Editors Note: This post is brought to you by Kristina Ezhova, a 22-year-old Russian expat currently residing in Paris (previous locations: Montreal and Toronto). Favorite things in life include: poutine (the food, not the president), War and Peace, pointless Facebook debates, Italian coffee. “One day, Leo will win an Oscar, and I will win Leo’s heart.” Follow Kristina on IG here!
It has always been quite an experience telling people about myself. ‘Hi. Yes, I’m Russian. No, I don’t have a pet bear. Yeah, it does get really cold in the winter. I actually hate vodka..” Once we are through with all the small talk around cultural stereotypes, I’m usually faced with the following question: “So, how are the guys in Russia?” And, man, do I get perplexed every single time…
1. They are real men.
All jokes aside, the bear/vodka/fur Macho Man formula has its roots somewhere. These guys know exactly what’s wrong with your car when it breaks down on the highway, they always carry your groceries up the stairs, and if, God forbid, one of them doesn’t hold a door for you, its “bye, Felicia”. My mom, who raised my younger brother with this kind of discipline, recently observed as the poor kid carried an adult-size suitcase up the stairs, without as much as blinking an eye. And I couldn’t argue. Because you don’t argue with your Russian mother. They are like the Italian mothers, but, instead of loud yelling, they project their opinions on their faces, and trust me when I tell you that you want nothing to do with that.
2. They will treat you like a princess.
For some reason, Valentine’s Day in Moscow happens every other day. One of my friends recently complained to me that she no longer has vases to hold all the ‘stupid broomsticks’ (yes, this is how she refers to the bouquets that guys gift her in an effort to impress her). Mind you, I buy myself flowers. They are expensive. It is hard work being that girl with candles, flowers and pastel colors on her Instagram. Why doesn’t anyone love me as much???
(EN: She’s not kidding, it’s an epidemic! Peruse this Pinterest board and try not to thorn yourself. HA.)
3. As long as you pretend that you are already a princess (and a prude).
I don’t know a single girl in Moscow who would leave a bar with a guy she just met. People will talk, people will judge, your reputation of a “good girl” will be tarnished forever. As a tragic consequence, you will never be able to marry the Moscow ‘dream guy’ (quick summary: he lives downtown, he drives an expensive car, he works in finance), because he will eventually put two and two together and you can kiss that blue Tiffany box goodbye. No, my friends are not gold-diggers. Yes, Moscow is harsh in that way. This is why, whenever I tell my friends back home that I slept with one of my friends but we are definitely not in a relationship, they shake their heads and tell me to “think of my reputation”.
(EN: Thank God I immigrated in 03!)
4. Things will get serious fast.
People don’t just sleep around in Russia. If you want to get it on, you have to get in a relationship. Part of the reason is cultural: Since nobody leaves to go to school in other cities and nobody can really afford to rent their own apartment in one of the most expensive cities in the world, it is completely acceptable to live with your parents throughout your university studies and even after graduation. That said, the whole “let’s go out, pick up a girl and bring her home” spiel doesn’t really work back there, unless you want your mom to make your one-night-stand pancakes in the morning.
5. Maybe too fast.
Every day, I receive a text message from my mother informing me that yet another girl from my dance company has gotten engaged/married/pregnant/had her 5th child. For some reason, Russians in their early twenties are so much more mature than anywhere else I’ve lived in the world. They work, they get married, they invite me for long park walks with their newborn kids in the summer. And then there’s me, going out on a Monday night and having breakdowns when I open my Visa statement at the end of each month. Maybe it’s the harsh reality of growing up in the post-Communism era, maybe it is the well-known Russian romantic pragmatism, but, whenever I come home and go out with people, I end up feeling as though I just graduated middle school and was mistakenly allowed to join the adult table. (EN: Same. And I’m 29.)
At the end of the day, to each their own. People in Russia will never understand the concept of ‘friends with benefits’, or whatever other label we want to put on casual hookups (or just to justify the fact that he’s just not that into us.) Westerners will probably never understand why Russian men find the need to claim you as their girlfriend on the first date, all while quoting Pushkin. And yet, Russian guys will always hold a special place in my heart: They are gentlemen, they are smart, they actually do love carrying you around on their arms – in fact, it happens to be a Russian wedding tradition. Maybe it’s not for everybody, but the same can be said for Americans and the French… But that’s another story for another time.