Just a few unique items of observation in my two months here.
Applause, Applause: In Russia, when the pilot makes a successful landing, the passengers applaud. No idea what happens if it’s a bad landing and I am not interested in finding out.
Toilet seat: The seat is always up. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Ladies room. It doesn’t matter if a women used the toilet just before you. The seat will be up.
Glasses: I found sunglasses to be especially difficult to find here. I could go to a specialty store where they only sold expensive sunglasses, but I won’t pay that much for something I’ll lose, break or leave behind. In fact, I’ve never seen so many expensive stores in all my life.
Photos: All over the world, I’ve offered to help people take photos. It seems like a kindness to help out a group of people so that everyone can be in the picture. I look (and am) harmless, so I’m seldom turned down. People simply smile, hand me their camera and pose. When I am turned down, it’s usually with kindness and gratitude. Not so in Russia. Offer to take a photo for a Russian couple and they look at you like you are a thief. A man actually made a threatening gesture at me this week and I’m pretty sure he called me an impolite name.
Commerce: Capitalism is done differently here, or maybe they just don’t have the hang of it. Tour buses have no ads or sign posts to make it easier for a tourist to find them. You almost have to chase them down. Store clerks are indifferent to your presence. I hate shopping, so I hate it when a sales person won’t let me browse, but I don’t want to beg you to take my money, either. There must be a happy medium.
Annoyances: There’s lots of little things that I find annoying here. For example, the audio guide on the tour bus has 8 languages, but it jumps back to Russian every few minutes. People are constantly mixing up left and right, even in recorded or printed messages, even among folks who speak English very well. I don’t understand this, but I finally got folks to show me directions rather than tell me.
Language, and not in a good way: in Moscow I’ve seen more T-shirts with the f-word than everywhere else I’ve traveled combined. And other shirts say rude things that indicate that the wearer does not care about anyone else. I’ve seen THREE different women wearing shirts with the words “F@ck your girlfriend.” These appear to be worn by Russians, though I can’t be sure (they weren’t Asian tourists). I have no idea if these people know what the shirts say.
Barricades: There’s lost of construction, so there are many barricades up which makes walking difficult. What surprises me is how few baricades or signs there are in tourist places, like the Kremlin or Red Square. There are lots of places you aren’t supposed to go, but they typically post a few security personnel with whistles to keep you out. You don’t know you’re breaking the rules until you’ve already done it. Having security scold me is just one more thing that makes me feel unwelcome.
Metal Detectors: They are everywhere, but most places don’t use them. At the underground mall, GUM department store and numerous places, they are operational, but The security offices pay no attention as they go off. At the metro, they are turned off, but you have to walk through or around them. Where they are used, like the Kremlin or Lenin’s Tomb, they slow everything down. There were only about 50 people in front of me at the Kremlin, but it took 45 minutes to enter. The whole time, I was standing outside in the rain.