I don’t know many people who have been to Russia, so while planning this trip, I have been open to talking to as many folks as possible to get an idea of what I should expect once I arrive. I’m beyond excited to hit the road again and see a new place, but I must admit that I am more nervous about this trip than any other I have taken. Let me explain.
Failing to find friends to lean on for tips about the world’s largest country, I was so excited to meet not one, but two girls from Russia in the same day. “What luck!” I thought. I spoke with both women in totally separate times and places. To the best of my knowledge, these women did not know each other, nor have any knowledge of my conversation with the other. Amazingly, the conversations we had followed an identical script.
After letting each girl know that I was fling to Moscow in a few weeks, they both became visibly excited for my trip and me. Both smiled back at me with a wide grin, pleased to find how much interest I had in their home. They were both quick to ask who I knew in Russia, to which I replied, “no one.” Immediately their wide grins flattened and their eyebrows narrowed with an expression of confusion. Their faces seemed to say, “who goes to Russia without knowing someone there first?”
Deciding I could not be that crazy, they both asked, “but you speak Russian, right?”
Again, their faces dropped, but this time they expressed genuine worry and concern. My face surely mirrored theirs as my own level of concern rose dramatically. They each offered the exact same consolation.
“Well, you’re going to love it. It’s a great place. But… Don’t trust anyone.”
Compared to the Thai people, the Russian people are not known to be, shall we say, “warm.” Further, corruption runs rampant, even among police and government officials. And to compound all of this, I have been told that very little English is spoken anywhere in the country. Unable to speak or read Russian gives me an understandable amount of worry.
After these conversations, I began doing my own research to see if these girls’ advice was really warranted. I’ve found mixed reviews around the Russian people’s trustworthiness, but there is good reason to believe what these women told me is true. As evident by some of the most recent viral YouTube clips, Russians don’t even trust other Russians. Check out the videos below to understand why it is now commonplace to have a dashboard mounted camera always rolling in one’s car. If this much evidence is needed to keep both citizens and police accountable and honest, it’s easy to imagine how two tourists from New York might be taken advantage of…