Now I’ve been here a while…

12 ways to tell you live in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk:

1)  You call an 8-minute drive to work a commute.

2)  Everyone you know works for one of six companies.  Everyone’s salary is ultimately paid by one of two.

3)  You find yourself describing the previous winter to newcomers.  You find yourself exaggerating the depth of snow, the temperature, and practically everything else.

4)  You find yourself asking such questions as “Can you buy a bike here?” or “Where can I buy a light bulb?”

5)  You watch all your sports on TV after midnight.

6)  You watch the latest blockbuster films 3 weeks before their release in the US.  You are almost used to them having been recorded in a Malaysian cinema with a video camera.

7)  You doubt anyone at home will believe you when you describe the Russian women.

8)  If you are stationary at a junction for more than 90 seconds, you start complaining about the traffic.

9)  Items on sale in the supermarket become topics of conversation.

10)  Drinking in a nightclub until 7am is, for the first time since college, socially acceptable.

11)  You have three dates permanently etched in your mind: next leave, date you leave for good, estimated date when Gazprom boots all the expats out.

12)  Wars rage, governments fall, stock markets crash, trophies are won, kings are born, cities are destroyed…and you know nothing about any of it.

UPDATE

And a further 15, promoted from a comment courtesy of “BearBait”, who I was reliably told was supposed to be working today:

13) You think nothing of paying USD3000 for an apartment refurbished with leopard skin touches, a dodgy boiler, pneumatic door bolts and an alcoholic living in the stairwell.

14) You start to eat mayonnaise with everything.

15) You dont blink at paying USD10 for 4 dubious looking tomatoes in winter.

16) The smell of apartment stairwells is compellingly comforting.

17) Its suddenly completely normal to go camping in the middle of nowhere and meet 30 men in camo who want you to drink vodka shots, eat boiled eggs and salted tomatoes (grown in their dachas).

18) You describe the death toll in terms of construction accidents, road fatalities, icicle impalings and bear munchings.

19) You are no longer phased by swarthy men drinking their 2nd Baltika at 8am on your way to work.

20) If a Bubushka approaches when you are a queue you give her wide berth. You’ve been here too long when you shove back.

21) You always keep spare change for the incredibly jolly legless man at Dom Trgovli Rynok.

22) You plan your vacations around the melt season in April/May.

23) During home leaves you become overwhelmed in Tescos, then you see they sell Baltika and you buy it for nostalgia.

24) The first time you forgot to deactivate your apartments alarm 5 men in black armed with Kalashnikovs burst into your foyer.

25) You can discuss the finer points of the latest Uaz Patriot.

26) You walk carefully like a penguin all winter in Northfaces finest ice boots being overtaken by impossibly glamorous Russian ladies in skyscraper high heels.

27) You find a copy of your companies HSE safety measures from your induction and realise that you socialise in all the black zones.

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15 Responses to Now I’ve been here a while…

  1. BearBait says:

    13) You think nothing of paying USD3000 for an apartment refurbished with leopard skin touches, a dodgy boiler, pneumatic door bolts and an alcoholic living in the stairwell.
    14) You start to eat mayonnaise with everything.
    15) You dont blink at paying USD10 for 4 dubious looking tomatoes in winter.
    16) The smell of apartment stairwells is compellingly comforting.
    17) Its suddenly completely normal to go camping in the middle of nowhere and meet 30 men in camo who want you to drink vodka shots, eat boiled eggs and salted tomatoes (grown in their dachas).
    18) You describe the death toll in terms of construction accidents, road fatalities, icicle impalings and bear munchings.
    19) You are no longer phased by swarthy men drinking their 2nd Baltika at 8am on your way to work.
    20) If a Bubushka approaches when you are a queue you give her wide berth. You’ve been here too long when you shove back.
    21) You always keep spare change for the incredibly jolly legless man at Dom Trgovli Rynok.
    22) You plan your vacations around the melt season in April/May.
    23) During home leaves you become overwhelmed in Tescos, then you see they sell Baltika and you buy it for nostalgia.
    24) The first time you forgot to deactivate your apartments alarm 5 men in black armed with Kalashnikovs burst into your foyer.
    25) You can discuss the finer points of the latest Uaz Patriot.
    26) You walk carefully like a penguin all winter in Northfaces finest ice boots being overtaken by impossibly glamorous Russian ladies in skyscraper high heels.
    27) You find a copy of your companies HSE safety measures from your induction and realise that you socialise in all the black zones.

  2. Tatyana says:

    Please expand on num.7

  3. Tim Newman says:

    Tanya,

    To a westerner, there seems to be an incredible number of extremely attractive women in Russia, and they seem to outnumber the men by quite some margin. I have yet to meet a single western man who has not noticed and commented on this (and a few women have made the remark, too). In short, the place seems to be full of great looking women.

    We’re talking only about physical attributes here, and I am reluctant to go into a discussion about what it is like to become involved with some of these women lest I start recalling certain aspects of my first trip to Russia!

    But when the blokes at home ask what the women are like, a lot of the men who’ve been here get accused of exaggerating the situation (which they might do a bit, but not a lot). Hence we joke amongst ourselves that the blokes back home would never believe us if we tell them what the place is like in respect of the local girls.

    (With one eye on the image of a potentially grumpy wife, I must point out that I have never actually seen any of these women myself, I am oblivious to them all, I have only heard people speak about them, and as far as I am concerned there is only one woman on Sakhalin Island, the rest of the population consisting in their entirety of hairy-arsed men.)

  4. Tatyana says:

    Tnx for clarification, Tim.
    The discription, on par with the mention of $3000 crappy apartments, &c, makes me think the phenomenon is pretty (or PrettyWomen, if you please) self-selecting. Simply speaking, market forces of supply and demand in action.

  5. JJ says:

    Item 5 – this is normal for most Australians and you’re on Australian Eastern Standard time (give or take a bit of out-of-synch daylight saving time) – it has it’s advantages since most sports addicts (who have a regular job) merely have to cope with serious sleep deprivation to follow the rest of the sports world, rather than “throw a sickie”.

  6. Dear Tim,

    Hilarious and easily recognisable list, which I have been returning to over the last weeks. I especially like BearBait’s example #13, with the leopard skins and everything.

    Yours,

    Vilhelm

  7. Lyndon says:

    Excellent list – some of those (overpriced, amusingly decorated apartments) ring true for other parts of Russia, others (like the light traffic) must be Sakhalin-only.

    By the way, have you seen/heard about this – http://lenta.ru/news/2007/07/10/sun/ – ? Seems like an interesting story…

  8. Alexander says:

    Thanks for the list – so funny and so true!

  9. Pingback: Were you in Kuibyshev? » Can you talk about the newest Uaz Patriot? I can…

  10. Just browsing the internet, very interesting blog

  11. Matt says:

    Hi there, great blog. Can only agree about Russian women. You find yourself in the middle of the East Siberian wilderness and there, out of nowhere, you can see the most stunning beautiful woman appear. Amazing.

    I will never forget a secretary I saw in the area of Khabarovsk a couple of years ago. The whole business discussion died when she entered the room with a coffee tray… :)

    Today I am in fact married to one of them, so now there is only one left… AND I also do what I’m told.

    Will visit this blog again. I like the way you describe the Russian society with a mix of criticism and respect. There is crap, but there are also a few good things.

    Matt in London, previously China.

  12. Matt says:

    Enjoy the time in Sakhalin! Sounds quite exotic. I got to know a woman from Sakhalin during my time in China in fact (many Russians go/move there, to CN). She was cool. The ‘eat iron-shit-chain’ (Swedish saying..) type of person, but still feminine. Like Swedish women but x factor 5… :-)

  13. Dinc says:

    Great post!

  14. Natalie says:

    28. The colour of your clothes variates from the black to dark gray.
    29. When someone asking you about the weather conditions in Sakhalin, you have only 3 seasons in your mind: 1-Winter, 2-Melt Season and 3-”Am i back to England?” season
    30. When a newbie asking you a simple Q:”Where the 777 bar is?” you can explain with a brilliant accuracy how to get there, plus you’ll suggest a few more places to visit like 8lounge, Cona Bar, Mishka pub and Chipollinis…and Chastie…
    31. You have at least 5 different numbers of the Taxi in your phone.
    32. You celebrate a new year twice
    33. You stop misusing words “babushka” and “devushka”
    34. You stop misusing “Skolko” which means(how much?)and “Suka” which means…something slightly different
    35. If someone yells “Hey, here is Tim!!!”, without even looking you’ll know exactly who the talk is all about.

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