Russians, Silence, and the Metro Face
The first week in Russia has been very exciting for the BRIC cohort! We have finally begun exploring the city on our own and started learning words, habits and general norms of the culture. One thing that was most present in our day-to-day activities was the ever looming “Metro Face”. This face is a very stern and cold stare that to a non-Russian onlooker would seem to project an unpleasant feeling. In addition to the Metro Face, a significant difference in the level of volume is noticeable. In public areas it is not accepted to be loud and it is required to be practically whispering when having conversations in restaurants.
Metro Face was explained heavily in our orientation and conversations with Professors so we expected a large amount of negative looks in Russia. Fortunately, the cohort found that many Russian were extremely friendly and smiled a lot. When we tried to speak Russian, saying simple words like “priviet” (hi) and spasibo (thank you), some would smile seeming appreciative of our attempt at the language. The cohort understood that while Russia’s may be more noticeable, many cities have their own version of metro face when walking around. So we were all pleasantly surprised by the amount of hospitality and friendliness that we have received by the Russian people. We learned an important lesson from the metro face: you don’t have to smile all the time. In the US is is expected that everyone is overly friendly, and the metro face showed us that it is fine to look serious if you want to. Here is a picture of our cohort doing the “metro face” at Saint Isaac’s Cathedral.
The warnings about the silence, however, were surely very accurate. The Russians really take the concept of the “inside voices” seriously, including when they are outside. We have noticed in in every cafe, restaurant and public place we have been to. Even on places that are full, little more than muffled conversations can be heard. Our standard timbre of conversation is outstandingly loud for them. A positive side to their quiet nature is that the places feel much more peaceful in comparison to what we are used to. It showed us that not necessarily there has to be loud music playing in the cafes and stores, as happens in the US. We have been adapting to the silence, and meanwhile appreciating the peaceful atmosphere that it creates.
We have learned so much here in Russia that it feels like we have been here for much longer than we actually have (in a good way). The Russians have been very hospitable, and we have been able to progressively understand more from their culture the more we interact with them. We are excited to see what else Russia teaches us – seep posted for updates from the BRIC cohort!
Julia and Tanner