A Russian’s View of Britain

In the comments section of the post immediately below, frequent commenter L.S. points me towards an article in the UK’s Daily Mail regarding a book written by a young Russian woman about her experiences living in London.  I had a look, and normally I’d not bother writing a post about it, but it’s melt season here in Sakhalin, the place is under a foot of mud, everyone is either bored or depressed, and there’s not a lot to talk about that I didn’t already say last year.

So let’s take a look.

A young Russian woman’s book about the pitfalls of living as an immigrant in Britain has become a surprise best-seller in Moscow … and it paints a distinctly unflattering portrait of the natives.

The biggest surprise for me in this passage is that the book’s popularity in Moscow came as a surprise.  Lots of nationalities enjoy reading one of their own slagging off another place and its people, and Russians are no exception to this.

Instead of finding London the city of her dreams, 23-year-old Olga Freer moans about the shopping hours, the public transport and the bad manners she encounters.

I don’t know what her complaint is about the shopping hours, but I’d agree with her on the public transport and bad manners.  But how naive can you be to arrive in London expecting it to be the city of your dreams?  A cursory 2-hours reading a UK newspaper would tell you as much as you’d need to know.

In a litany of complaints about her adopted country, in her book The UK For Beginners she claims that Britons:

• Habitually scratch their bottoms in public places;

• Never remove the price stickers from the soles of their shoes;

• Fail to iron their clothes; and

• Are obsessed with TV programmes about buying and selling houses.

If these are examples of the complaints she has with the people of London, I’d say she’s got off lightly.  Every country has its quirks and unsavoury habits.  Would an impartial observer think that the public behaviour of Russians, their approach to clothes and fashion, and their TV preferences are any better than those of Britons?  I doubt it.

She says the country is full of “prudish, arrogant people who eat healthy food for breakfast – porridge or bacon and eggs. But in reality the nation suffers from obesity”.

Well, London is full of prudish, arrogant people.  And the nation does have a lot of fat people in it, which is a sign of wealth more than anything else (I didn’t see too many fat people in Cambodia).  But I have to laugh that a Russian considers bacon and eggs a healthy breakfast.  No doubt she considers a healthy salad to consist of a jar of mayonnaise with a pea dropped in it.

Some 60 per cent of the female population wear size 22 clothes, she says.

“But being overweight doesn’t stop red-faced English women wearing minis and shaking their haunches at discos – some spectacle! It’s a nation with girls, debauched girls to the last degree. The only sacred thing for them is Christmas, for which they wait 364 days a year.”

It is true, that Russian women are usually of a smaller dress size than their English counterparts, but if we’re going to have a competition to see which women dress and act as the more convincing slappers when they go to a club, then there’ll be no clear winner. 

But there is a crucial difference.  Overweight English women go out and act in an unrestrained manner because they can, as appearance and attracting a man is not especially important to the current generation of twentysomething English women.  As I once commented to a young Russian woman, why does an English woman need to dress up every day to impress men when she earns £40k per year, owns her own apartment, and drives an Audi TT?  She doesn’t.  British society has advanced equality to the point that many women can get by just fine on their own.  By contrast, much of Russian society remains in the 1950s timewarp of male-dominated chauvinism, whereby women feel – usually egged on by ill-informed female friends and relatives – that their sole purpose in life is to find a man, get married, and raise a family, all before they are 20 years old.  Correspondingly, most Russian men value appearances much more highly than education or intellect, the women realise this, and dress up accordingly.  Russian women physically present themselves better because that is their only method to achieving their lifetime goal.  British women are busy achieving their lifetime goal, which is irrelevant to their looks.  This is a simplistic explanation I know, and exceptions abound, but you get my point.

Olga, who faked her CV to find work as a pizza-leaflet distributor, nightclub hostess and shop assistant in Oxford Street, is particularly damning about the “lazy” British working class.

“Every second immigrant achieves much more here than the ordinary Brits,” she writes.

This is true; but it applies equally to Russia. 

“The ordinary Brit, having a choice between education and a job on one hand, and unemployment on the other, would always prefer to live on the dole.”

And this too sounds awfully like Russia.

“Then all they have to do is send £10 notes through the mail as birthday presents for their various children who they don’t see. The greed of these islanders was a real shock to me.”

I wonder how many absent fathers in Russia send money to their children on their birthdays or at any other time?  And isn’t there something ironic about somebody complaining about the greed of others whilst dismissing a £10 gift as being unsatisfactory?

Olga came to Britain in 2002 when she was 18, and married a year later. She now has a son and secured British citizenship.

I’m sure this is doing wonders to improve the image of Russian women who arrive in the West.  What’s the betting her husband is considerably older and rather wealthy?

She writes: “By settling in England I made my dream come true. The only plan I had since I was about 13 was to come here as an immigrant. I had no idea how it would work, but I knew that one day I’d become a UK citizen.”

But by finding a husband within a year and getting up the duff she soon found a way!

“I was so taken up with this idea that it never occurred to me that living in a foreign land, without friends, without mum’s cooking and Latin American soap operas on Russian TV in the evenings, may not make me happy but rather vice versa.”

Latin American soap operas?  And she criticises the viewing habits of Britons!!

“I’m not surprised any more how awful the free health service is.”

Poor though the NHS is, I doubt she was surprised by how awful it was if she’d spent any time at all in the Russian free health service.

“Like everybody else, I curse unreasonably high taxes. I’ve got accustomed to Indian cuisine, which seems to have replaced the traditional fish and chips that I used to dream about.”

She came to work as a nightclub hostess aged 18 and dreamt about fish and chips?  Remember, some people take it as given that Russian women are classier than Brits.

She told The Mail on Sunday last night: “Russian people are more heartful and soulful. I was bought up in the centre of Moscow, but here things are much worse.

“Here, for example, you switch on the water in the kitchen and the water in the bathroom goes off; here the central heating sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. At home it is always warm because the Government takes care of it for you.”

L.S. had a good cackle at this in the comments.  Where to begin?  The problem she describes with the water in British houses is well known, and it is the result of a trade-off between physics and economics.  Why pay for a higher-pressure water system just for the odd occasions when it would be handy to use water in the kitchen and the bathroom?  It can be a pain, but it isn’t half as much of a pain as the water system in Russia, whereby the authorities inexplicably turn off the water to your apartment whenever they like.  Currently, I cannot get cold water between 12 midnight and 6am.  My friend is not so lucky, she can’t get water between 8am and 6pm.  I grew up in rural Wales, and never once suffered an unscheduled disruption to our mains water supply.  People in even semi-rural Russia have standpipes at the end of their roads and lug buckets around.  And they shut off your hot water supply all summer, deeming it unecessary.  As for the home always being warm, it is true provided the government has been kind enough to turn on the heating for you.  If they mis-time it and you get a cold snap, you’re left sitting at home freezing your arse off.

“In Britain if it is your birthday, people send you a £10 or £20 note inside a card – like they can’t be bothered with you.”

Still moaning about the paltry value of gifts in Britain?  Why do I get the impression she spends a lot of time in her husband’s wallet?

“In Russia 99 per cent of people have been to university.”

WTF?!!  This is utter nonsense.  Not anywhere near this percentage has been educated past high-school, never mind gone to university, even in Moscow.  She’s living in cloud-cuckoo land.  Bear in mind that this is the woman who left Russia when 18 to work as a nightclub hostess and deliver pizza leaflets, and you have to wonder what contribution she has made to the educational prowess of Russians.

Here you get on a bus and the way people talk, you can tell they aren’t interested in anything other than football.

I must have missed the intellectual conversations which take place on the mashrutkas across Russia.

“I used to go to the theatre in Russia with my family a lot. But here I went once with my then in-laws and in the interval people were bringing in beer – were they there for the performance or a pint or what?”

My then in-laws? Don’t tell me she’s divorced already?!!

She added: “Britain has a lot of exhibitions from abroad here, but English people don’t seem to appreciate it. I go to museums or exhibitions twice a month and apart from a few Britons, most of the others are Chinese tourists.”

This is probably true.  Russians do tend to appreciate museums more than Brits, especially the young ones.

Olga did concede one thing: “You can cook – I quite like Sunday roast dinners.”

But she added quickly: “When you come home here, you open the fridge and what do you see? It’s all supermarket food or half-cooked stuff. Do Brits ever cook from scratch?”

From one of her earlier sentences, it seems it’s her mum that does all the cooking back in Moscow.  But she’s right, few young Brits cook from scratch compared to young Russians, and I’ve already touched on the reasons why.  Young British women do not see their only role in life as looking after a husband, hence they often have demanding jobs which leave them little time for cooking meals from scratch.  By contrast, a Russian man expects their woman to be slapping a hot meal in front of him on his return from work, and if a woman can’t manage this, she’s probably not going to be seeing much of her husband.

“It is not because your society is incredibly advanced, it is because it is lazy.”

Actually, it is because our methods of food production and distribution is incredibly advanced.  The reason the use of ready-made meals is not widespread across Russia is because few supermarkets are able to sell them, as Russian supermarkets outside a handful of big cities are bloody awful.  I’ve been to the new supermarkets in Moscow, and they are quickly catching up on the sale of ready-made meals.  It’s my betting that once Russian women have the option of cooking from scratch or buying stuff ready made, within a generation they’re going to be doing a lot more of the latter – particularly if their husband is still sat in front of the TV, beer in hand, demanding his dinner.  

Ironically, though, Olga is no fan of the British Government’s immigration policy. She says: “I am against it. You should close your borders.”  

That a Russian is anti-immigration is about as surprising as daybreak.

As I said at the beginning of this post, it is little wonder that her book is popular in Moscow, as thousands of Russian women will be reading with glee about how fat the British women are and how awful their cooking is.  But I’d also hope that plenty of Brits get around to reading it, because the book – coupled with its popularity in Moscow – will almost certainly reveal as much about Russia as it does about Britain.


39 thoughts on “A Russian’s View of Britain

  1. Could be worth a read, just to see if it raises the blood pressure to boiling point or whether she makes any good points in amongst the generalisations. Is the book meant to be funny, I wonder?

    If you can be bothered to update a link, I’m now at wordpress, not blogspot.

  2. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Russia, UK: Olga Freer’s Book

  3. Funny, my first thought was, we need to stop this woman from coming to America.

    Then I thought, Nah, why would she?

    Then I googled a bit and sure enough, her next project is a novel about New York.

    I’m going to petition Homeland Security to put her on a terrorist list, before it’s too late.

  4. Oh, wow Tim, I would have commented on that book before if I knew it would result in this great post.
    You said everything I had in head while reading about her book, and more. Your comparison between the lives of Russian women and British women is so true. One Russian friend once told me she spends 30 minutes dressing and putting make up when she is going out for even 5 minutes to buy cigarettes in the near by Kiosk: “The prettiest only survives” ! I don’t think this is an exaggeration since I have seen some Russian women wearing their high heels and beautiful dresses on beaches (and even for Shashliki) , no kidding !
    And yes, you are right , the author of this book got a divorce in a year after she “secured” citizenship. See The Moscow Times
    Yet she wants tougher immigration laws? Someone pinch me !
    The Times Online article had some really funny comments and more on her:

    It’s easy to write such a shallow book about Russia and Russians. You will even have much more interesting stories if you want to talk about those men going to work early morning drinking Gin-tonic while in the Metro. If one searches for such scenes here; he will end up writing a series of books. It does really take a lot of courage to be objective. Your post debunked the myths she had written and explained those that has a root in reality – thank you for the good read.
    Talking about a good read; I don’t think anyone will ever get it as good as the folk at http://www.exile.ru in their famous:
    “Field Guide To Moscow” :
    This is a piece of work that I simply love. Tim, you have seen everyone in that guide somewhere in Russia; I assure you. Yet, this is good humor and my Russian friends like the guide even more than I do.
    Have a nice day !

  5. Oh horror, horror! What a disgusting city, London! And here I was, carelessly contemplating plans to visit it for a week in the Fall, when my son ([bragging] will be there on 6-weeks’ trader’ training [/bragging]!

    Now, Tim, seriously, if you’d read LJ as regularly as I do, especially Russian-based journals, this nonsense wouldn’t come as a surprise (and worthy of frisking effort.). Although the vitriol is usually spilled on the USA. You can read an example of similar frisking that LJ-user Arbat did to one such Russian travelogue, by a famous (or rather self-proclaimed famous) designer Artemy Lebedev. Lots of wholesome fun, I assure you.



  6. When I saw the section on the “healthy” breakfast, I thought the same thing — only a Russian could think that was a nutritious meal. And vodka is a heart remedy!

    The funniest part was the compliant about the medical system: “Freer says she recently contracted chicken pox, and after battling to secure a doctors appointment, was prescribed paracetamol: That is not the way to treat the condition. In Russia, they would put you in hospital for two weeks.

    Yes, they probably would keep you in the hospital for two weeks and on top of that they would lock you in nearly solitary confinement after having a baby. I saw first hand an ambulance team prescribe cognac for chest pains. The medical system is not an area for a Russian to make negative comparisons with the west. Men die at what age in Russia? Of course, there are good hospitals in Moscow and a few other large cities, but for the most part God help you if you are sick in Russia. That reminds me of a British friend that had to literally fight his way out of a Russian hospital to keep his leg from being amputated below the knee. He was perfectly fine two weeks later after self prescribing some antibiotics.

    My wife, a Russian friend and I were just discussing this week the horrible misconceptions that Russians still have today when arriving in the USA. Too many still expect magic, instant wealth and when they don’t find it, well, there must be something wrong with the country. Never mind needing to know English.

    Like the author, many Russians recycle the same stereotypes about foreign lands. I am surprised that she did not say that people asked her if polar bears wander Russian streets. Two Russians admitted to me that they were lying that Americans asked them about polar bears when they studied in America. They said it never happened but that Russians expected to hear that story so they told it.

    A little study rather than load of criticism would carry people much further in a new country. Of course, I saw both Americans and British making the same mistakes as the author when I lived in Russia. If a person gets hung up on some superficial differences — like scratching butts — they will never completely succeed in a new location. I wonder if she ever stopped and think, even for a second, that if everyone is doing something, it might be acceptable in that location.

  7. R, oh common man – she was 18 when she got into the country, a teenager. What do teenager knows? Overblown self-image, simultaneous with self-doubts, need for strong discipline (but not directly delivered), desire to please and at the same time to be praised and noticed – all teenagers are the same, everywhere.
    It’s just that Russians very often got stuck on this stage…
    Still, she’s still too young (what, 22? 23?) to take her opinions as something worthy of attention. She’s no occupation (other than ability to attract men and bear babies for them), no profession, no education to speak of (a H.S., if I understood correctly) – it’s a bit dishonest to seriously consider her “views” as if she somehow represented something typical.

  8. she was 18 when she got into the country, a teenager. What do teenager knows? Overblown self-image, simultaneous with self-doubts, need for strong discipline (but not directly delivered), desire to please and at the same time to be praised and noticed – all teenagers are the same, everywhere.
    Its just that Russians very often got stuck on this stage

    This is why I value Tanya’s contributions to this blog so much. She is a Russian, she knows Russians, and can spot bullshit from three miles away.

    I still remember the subtle bollocking I got from her when I first ventured into the murky world of Russian women. Thank God I grew out of that phase.

  9. Tim, you wouldn’t believe it – I, too, recalled that time when i first read your post, and [silently] noted to myself how much you matured since! But since you mentioned it…

    I attribute it to an influence of a good woman. I mean Julia, of course.

  10. I did not know that Britain was a nation of bum-scratchers. I wonder if the prevalence of bum scratching in the US is one of those leftovers which has been passed down through the generations from when we were colonials. You know, like English common law, capitalism, etc. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Canucks and Aussies are also bum scratchers. Makes you wonder what other bad habits we can blame on the British.

    The fish and chips bit was pretty funny too. I was reminded of a interview on the old Daily Show, a descriptions of which I found here:

    John Cleese on the Daily Show

    Back in the day when Craig Kilborn was hosting, he had John Cleese on as a guest. At the end of every interview, he would have the “Five Questions” segment, where he would ask the guest five generally open-ended questions and then judge their answer right or wrong depending on his whim. When John Cleese was on, the last question Kilborn asked was:

    “Why is English food so bad?”

    Cleese got that teddibly English ‘bemused’ expression on his face and immediately replied:

    “Well, we had an empire to run!”

    (That was the right answer, as it turned out.)

  11. jason, in answer to your question (“what other bad habits…”etc) I have to report, with regret, that the habit is urinating in public. By the male population. Or just having no stops of talking about it – in the presence of a female.
    Now, I have absolutely no proof that a) this habit is common for all former British colonies or b) it is as wide-spread in Britain as in US c) even it’s wide-spread in US.
    I base it solely on personal-anecdotal data. But it is shocking nevertheless.

    American males have absolutely no quibbles in telling you upon seeing the first time in their life about their urinal difficulties or an urge to ease themselves, or demonstrate the urgency of this desire by using inanimate objects (trees, building corners, etc) as props. Sometimes they justify it by way of saying – I had 3 beers! or pass on explanation altogether.

    And now I notice that females of the species started to follow suit, too. Not necessarily doing it yet (thank god) but having no problem of saying on their blog, f.ex. “And now, turkeys, I have to leave you cz I gotta go pee”.

  12. Tatyana,
    I enjoy reading your comments and insight. I totally agree with Tim that your contribution to this blog is valuable and interesting.
    Thank you

  13. Oh you’re welcome.
    Such a rare remark..usual reactions range from stunned disbelief to fierce waving of knuckles.

    And now turkeys I gotta go ..cook.

  14. I agree with the sentiments of others with regards to Tatyana’s commenting abilities. I was very sad to see her close down her blog.


    Men simply urinate wherever it is feasible. It is our birthright. I would assume this is a universal rule. You learn from a young age, when out in the country camping/hunting/fishing, that the world is your urinal, and to embrace that fact. It’s a liberating thing really. However, doing such in full view of others is in bad taste, in my opinion. One should find a secluded alleyway or corner.

    As for the need to inform others, well, that can be crass when in mixed company. If women are not present, there isn’t a need to be polite, but if men are making such pronunciations in earshot of a female, it is either due to them not having any manners or that they consider the female to be one of the guys. If it is the latter, the female should actually feel flattered because it indicates a level of trust that men generally don’t have around women.

    Well all that, or manners are considered too elitist in some circles.

  15. oh if only.
    *A guy at the business meeting – where, mind you, he’s supposed to impress the clients – think nothing of excusing himself from the table with further detailing, out loud, destination of his departure. Why? Was he thinking it’s polite? Was he marking his territory?

    *A [different] guy bringing a date to his home for a first time, offering courteously his hand for support as she exits the car, then asks her to hold the bag with the bottles they brought – and just casually sprinkles the car tire. What the hell was it? Let me assure you, the female wasn’t flattered. No siree.

    * Yet another guy…oh well. Same thing, different actors.
    I give up.

  16. The first situation could be consider somewhat polite if his leaving the group would be considered inconsiderate without giving an explanation. This is more common with older men over the age of 40, though, who are also serial offenders in bathroom etiquette as well. It really sucks to have to carry on a business conversation with your boss while both standing at the urinals, but what are you going to do.

    The second situation is just bizarre. I don’t believe that would be considered normal on any level. I would say that guy is probably not a “keeper”.

  17. A [different] guy bringing a date to his home for a first time, offering courteously his hand for support as she exits the car, then asks her to hold the bag with the bottles they brought – and just casually sprinkles the car tire. What the hell was it? Let me assure you, the female wasnt flattered. No siree.

    I have to reiterate your question here, Tanya: what the hell was it? I have no idea. A car tyre? Is he a dog, or something?

    I can understand going against a tree when hopelessly drunk, but on car tyre outside his home? That’s plain weird.

    I agree with Jason’s explanation of the first scenario you mention…people sometimes feel they have to give a reason for leaving the table, and not wanting to lie, they tell the truth. And from what I remember from the UK, particularly the aftermath of a Saturday night in any given city-centre, public urinating is widespread over there.

  18. But nobody would think less of him if he would just said “Excuse me a moment, I’ll be right back” – w/o further explanation. Or even if he said he had to use the men’s room. No, that’s too vague, you see. Not telling the truth!

    See, Tim, I was right about the nasty habit originating from the home country! Oink-oink, is all I’m going to say.

  19. Well, she is jewish, so such opinions are to be expected. They used to spit to the giving hand.

    Tho I should agree, there was too many fat people in England when I been to it, and the wealth is probably not the main reason.

  20. Pray, say, Eugene, what you ever give to Jews?
    And would you care to point to a specific Jewish person who ever spit on you?
    (and if they did, I kinda see why…)

  21. Tatyana, I expected such responses, but relax please, I’m not antisemite or something, and it was not personal. It’s just a fact, if you read their blogs on internets, where they write about Russia/USSR (be it their former or current country) you’ll see what I meant.

  22. No, I woudn’t see.
    You asserted a particular statement. I asked you to back it up with facts.

    Sorry to break it to you: you ARE an anti-Semite. And a lier.

  23. Tatyana, I expected such responses, but relax please, Im not antisemite or something, and it was not personal.

    No, of course you’re not an antisemite. It’s “legitimate criticism”, right?

  24. Tatyana, what facts do you need? Some links would be enough? (hint-hint, lurk LJ blogs, or look up the surnames of chiefs of some anti-russian “funds”, you’ll see some strange correllation)
    Also I’m not a lier, nevar, nevar, nevar.

    to a T, Tim. Maybe not so legitimate in these times though.

  25. Answer the question, retard. I know you’re a victim of 10 centuries of alcoholic inbreeding, so I’ll be charitable and repeat it again:

    what you, you personally, ever gave to a Jew? Names, dates, the dollar amount. The instance of a Jew spitting at you. Names, dates, witnesses.

    You live in a shithole of a country, you fuckturd, where every marginally positive thing around you was conceived by (or being stolen from) a foreigner. Have been for centuries. The country that genetically incapable of rewarding its best hard-working most inventive and productive citizens with anything but Kolyma camps.

    Jews had left your cancer of a country in mass – robbed of their property and persecuted – and the only thing you, botched abortion, are worried about is that they are not grateful enough.

    What a fuckturd.

  26. Umm, Tatyana, I believe the proper English word is “fucktard” not “fuckturd” 😉

  27. No, Jason, you’re late to the latest slang.
    Pity, I can’t take the credit for this one – it belongs to Rachel Lukas.

    It became such an instant hit, the T-shirt sites are offering their illustrated version already.

  28. Just to clarify: it describes an individual that was …er…conceived by turds.

  29. Eugene,
    I don’t know what one should write you other than what Tatyana has already done. I’m simply sick of people like you who make the ugliest and most disgusting comments on Jewish people, then end that with the magical declaration of “I’m not an anti-semitic or anything”, as if saying that lousy excuse will erase the offense of the utter crap you have spewed.
    Anti-russian funds? I think analyzing the secret Jewish conspiracy for world domination comes better with a bottle of Vodka in the morning, agree? Especially when you have a hangover from the night before after some meaningful political discussion with other “intellectuals” like you.

  30. Uh-oh, so knee-jerking reaction and so much hate! But I’m not anti-semitic or anything, really.

    There’s no jewish conspiration (thought it would be nice if it was, just for lulz), it’s just their nature that makes them to do so. Genes and, most important – upbringing. Thousands years living in exile, struggling to keep their national identity between other races have made this. Is it good or not, depends on point of view. They just don’t have that feeling of “What have _you_ done for your country?”, as all these countries they lived in weren’t _their_, if you know what I mean.

    Tatyana (and other commentators too), I see you definitelly don’t want to see the answers I gave to you (looking into certain blogs of Jevish nationals with Russian roots, or on surnames of anti-russian fund managers etc) as you’ve been just plain trolling. Probably hoping to drive me out of my wits, or something. This won’t work. Because, as you can see, I’m quite sober bloke, with broad mind which is clearer than a teardrop of a Christian Baby.

    Also I’m quite enjoying living in my country, thank you. It’s not perfect (though, by my impressions after a few visits it’s better than Germany and almost on par with England), but here I have sex with my women and drink vodka with my buddies. As a refugee living aboad you never be in the middle of your own people. You will never have any friends there and even any companions, as you are will be a second class human and working bee for the rest of your life. There would be one more sentence here, but I don’t want to give to Tim too many reasons to delete the whole post. You wouldn’t understand it anyway.

    What really did threw me out of my wits (just a bit) is that the book is blamed to Russian when the author definitely isn’t one. This is just wrong and very unfair.

  31. What really did threw me out of my wits (just a bit) is that the book is blamed to Russian when the author definitely isnt one.

    I’d say she most definitely is Russian, even if she is Jewish and the Aryan hordes of “pure Russians” deny that she is. There is something deeply disturbing about denying the nationality of somebody whose family has probably lived in the same place for generations and shares all the traits of the locals with the exception of DNA and possibly their grandparents’ religion. In the UK, it is perfectly possible to be Jewish and British. There is simply no contradiction there. Yet the Russians deny that anyone Jewish can be Russian.

    To be fair, this phenomena is not confined to Russia, and there are a good many other countries which like to say that Jews are of a different nationality and most likely have dual loyalties. But there is a word which describes this well, including the notion that a Russian Jew is not Russian. That word is antisemitism.

  32. What you have described, Tim, will be always a mystery to me. I have had the same arguments with many Russian friends; they deny being anti-semitic , yet they almost get mad at you if you say “he/she is a Russian Jew”. They correct me: He is a Jew! I’ll never understand this stupid notion. This is purely Russian, I totally agree with you.
    How sad!

  33. LS: an imperfect analogy would be like calling an American with distant Greek roots a Greek American. Or the same with Italian-Americans. I’d say, here in the States they feel Italian. Abroad – they feel American. All at the same time.
    Bringing religion into the equasion only complicates it even more, since many Jews who were unfortunate enoufh to be born in Russia (or in any of the “brotherly” republics of the former SU) are not practicing Judaism.

  34. Tim, excellent blog as usual. It was nice to get feedback from both a quick-witted brit like Tim and a analytical and bold Russian like Tanya, and I too enjoy your comments very much.
    I really have to commend you, Tanya, for your response to Eugene, that you actually addressed the issue instead of letting it degenerate into a name-calling competition. This is why I like this blog so much. Even the comments of feebler minds are not deleted, and are dealt with appropriately.
    As for myself, I was initially appalled to see people in Russia commonly spitting on the ground at all hours, and was wondering if they were making a gestural comment about the presence of a foreigner in their vicinity, but it happened too often and by so many people to be a comment about me.
    I have since sadly taken to imitating that habit, but I limit myself to dark hours. Strangely, it gives me a sense of belonging, of integrating, by imitating the however horrid local customs.
    As for urinating, I have once observed from a window a young woman crouching and performing the act behind a container in broad daylight, but I assumed the need must have been quite pressing, and the exception rather than the rule. Now that I think about it, given the abundance of drinking, I am surprised by the rarity of male public urinating that I have observed.
    In any case, living in Russia is for me a fascinating experience, and whatever cultural differences I observe, I tend to accept after a while, except perhaps the amazingly efficient bureaucracy.

  35. Hello, I was looking for “White Sun of the Desert” the movie, and found this.
    I am Spaniard, married to a Russian, and have travelled several times to Britain and can say I know well enough Britons.
    The girl critics of Britain are a mish mash. A lot of sillyness, but a lot of accurate observations as well. I find it unsurprising that with the total absence of self critic and marked jingoism of the British, the unflattering view of Britain by this silly Russian girl stungs.
    I also see the author of this blog hasn’t really understood Russia or get integrated in Russian society, despite speaking the language. He is the archetypical British Empire colonial (or imperialist pig, if you prefer) that stands aloof from the benighted natives he is forced to live among. To be fair, criticism of Russia would be equally scathing.

    However, the author of this blog got it completely wrong. Feminism and the so called equality and liberation of women are a swindle, and a catastrophe that is dooming western societies and their first victims are women themselves. Communism forced upon Russia an impossible gender equality. After the war, men wanted to go back to a home, and women were relieved to leave the factories and the front and be bourgueois house wives like before the Revolution. You can’t sell feminism to Russian women.Done that, bought the t-shirt. They are not interested. They WANT a man, love, sex, children. Those are the good things in life and what is important for them. Liberated women will feel the urge when the biological clock starts ticking, and they will realize how empty their lives are and the career doesn’t give the fullfillment of having a family when they are forced to have conversations with their microwaves on their own empty appartments.

    Tim Newmann, dump your British girlfriend or wife, and get married to a Russian. You don’t know what you are missing, and you will save yourself a lot of grief and misery when your British wife divorces you.
    Contrary to popular opinion MOST russian (ukranian, byelorrusian.. slav in general etc) women don’t marry for the money or a foreign passport. They want a husband and a family, and will be happy with you and make you happy.

    I married one three years ago and everyday I ask me why I didn’t travel to Russia before.


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