit down comfortably and have a shelf (полочка), hook (крючок), or at least some space in the aisle to put down their bag. Bouncing your bag/coat in your lap is considered cramped conditions.
The same goes for waiting in the hallway to go into a classroom, a concert, or into another event. Does that mean that there are chairs everywhere? Not at all. But that’s the idea of comfortable waiting. If there are no chairs, the people will remain standing and will never sit on the floor. This is true for university students, as well.
Another thing Russians find very uncomfortable is walking barefoot on cold surfaces or where others may have walked with their shoes on. For example, many airports will have disposable plastic shoes (бахилы) for people to put on if they have to take their shoes off. The prospect of walking barefoot (босиком) on the cold, dirty concrete floor is unpleasant to most Russians.
Hence the (in)famous custom of taking off your street shoes in Russian homes and wearing slippers (тапочки). Its more elegant “cousin” is bringing an extra pair of shoes to wear indoors during the cold season, for example for going to the theater. In addition, in most schools (школы, as in grade school), it is customary for children to bring a change of shoes (сменная обувь). This prevents people from having to wear muddy/wet/hot/bulky boots indoors.
Having outdoor/indoor clothes and footwear necessitates having a place to store the outdoor items. Most Russian educational institutions and performance venues will have a coat check (гардероб), where you can store your outerwear (верхняя одежда) and sometimes street shoes. Coat checks usually operate during the cold season.
It is unusual to see a person wearing a coat indoors if they have an opportunity to leave it at the coat check. The coat check usually has an attendant, who hangs up your coat on a numbered hook and gives you a token (бирка) with the corresponding number. You then use the token to claim your coat.
If you have been to Russia or any other countries in the region, what was your experience like? Did you see any of these things? Did you see the opposite? What’s it like in your country?
Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.
When visiting the homes/apartments of friends, I prefer to have my own тапочки in my bag. I really don’t feel comfortable in other people’s slippers or shoes…only as a last resort during an unexpected visit… No one seems to be offended!
@Heather Heather, that’s a clever idea!