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Often Russians appear very restrained, formal or downright glum. But there is a dichotomy between their public (where for so many generations they dared not show their true feelings) and private appearances. In informal and private situations or after friendship has been established, the Russian character is charged with emotional warmth, care and humor. They are intensely loyal and willing to help. Arriving in or leaving the country merits great displays of affection, usually with flowers, bear hugs, kisses and even tears of sorrow or joy. If invited to someone`s home for dinner, expect elaborate preparations. Russians are some of the most hospitable people in the word. If you do not like drinking too much alcohol, watch out for the endless round of toasts!
The formal use of the patronymic (where the father`s first name becomes the child`s middle name) has been used for centuries. For example, if Ivan names his son Alexander, he is known as Alexander Ivanovich. His daughter Ludmilla`s patronymic becomes Ivanovna. Especially in formal or business dealings, try to remember the person`s patronymic. As in West, where Robert is shortened to remember the person`s patronymic. As in the West, where Robert is shortened to Bob, for example, Russian first names are also shortened once a friendship is established. Call your friend Alexander “Sasha”, Mikhailll “Misha”, Ekaterinaa “Katya”, Tatyana “Tanya” and Mariya “Masha”, or even use the diminutive form “Mashenka”.
Here are some customs and superstitions that may be useful to remember if you are visiting a Russian home:
- Never shake hands over a threshold; it can lead to an argument or misunderstanding.
- Never whistle indoors, it will blow your money away.
- Never light a cigarette from a candle, it brings bad luck.
- Bring only an odd number of flowers, even numbers are for funerals.
- If invited to a Russian home, always try to bring a small gift such as food or drink.
- While in a Russian home, expect to remove your shoes and wear the traditional tap`pechri (slippers).
- Do not overly admire a household item, often it will be gifted to you upon departure.
- Before departing it is expected to one last sit down with friends or associates, it is a good luck gesture for your return.