Russian stereotypes quiz

Babbel asked Larisa Bulanova from our Didactics department to share some of her thoughts on the Russian way of life.
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Russian stereotypes quiz

To celebrate the release of Babbel‘s new Russian course we’ve compiled a quiz to test your knowledge of Russian stereotypes. We looked at what the numbers said, and we asked Larisa Bulanova from our Didactics department to give us an insider perspective on what Russians think.

russian stereotypes

So: is it true that Russians drink vodka like it’s going out of fashion? Is it actually that cold?  And if you go to Russia, should you watch out for bears?
Remember, they’re called stereotypes for a reason! Please don’t take them too seriously.

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                            <h3>CONGRATULATIONS!</h3>

You’re now fully equipped to tackle Russia – from the streets of St Petersburg to the Siberian tundra. Make sure you check out Babbel’s Russian course before you go.

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                                <h3>How true is this stereotype?</h3>
    

    “In Russia it’s (insanely) cold”

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                                    <strong>The numbers</strong> Yes. No. Depends. Moscow and St Petersburg are only marginally colder than Berlin, big chunks of European Russia and the south have <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humid_continental_climate">humid continental climates</a>, and Sochi is humid and subtropical. If you want true cold, you’ll have to make your way to the Sakha Republic in Siberia. Sakha is only slightly smaller than India, with three time zones, fewer than a million people, and over 25% of the world’s diamonds. There, in the Verkhoyansk mountain range, you’ll find the northern <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pole_of_Cold">Pole of Cold</a>. This holds the record as the coldest place in the northern hemisphere, measured at –71.2°C  in 1924.
    

    Expert eye I was much colder in Heidelberg when it was +1°C and raining, than I ever was in Russia when it was –15°C, sunny and snowing. Well yes, of course it’s cold in winter. As kids we always loved it when it was – 25°C or – 30°C because we didn’t have to go to school. But don’t forget that it gets hot in summer! Up to +40°C.

    russian stereotypes – weather


Incorrect

The numbers Yes. No. Depends. Moscow and St Petersburg are only marginally colder than Berlin, big chunks of European Russia and the south have humid continental climates, and Sochi is humid and subtropical. If you want true cold, you’ll have to make your way to the Sakha Republic in Siberia. Sakha is only slightly smaller than India, with three time zones, fewer than a million people, and over 25% of the world’s diamonds. There, in the Verkhoyansk mountain range, you’ll find the northern Pole of Cold. This holds the record as the coldest place in the northern hemisphere, measured at –71.2°C  in 1924.Expert eye I was much colder in Heidelberg when it was +1°C and raining, than I ever was in Russia when it was –15°C, sunny and snowing. Well yes, of course it’s cold in winter. As kids we always loved it when it was – 25°C or – 30°C because we didn’t have to go to school. But don’t forget that it gets hot in summer! Up to +40°C.

russian stereotypes – weather

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                            <h3>How true is this stereotype?</h3>

“Russians drink vodka like it’s going out of fashion”

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                                <strong>The numbers</strong> Russians are <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_alcohol_consumption">fourth in the world</a> when it comes to alcohol consumption. They drink an average of 15 litres of pure alcohol each year, 50% of which is spirits. That’s a higher percentage than Europe but much lower than China, the Middle East, and the old Eastern Bloc. Beer, considered a soft drink until it was <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-14232970">classified as alcohol</a> in 2013, is on the rise at 37%. In 2011, President Dmitry Medvedev declared the country’s drinking problem “a national disaster” – half a million people die from alcohol related deaths every year – but there are signs of improvement. Consumption is dropping, and projected to fall again in 2015.

Expert eye Yes, it’s true. And not just vodka! Russians love beer as well. Although the golden rule with drinking vodka is never to mix your drinks, there’s a well known saying: drinking beer without vodka is like throwing money to the wind (Пиво без водки – деньги на ветер!). Vodka is also known for its healing properties, for example against colds: when you’ve got a sore throat you can make a poultice by soaking cotton wool in vodka, covering it in a plastic bag and putting it around your neck, under your scarf. Or rub it into your back – it’ll warm you up! It’s also good for the soul. When Westerners are depressed, they go to therapists. Russians take a bottle of vodka and go to a good friend.

russian stereotypes - vodka


Incorrect

The numbers Russians are fourth in the world when it comes to alcohol consumption. They drink an average of 15 litres of pure alcohol each year, 50% of which is spirits. That’s a higher percentage than Europe but much lower than China, the Middle East, and the old Eastern Bloc. Beer, considered a soft drink until it was classified as alcohol in 2013, is on the rise at 37%. In 2011, President Dmitry Medvedev declared the country’s drinking problem “a national disaster” – half a million people die from alcohol related deaths every year – but there are signs of improvement. Consumption is dropping, and projected to fall again in 2015.

Expert eye Yes, it’s true. And not just vodka! Russians love beer as well. Although the golden rule with drinking vodka is never to mix your drinks, there’s a well known saying: drinking beer without vodka is like throwing money to the wind (Пиво без водки – деньги на ветер!). Vodka is also known for its healing properties, for example against colds: when you’ve got a sore throat you can make a poultice by soaking cotton wool in vodka, covering it in a plastic bag and putting it around your neck, under your scarf. Or rub it into your back – it’ll warm you up! It’s also good for the soul. When Westerners are depressed, they go to therapists. Russians take a bottle of vodka and go to a good friend.

russian stereotypes - vodka

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                            <h3>How true is this stereotype?</h3>

“Russian women are either models or babushkas”

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                                <strong>The numbers</strong> Maybe this stereotype arises partly because there are a <a href="http://www.gks.ru/bgd/regl/b13_12/IssWWW.exe/Stg/d01/5-03.htm">lot more women</a> than men in Russia: 76 million compared to 66 million in 2012. But are they really all models or babushkas? Well, the ratio of men to women is quite even until the age of 34, but after that the number of men drops sharply, due to the incredible gap in life expectancy. By <a href="http://www.gks.ru/bgd/regl/b13_12/IssWWW.exe/stg/d01/5-02.htm">the age of 70</a>, there are 2379 women for every 1000 men. That’s a lot of babushkas. As for the models, it’s difficult to get hard data. Anecdotally, many fashion designers like the strong cheekbones and classical features of models from the Eastern Bloc – they began to feature on many catwalks after the fall of the Soviet Union. <a href="http://www.thrillist.com/travel/nation/victoria-s-secret-models-breakdown-by-nationality-and-angel-appearance-by-year">Out of 295 Victoria’s Secret models</a> over the years (granted, this is an American brand), ten have been Russian, behind the US (81) and Brazil (32).

Expert eye There are many more women than men in Russia. That is why almost every girl tries to look like a model! Every woman has to fight, to win a man for herself. That’s why they put so much emphasis on appearances. Short skirts, high heels, a lot of makeup. They always have to look attractive so they don’t miss out on their future husband. Maybe that’s why Russian women live longer too: men don’t have to look after their appearance, their figure, and their health, because there’ll always be a woman around to do it for them. They drink beer or vodka, watch football, and die earlier. A Russian women makes herself pretty every day, goes to work, does the shopping, takes care of the kids and the cooking – and stays fit!

russian stereotypes - women


Incorrect

The numbers Maybe this stereotype arises partly because there are a lot more women than men in Russia: 76 million compared to 66 million in 2012. But are they really all models or babushkas? Well, the ratio of men to women is quite even until the age of 34, but after that the number of men drops sharply, due to the incredible gap in life expectancy. By the age of 70, there are 2379 women for every 1000 men. That’s a lot of babushkas. As for the models, it’s difficult to get hard data. Anecdotally, many fashion designers like the strong cheekbones and classical features of models from the Eastern Bloc – they began to feature on many catwalks after the fall of the Soviet Union. Out of 295 Victoria’s Secret models over the years (granted, this is an American brand), ten have been Russian, behind the US (81) and Brazil (32).

Expert eye There are many more women than men in Russia. That is why almost every girl tries to look like a model! Every woman has to fight, to win a man for herself. That’s why they put so much emphasis on appearances. Short skirts, high heels, a lot of makeup. They always have to look attractive so they don’t miss out on their future husband. Maybe that’s why Russian women live longer too: men don’t have to look after their appearance, their figure, and their health, because there’ll always be a woman around to do it for them. They drink beer or vodka, watch football, and die earlier. A Russian women makes herself pretty every day, goes to work, does the shopping, takes care of the kids and the cooking – and stays fit!

russian stereotypes - women

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                            <h3>How true is this stereotype?</h3>

“Russians are unfriendly”

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                                <strong>The numbers</strong> In <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_TT_Competitiveness_Report_2013.pdf">a survey</a> by the World Economic Forum which asked 140 countries “How welcome are foreign visitors in your country?”, Russia came in at number 138. Ouch. (Still, at least the US only came in <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/03/21/a-fascinating-map-of-countries-color-coded-by-their-openness-to-foreigners/">at number 102</a>.) But is this accurate? In fact, can you even measure friendliness? Many people argue that this is about cultural differences, not unfriendliness – Professor of Philology Iosif Sternin at Voronezh State University made <a href="http://blog.babbel.com/7-reasons-why-we-love-listicles-but-theyre-killing-our-brains/">a list </a>of <a href="http://www.russianlife.com/blog/why-dont-russians-smile/">15 reasons</a> why a smile in Russia “fulfills an entirely different, if not opposite, function than a smile does in European countries”. Stories abound of travellers being invited into Russian homes and being bombarded with charming hospitality – and vodka.

Expert eye Part of the reason that people in Russian cities look down rather than meeting your eye on the street, is simply because there are plenty of broken pavements and it’s very slippery in winter! You have to watch where you’re going. Yes, Russians seem unfriendly at first glance. But that doesn’t mean that they’re always like that, or that they mean ill. It’s just normal behaviour. We have this saying, “A smile without a reason is a sign of idiocy”, cмех без причины – признак дурачины. People don’t pretend to be polite. They are nonetheless very helpful and when you get to know them better, you’ll see that they can become very good friends and they’re willing to give you the shirt off their back, отдать последнюю рубашку, if you need it.

russian stereotypes - unfriendly


Incorrect

The numbers In a survey by the World Economic Forum which asked 140 countries “How welcome are foreign visitors in your country?”, Russia came in at number 138. Ouch. (Still, at least the US only came in at number 102.) But is this accurate? In fact, can you even measure friendliness? Many people argue that this is about cultural differences, not unfriendliness – Professor of Philology Iosif Sternin at Voronezh State University made a list of 15 reasons why a smile in Russia “fulfills an entirely different, if not opposite, function than a smile does in European countries”. Stories abound of travellers being invited into Russian homes and being bombarded with charming hospitality – and vodka.

Expert eye Part of the reason that people in Russian cities look down rather than meeting your eye on the street, is simply because there are plenty of broken pavements and it’s very slippery in winter! You have to watch where you’re going. Yes, Russians seem unfriendly at first glance. But that doesn’t mean that they’re always like that, or that they mean ill. It’s just normal behaviour. We have this saying, “A smile without a reason is a sign of idiocy”, cмех без причины – признак дурачины. People don’t pretend to be polite. They are nonetheless very helpful and when you get to know them better, you’ll see that they can become very good friends and they’re willing to give you the shirt off their back, отдать последнюю рубашку, if you need it.

russian stereotypes - unfriendly

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                            <h3>How true is this stereotype?</h3>

“Every Russian official loves a bar of chocolate…”

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                                <strong>The numbers</strong> In <a href="http://www.transparency.org/">Transparency International</a>’s corruption ranking, Russia is ranked number 127 out of 177 countries, beneath Brazil (72), China (80) and India (94). Of the 28 most economically influential countries in the world, Russians are considered the most likely to engage in bribery when doing business abroad. Around 2003-2004 the World Bank’s Control of Corruption <a href="http://info.worldbank.org/governance/wgi/index.aspx#home">index</a> showed an improvement, but Russia has since slipped back. Today, 52% of Russians feel their government’s efforts to fight corruption are ineffective and 53% say the level of corruption is increasing.

Expert eye In Russia you can get anything if you’ve got the cash. You can pick up a driver’s license or a university degree in the subway. Connections and money are crucial if you want to get something done. You’ve got to do it subtly, of course. Personally I was never able to do it – to press a bar of chocolate (along with a bottle of good champagne) into the hand of the person who is deciding ‘your fate’.

russian stereotypes - corruption


Incorrect

The numbers In Transparency International’s corruption ranking, Russia is ranked number 127 out of 177 countries, beneath Brazil (72), China (80) and India (94). Of the 28 most economically influential countries in the world, Russians are considered the most likely to engage in bribery when doing business abroad. Around 2003-2004 the World Bank’s Control of Corruption index showed an improvement, but Russia has since slipped back. Today, 52% of Russians feel their government’s efforts to fight corruption are ineffective and 53% say the level of corruption is increasing.

Expert eye In Russia you can get anything if you’ve got the cash. You can pick up a driver’s license or a university degree in the subway. Connections and money are crucial if you want to get something done. You’ve got to do it subtly, of course. Personally I was never able to do it – to press a bar of chocolate (along with a bottle of good champagne) into the hand of the person who is deciding ‘your fate’.

russian stereotypes - corruption

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                            <h3>How true is this stereotype?</h3>

“Watch out for bears!”

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                                <strong>The numbers</strong> A beloved Russian symbol. But are there many left? <a href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2006/02/russia-bears/raygorodetsky-text/2">Certain parts of the bear population</a> suffered after the collapse of the Soviet Union, victims of poaching and hunting (bears also like munching on caviar and salmon, making them an even greater target). Happily the population is now reported to be stable, with estimates varying between <a href="http://www.bearbiology.com/fileadmin/tpl/Downloads/URSUS/Vol_9_2_/Chestin_Vol_9_2_.pdf">130,000</a> and 150,000. Despite this healthy population, we must admit – although statistics on bear attacks in Russia are hard to find – unless you’re trekking in the Siberian wastes, you’re unlikely to get eaten by a bear.

Expert eye I have never seen bears. I once saw a bear in St. Petersburg on the main square, who was leashed and being made to pose for photos with foreign tourists. But I am sure there are enough bears in Siberia or in the North of Russia.

russian stereotypes - bears


Incorrect

The numbers A beloved Russian symbol. But are there many left? Certain parts of the bear population suffered after the collapse of the Soviet Union, victims of poaching and hunting (bears also like munching on caviar and salmon, making them an even greater target). Happily the population is now reported to be stable, with estimates varying between 130,000 and 150,000. Despite this healthy population, we must admit – although statistics on bear attacks in Russia are hard to find – unless you’re trekking in the Siberian wastes, you’re unlikely to get eaten by a bear.

Expert eye I have never seen bears. I once saw a bear in St. Petersburg on the main square, who was leashed and being made to pose for photos with foreign tourists. But I am sure there are enough bears in Siberia or in the North of Russia.

russian stereotypes - bears

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