Obviously, I’m generalising again… There are plenty who walk around with a face like a slapped arse and refuse to engage, but virtually everybody I’ve met and spoken to has been incredible (and I haven’t met Putin yet, but even he seems to currently be doing everything in his power to ensure the exchange rate continues to soar so that I get more for my money).
The hosts and receptionists in the places I’ve stayed (Babushka House and Breaking Bed… both highly recommended) have continually gone above and beyond the levels of service you would expect, and some I’ll continue to see socially during my stay with Saint Pete.
One young guy staying in the hostel (who I’d only previously shared a few words with in passing) insisted that I join him for some pasta as he was making a big batch, and despite our limited shared language, ended up chatting for the rest of that night and the next (when he cooked for me again!… I decided to get us a few beers in gratitude).
Russians I’ve met briefly at ex-pat events have later given me lots of help looking for apartments. Strangers I meet in bars are genuinely interested in sharing stories and their time. The ladies in the haberdashery shop were awesome. Yesterday when I went for business lunch there was no menu and the waitress didn’t speak any English, but a girl (who was getting dressed to leave… putting her coat on, it wasn’t a naked lunch) heard me struggling and stayed to translate for me.
I’ve been welcomed into family homes… actually, welcomed as part of the family, so I now have an adopted two-year old Russian nephew (which is lovely, because I won’t get to see my own nephews until Christmas). I’ve been taken around art exhibitions, taken out for nights on the town, invited away for the weekend. I’ve been privy to many open and honest discussions about several aspects of Russian life and culture.
Seriously, the kindness of (former) strangers, has made my first two weeks in this country amazing. Long may it continue!