Wednesday, June 29, 2016

What It's Like to Be a Foreigner in Russia


I was initially going to write a post about the performance the camp put on a few weeks ago, but I decided to go a different route. One thing that may shock foreigners is the Russian attitude towards them. I, of course, am writing this from the perspective of an American in a city much smaller than Moscow. Attitudes of individual people may differ as much as the cities themselves. Don't get me wrong I've had my fair share of rude people like that drunk guy who started yelling at me on the bus because he heard me speaking English. However, it was the help of a Russian girl who made sure I was okay after the ordeal.

When I first moved here I was overwhelmed with being a foreigner. It was like I had a giant sign telling everyone that I wasn't Russian. People were very kind to me, but after living here for almost a year, I'm starting get a more basic understanding of how Russians feel about foreigners. As an American the two questions you will get the most are, "How do you feel about Putin?" and "Do you like Obama?" This might turn you off but I can tell you that Russians are much more than there politics.

Russians are honestly some of the nicest, most appreciative people I have ever met. They treat foreigners like royalty especially those people who live outside of the city. I feel like a celebrity here sometimes and it's quite overwhelming because there is nothing special about me. When I presented at the international seminar in April people were asking to take pictures with me and Elizabeth. I just thought it was because we were presenting, but then when one of the Russian teachers gave a presentation no one asked for a picture afterwards. It was awkward. The other day my friend, Demetri, and I were sitting on a bench talking when one guy came up to us and said, "Americans! I'm from Moldova" and asked if he could take a picture with us. Demetri isn't even American...

The most overwhelming part of being a foreigner is being showered with gifts you feel like you don't deserve which brings me back to the summer camp and the pictures in this post. A few months ago Patrick, my roommate, went to a village a few hours outside of Ufa to give a presentation with our director. He came back with, I swear, 10 pounds of honey and a goose! The village had presented him with a goose for coming to visit. The other week Elizabeth and I were on the bus and several people started talking to us. A girl named Nastya asked Elizabeth to write her a letter and someone else offered us a baked good. 
Katherine and Irina were two Americans who were in Ufa with the Fulbright Program. They helped out where I work and at the summer camp. Although Irina couldn't stay for the talent show Katherine did. They presented her a beautiful scarf and a shirt with a ballerina someone drew on the back! When Anna Maria, an American working in Kazan, came to teach some classes and hold a professional development class she was given gifts as well as a performance for her work. I made a short video of the performance they put on for her. When she was speaking to the room she spoke for all of us when she said, "We are just normal people. We don't need all of this." I am so appreciative of what I am given, but sometimes I don't feel I deserve it, mostly because I don't.

Are you, or have you ever been, a foreigner living in another country? How were you treated by the local people?

9 comments

  1. aw the video is so cute. I enjoyed this post!

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  2. Really enjoyed the video you posted along with this blog, especially of the children signing the Beatles cover of "Let It Be." As for myself, I have not lived abroad anywhere before nor has my Girlfriend. However, she is of West Indian decent, and was mistakenly considered as a "local" quite a few times during our 2 week trip around Brazil during World Cup 2014. All in a positive way, of course.

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    1. I think everyone loves a good Beatles song! I don't think you need to live in a country to experience how the local's will treat you. It definitely gives you more opportunity and a broader understanding though. I'd be interested in hearing both of your perspectives since she was mistaken as a local and you were not. Did you find that they treated you any different?

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  3. That video is too cute! I felt the same way the first place I worked as it was in a city that wasn't opened until after the collapse of the USSR (it's a naukograd so ... no foreigners!). In Moscow, though? No one cares.

    I do feel like the gift thing is absolutely exacerbated by the natural Russian tendency to give gifts. My first year I received 7 bottles of really nice alcohol from a class of 10 people!

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    1. Oh, wow! That would be kind of interesting to experience. There are a lot of foreigners here, but they are mostly from the 'stans or China. Although, I know now there are a lot more Americans. I feel like Moscow would be like the USA. People ask me all the time if there are Russians living in the USA. I say, "Yes, but it's not anything shocking."

      Yeah, I feel like I should have wrote this post differently. I was actually writing a post on hospitality and then deleted the whole thing because I wasn't liking where I was going with it. I feel like as an American though I'm just surprised how they treat me because I feel like there are a lot of stereotypes in the USA that Russians hate Americans and it could be the other way where they basically ignore me because I am a foreigner.

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  4. What did the teacher give a presentation on?

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    1. She didn't give a presentation. She was getting gifts because she was moving back to the USA.

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  5. So who was the woman with the curly black hair? And what was she holding in her hands?

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