So after leaving the girl standing at the bar (I have her business card and will talk to her again about work opportunities, but last night I thought it best to move on), and saying goodbye to my US consulate gang, I met a couple of Australians who were living in Stockholm and had come to visit Saint Pete for a few days…
Actually, if you get the overnight ferry across from Stockholm you can get a transit visa for (I think) 48 hours, so don’t need to go to all the hassle of getting a tourist visa invitation and hotel booking confirmation (or if you are staying with friends a fake hotel confirmation… trust me, it’s easier that way. welcome to Russia), but these guys were staying longer so flew. I mention it only because (even from the UK) it is a fairly easy option for a short stay… Or if you don’t mind paying a bit extra you can get the guys at Real Russia to sort out all the fake documentation and apply for the visa for you.
Anyway, they’d been talking with some local girls who’d gone to the bar and when they returned laughing-boy here starts talking almost exclusively in Russian… I used to be able to speak Swedish when drunk, but last night my head was full of Russki (that isn’t a drink!). Actually the girl at the bar had accused me of being wasted, which I denied… although I think what I really meant was “trust me, I can get a lot more wasted than this!”
Okay so the title of this post is a bit misleading… I certainly wasn’t showing off to the girls, who must instantly have realised that my Russian is still very limited (but everybody loves a trier), and I wasn’t showing off to the Australians (although they were mighty impressed), because I immediately told them that I was only really using a few basic phrases and I regularly had to ask for replies to be repeated or explained.
In fact I don’t think showing off is really in my nature at all (although those who know me might disagree), as my parents taught me the value of humility from a very early age. I remember as a kid having a kick-about (football, not fighting) with another kid and his dad. I thought we had them licked and got a bit upset with my dad on the way home because I felt he’d kinda let them win. He calmly pointed out to me that it didn’t really matter who was seen to win. We both knew that we could have won, and the other kid (and perhaps dad) would’ve had a real strop if they’d lost, so better for us to let them win.
I think if anything I was showing off to myself last night, and for me that can only be a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, I know what I’m good at and don’t mind taking credit for it, but I’m just as likely to redirect that credit onto someone else if I feel they need it more, because I feel I can live without it. And actually I can often unnecessarily put myself down… But sometimes it’s good to show yourself that you can do stuff (for instance getting by in a new language) and remind yourself that you can be awesome. Not that I’m saying I was, but you know what I mean.
I have now gone from telling people that I poorly speak/understand Russian (in Russian of course), to telling them that I speak/understand a little Russian. His name is Vladimir and he wears platform shoes to make up for it.
I spent the rest of the night speaking a lot of Russian to lots of people… Incidentally, if you are interested in learning Russian yourself (and they’re taking over all the best holiday resorts so at some point you may have to) then I’d recommend an online course called Russian Accelerator. There is so much grammar in Russian but this course deals with all of that (and vocabulary) in a really natural way which is easy to understand, and in nice bite sized chunks.
Perhaps most importantly I was taught quite early in the course a number of phrases for asking what words mean, how to say English words in Russian, please repeat more slowly, etc… And in honesty that is what got me by last night.
It isn’t free but there’s a $1 trial that I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys learning new stuff, whether you ever intend to take on the full course or not… and no, they aren’t sponsoring me, but I’m not afraid to shamelessly plug anything that I genuinely believe in.