These Strange People

Podcast Show with Marie Staroverova
and Native Speakers Club
#1 Холодно ли в России и почему русские так мало улыбаются?

Добрый день! Я, Мари Староверова, приветствую вас на шоу "These strange people - Эти странные люди", которое мы делаем совместно с проектом Native Speakers Club.

Native Speakers Club - это уникальное пространство для погружения в иностранные языки в самом центре Москвы.

Слушайте образовательно-развлекательные подкасты с носителями иностранных языков о том, в чем мы разные, а в чем мы похожи. Сегодня у нас в гостях Jesse, и тема нашей беседы "Правда ли что в России очень холодно и русские мало улыбаются?"

Приготовьтесь слушать подкаст на английском языке!
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— Where are you from?
I'm from Canada. I was born in Kelowna, a small town on the shores of a lake called Okanagan, where, legend has it, lives a lake monster called the Ogopogo or Naitaka. It's Canada's version of the famous "Loch Ness" monster of Scotland. Okay, our monster is not as well known as "Nessie" but, if you ask me, it's a lot scarier. Does it really exists? Well, there is a statue of the monster in the city where I was born, so... it must be real! Or how would the artist have known how to make it? But, I suppose I'll have to leave you to make up your own mind on that matter.

As a child I spent time living in Canada and the U.S. as well as various countries in Latin America. My parents worked in English language schools in Columbia, Mexico and Argentina! So I got a good multi-cultural experience from a young age. I also learned Spanish, which has been a great benefit to me over the years. Hola. A donde esta la fiesta? Vamos a bailar! Some important Spanish phrases.

In 1996 my life changed forever. I came to Russia on a humanitarian mission. It was January and it was really, really -- really cold. My colleagues and I spent a few days in Moscow, seeing the sights, taking the photos and paying our respects to Comrade Lenin. Then we traveled to Novosibirsk, where... we froze. In July, when summer finally came, we thawed out and life continued, however, while I was frozen I missed my flight back to the U.S., so I was forced to stay in Siberia.

This was not a bad thing, however, because it was here, in Russia, that I met a beautiful young woman who became my wife! We were colleagues in our humanitarian project and we had a lot in common: for example, our birthday. We are both born on June 12th. And every year the whole great country of Russia celebrates with us! It really is wonderful!

— For how long have you been living in Russia?
I've been here for 20 years. Two - zero. I'm serious. Twenty years. And they have been amazing and wonderful years for me. As a dedicated polyglot and someone fascinated by world culture I have had a real adventure. I have had the opportunity of living here in Russia as it changed from a struggling, post-Soviet, constitutional republic to a… well, I don't think anyone is sure what it is - exactly, but it's a lot better than it was when I first got here.

One thing I appreciate about Russia is the constant challenge that just living here offers you. Being too comfortable all the time makes me… well, uncomfortable. I'm one of those people who loves adventure and change. I seem to thrive on difficulty and challenges of various kinds; unexpected changes and surprising events. So, Russia suits me just fine.

I have had the opportunity of traveling extensively within Russia. I have eaten delicious smoked fish from the Volga as I traveled by train to Moscow. I have eaten sun-dried salted fish with beer on the Black Sea coast and raw frozen fish with the Eskimos in Salekhard on the polar circle.

But Russian food is something that deserves its own podcast.
— There is an opinion among foreigners that it gets really cold in Russia in winter? Do you agree?
Yes, I do!

Most people never experience this kind of cold. I'm from Canada and I thought I knew about cold weather, but when I first got to Russia, I was shocked to see people sitting calmly, selling ice cream on the Red Square in minus 20 degree weather and driving snow.

Of course, the advantage of this marketing strategy is that they could just sell it out of the cardboard box, which is so much more convenient that having to set up a whole electric freezer. I was even more shocked to see people actually buy the ice cream and eat it in that kind of winter weather.
— Was it really cold for you?
Yes, it was.

On the day I arrived in Moscow, I realized that the winter hat I had brought with me was horribly inadequate. The first thing I did was to buy a rabbit skin "ushanka" from the hat vendor who had a market stall next to the ice cream vendor. I felt much better - and even more Russian - once I had put on my new Russian hat. In fact, I felt so Russian and so warm that I bought a "stakanchik" ice cream and ate it as I walked through Red Square towards Lenin's tomb. It was at that moment that I made a discovery: Russian dairy products are really, really good! That was one of the best ice creams I had ever eaten.
— There are scholars in culture studies who believe that the climate of the country influences the national character. Russians tend not to smile much.

Do you think it's because of the climate? Are Russians severe people?
I would have to agree with them.

It really is rather difficult to smile in such cold weather, but inside, Russians are some of the warmest and friendliest people I have ever met! Especially in the warmth of a friend's apartment, with the dining table decorated with a festive meal and wishes of good will and clinking glasses and laughter.

The fact that a blizzard is raging just outside the window is a good reason to feel a deep sense of camaraderie and gratitude. The contrast between harsh Russian weather and warm Russian hearts is a thing to be cherished.