Before you begin working your way to foreign language fluency, it helps to understand the culture behind the language you’re learning. After all, language exists to help a group of people express their ideas and beliefs. Russia is a vast country with a rich history and culture. As you begin your Russian language program, gaining a strong grasp on this history, the values, and the etiquette will help you rapidly achieve success. In particular, Russians have a history of avoiding conversations over the telephone while taking every other opportunity to talk in person.
There is this joke all over the Internet about Russians and telephones. According to the online joke, one sign that you have stayed enough in Russia if you start picking up the phone and yell “Алло, алло, алло” even when the other person on the line did not say anything.
When you call a Russian, you may get the impression that he or she is a very impatient individual. Imagine a person not even bothering to introduce himself or herself. However, in Russia, you save time when you do this; instead just say, “Алло” or as it is often pronounced “аллё,” which is the standard way of answering the phone. For a foreigner’s ears, it can sound angry, unfriendly, or abrupt but it is just the way it is. There are many people who say “да” (“yes”) when picking up the phone, but “алло”is still more common.
Surprisingly though, Russians enjoy talking. You will find that the conversations typically last for hours, plus the fact that the city calls are quite cheap. However, most Russians do not trust phones. Phone tapping was widespread in the Soviet Union and even after several years, people are still wary of telephones.
In general, Russians avoid talking on the telephone as much as possible. This is why they do not like leaving or even checking their voicemails. When you call a Russian on the phone, you should not expect a warm welcome. While it may bother you, the person you are calling is not being rude at all. It is just a different culture, and soon enough, you will get used to it.
While the Russian bear is something that is often thought of when talking about the personalities of the country’s people, they are actually a caring bunch. It turns out that most Russians feel as though it is their responsibility to sit down and talk with people who are having a hard time. The Russian cities are seeing an abundance of counseling centers popping up but in the smaller towns, just getting together and talking things over is still the preferred avenue.
The saying usually goes that people are supposed to be able to talk to their friends when they are having a hard time. People are also supposed to be able to share their personal details with relative strangers if they really need help. If they really just want a shoulder to cry on, most Russians will say they are willing to fill that role.
While the outside view of the Russians might be one of a “tough guy” who never lets anything bother him, it’s not hard to tell that, eventually, even the toughest of tough guy is going to be willing to bare his soul, if that’s what he thinks is called for. The people of Russia believe that counseling certainly helps, but it is kind of a source of pride that they might be able to help their friends and neighbors without having to go that route. They do not want anyone to feel as though they can’t talk to someone about an issue, if there is something that truly needs to be talked about with others.