“That’s how we do it” or Moscow oddities that make people think “WTF!?”

Tourists and visitors pass by a two-story Louis Vuitton suitcase erected in Moscow's Red Square. Politicians didn't like it, the public didn't like it, so the gigantic suitcase is being booted out.

Every city in the world probably has some oddities that can’t be explained or justified. Faced with those most inexplicable things, we cinematically raise our arms to the sky and freeze in silent question, “WTF?”.

I felt that way when in Stockholm on a weekday evening (it was about 9PM) I couldn’t find an open bar (seriously, how so?). Or, when it turned out that in Turkey they have no idea about how to cook a good Doner (the disappointment of the century!). Or, when I first saw “Lard in Chocolate” on the menu of a Kiev restaurant (frankly, I still don’t understand what justifies the existence of this dish).

I was wondering what Moscow oddities cause newcomers and tourists to react the same way. It turned out that what is a “WTF?” moment for one, is “Ok” for another.

“The cult of country houses”
Gani from Almaty, Kazakhstan

– A suburban cult widespread in Moscow is really surprising. So much interesting stuff is going on in the city on the weekends, but people prefer to instead drive to the dirty countryside to dig in the garden from Friday to Sunday … WTF?


“American food instead of Russian”
Trey from Houston, USA

– The American themed restaurants were all too weird.

– What was weird about them?

– Their existence mostly.

European/American influences are everywhere. Seems like there are more American food restaurants than Russian ones in Moscow. My workfolks took me to two. Come on, guys! Do they think we only eat hamburgers? But talking about hamburgers in Moscow… the beef tasted very different. Kind of gross. Plus – everyone smokes constantly. All the girls are fit. And oh. Having military presence everywhere. WTF?


“Arrogant garçons and rude Christians”
Laurent from Marseille, France

– The waiters! They were strange… Like not nice at all. Especially if you were being nice, polite and friendly. I felt some kind of scorn. So I understood quickly I had to be scornful myself and impolite. And to my amazement, it worked! From then they behaved better. Even started to smile 🙂 I found it a bit unsettling.

– Wow! Cool lifehack 🙂

– Another case took place at the monastaries in Sergiev Passad. So there, I was shocked because you had the “moujiks” and “baboushkas” coming for prayers, offerings and the like… pretty normal in such a place except that when I decided to visit the oldest (and therefore most sought after) Church there was quite a crowd trying to get in… and they were elbowing their way in Russian style. Again: fair enough in Russia! But there were handicapped people who tried to get out, and the entrance door was not very large… And others just walked on them, pushed harshly and “smashed” them! The thing that shocked me was that they behaved like that in such a place. Of all places, the least likely to witness such kind of behavior. Not very Christian I thought… I really felt a bit sad (and I’m not especially religious).

“Rescue of drowning ones”
Dwight from San Francisco, USA

Imagine the scene: a tourist from California, walking along the Moscow River, amusingly peering into the concrete fencing, hoping to find at least a hint of the possible infrastructure necessary to rescue a drowning victim. The absence of ramps and stairways in the city river, through which it would be possible to get out of the water if some mistake happened, clearly does not fit into the humane American mind.

3– Seriously, if someone jumps into the water, how will he climb out of there?

– Why would anyone want to jump into the water? 0_O It’s obviously unsafe!

– People do dumb things.

Someone might get drunk and jump or a child may fall. What then? I’m just saying it would be nice to give them a chance to get out of there.

P.S. According to the MOE, in Moscow from the beginning of 2015 to the end of September–55 people have drowned in the waters. Moreover, almost all the death cases (97.4%) occurred in places where swimming is prohibited.

“Traffic and scary police”
Michael from Plymouth, UK

– One thing that amused me was the amount of traffic and that when people have an accident they don’t move to the side of the road. They just stop their car where ever they are, get out and start arguing. If it’s just a small accident–just a bump–you should move out of the way so not to make a dangerous situation on the road. When I was there people didn’t seem to care about the safety of the other drivers, they just did what they wanted. WTF? It just seemed crazy.

The other thing was the extreme difference in wealth. Driving into Moscow I saw a lot of poverty, but as we drove into the area with houses, suddenly changed from wooden shacks to massive, very rich houses. I don’t know if it is like that now. The Moscow I see in your pictures is very different from the Moscow I remember.

4– Probably, some things changed…

– I remember seeing armed police. We don’t have that here.

– Not that thing though… Still armed. Haha))

– I was scared of the police in Russia.

– We are all scared. =)

– But that’s so bad!! How can you be comfortable in a place where you are scared of the people who are meant to be there to protect you? WTF?

“Fucking long distances”
Vitaly from Novy Urengoy, Russian Federation

– In addition to all sorts of luxury cars that cost several two-bedroom apartments in my hometown, I was certainly struck by the scale of the city and the distances… It turned out that in order to just get to the other side of the road, you need to tramp a kilometer before the underpass and then the same way back. So when I first encountered it, I thought: “Seriously?? Any other option maybe?”

“Dawn in the middle of the night, and the books that are cheaper than food – WTF?”
Anya from Chisinau, Moldova

– Caution from the speaker: the text contains an infectious fleur of provincial naiveté.

Moscow nights and days never meet each other. And it seems like Moscow literally never sleeps. At midnight it is still all lit and living, and just three hours later… the dawn comes. WTF? The phrase “you’re obviously provincial” (read with a stretched intonation) in Moscow I heard only twice, and none of the speakers were local. WTF?

5Hearing a lot about local traffic, I decided to only travel by subway. Turns out, there are corks in the subway… In the underground. Corks. WTF?

Housing problem. The cheapest apartment “inside the garden ring” is more expensive than luxury suites five times larger and located in the heart of my hometown. But Muscovites are absolutely ok with living in just a 20 sq meter flat with a neighbor, with no hot water and balconies. WTF?

In Moscow, books are much cheaper than food. And this is perhaps the “warmest” WTF, which always draws a Cheshire smile on my face… until I remember how much I had to pay for overweight luggage at the airport.

I would add that sometimes it’s quite useful to look at your favorite city with other peoples’ eyes.  One observed detail pulls the memories of many others, that we, in the hectic days, usually forget …

Well, I wish you wonderful early sunrises in Moscow, and, please, get more spiritual food – it is healthier and as rightly observed, even cheaper! 😉


About Yana141 Articles
Journalist by education, barstool philosopher by heart. Moskvaer. Rebel. Frustrated hedonist.

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