If I say “Russia”, what will pop up in your mind? Probably your mind will instantly say “Putin!”, “spy”, “fierce”, “cold”, and all those “not-good and not-soft” about Russia. I’m not going to go too deep and prove all those assumptions are not true, but most of those assumptions we have about Russia are those that big power countries (mostly western hemisphere countries) want us to think about Russia.
I have traveled twice to Russia. The first time was on October 2017, and the second time was on March 2018. Besides, since 2016, things happened to make me involved deeper in the field of youth relation of Russia and Southeast Asian countries. Since early 2017, I ran a youth organization that works specifically on maintaining good relations of the youth of Russia and Southeast Asian Countries called RUSSEAN (Russia ASEAN Youth Association). As I become more involved in this field, I have met more and more people who have seen the “real” Russia and I have also experienced it myself from my 2 trips to Russia and from my experiences involving deeper with this country.
Here are things that I believe as what Russia is truly about. I’m here not going to talk about the politics side and I do still respect the various perspectives about this country. Things I share here are a few points that I think people have miss understood about Russia based on how the world perspectives have been built about this country.
- They have the best hospitality
If you see Russian personalization in the movies, they will always show you those kinds of fierce white guy or woman with super sharp nose and fierce personality who usually works as secret agents. Or the things that they will tell you is that Russians won’t speak to strangers.
First thing first. They don’t talk to strangers. For me it’s normal that they think to smile to strangers at the street when you just pass by, is creepy.. I mean…. Moreover, they do still greet strangers in their own way. I remember when I was buying Chocolate in a Chocolate shop, when I and my friend was about to exit the door, there was this elder guy who was about to enter the shop, opened the door for us and kept holding it open until we exited fully and greet us “Zdravstuyte” which means “hello” in a polite way. I was so amazed because he could see it from my face that I’m not Russian and I don’t understand what he says because I could only smile back at him. I wonder if western people would even open the door for me :”). *and if you think it’s because I’m a woman and he’s a man, that time I was with my male friend. So I did not find any reason for him to act like a gentleman to a stranger.
The second story I heard from a friend. He had the experience to travel alone in Russia. He can speak Russian but he was kind of lost to where he’s going. In a metro station, he asked a Russian guy about the direction he’s going to. The guy told him which route he should take. Not only that, the Russian guy even helped him further to purchase the Metro ticket on the machine, even insisted to pay it for my friend. My friend insisted to pay himself but the guy refused. He helped my friend to purchase the ticket, even helped him further to make sure he took the correct train.
I also had that 1 night that I will never forget for my whole life, and that night was the night that has changed my whole perspective about Russian people. That time I was on a trip for a “Future Team” meeting which was the extension of the biggest youth festival in the world “World Festival of Youth and Students”. I and my friends were going to a province called Kursk. It was spring that time, it was -18 degrees when we left Moskow but in Kursk we had the -25 degrees night. We were going to a horse farm and having dinner in a former Kursk General’s house. The house was a breathing house which the walls will breathe according to the wind that I can tell you that night WAS SUPER COLD and were in the middle of nowhere. It was almost nothing we can see but snow all around.
So the night was extremely cold but not the dinner. All of us was super surprised by the hospitality given by the true Russian citizens. They really were always worried everytime we stopped eating because they never wanted us to feel bored or not smiling even a second. I mean, when you’re eating, there might be seconds that we stop and just do nothing, right? Not that we’re not happy. We just stop. But for them, those Russians, they were worried that the “pause” itself was because they did not serve us well enough.
The foods were non-stop to be served(so did the Vodka and champagne, lol), they kept on offering hot tea or coffee, and if anyone wanted to go out for smoking, they even insisted to help us wearing our coat and taking it off again. That night we did really feel the best hospitality that we ever experience from any world’s citizen. I myself who have gone to many countries and have had friends from many countries as well, I can tell that’s the best hospitality I ever experienced :)
2. They are anti-imperialism
Again, I won’t be talking about politics at the point that I won’t try to say whether their political view is right or wrong.
One thing I know for sure that I can witness from Russia is that this country is really anti-imperialism. So the festival that we went to was attended by all countries from around the world except 1 (Israel) due to the current state between Israel & Palestine. Russia really shows a strong stance on this and in every speech or every message we got through the festival, the country always tried to tell the world that they support the anti-imperialism and imperialism should no longer exist in this world. Pretty unique, right? Yes. Most western media won’t show you this good part of Russia too.
3. They promote better youth relations and mean it
After the festival that I keep mentioning you that I visited, Russia keeps on creating international programs and invite people from all around the world with 1 purpose, which is to unite all youth from all around the world and help them to create bigger network so all youth can work in their projects to make a better world. Sounds cliche? Well, that’s what this country does.
After WFYS 2017, they did create other international events for Artists around the world, for volunteers, and they even further initiate what they call as global Future Team in other countries around the world so all countries can create programs too. Inside Russia itself, the government has a special body that the people works specifically for the international youth programs that (non-stop-ly) keep happening.
This country really means it when they say that they want to create better youth relation from all around the world and even keep funding it like crazy. Which for me is a good thing so that now youth all around the world can have more options than only attending international programs created by western hemisphere countries such US or European countries. With this, there at least will be created more balanced of information and opportunities.
Imagine if this country never put this much of attention, thousands of youth around the world won’t have their eyes opened and will keep seeing Russia (and some other countries as well) just as how the media personalized them.
4. It’s a magical place!
Last but not least, despite the extreme weather Russia can give you even during Spring, this place is a magical place! The coldness of Russian snow won’t beat the beauty of its places. I mean…. Look at these :)
So it’s really true what people say. Travel more, as it will change your perspectives to the world, and to the places you go. You can’t only see things through the screen :)