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V. MANNERS

 

To say that Russians don’t have any manners in the Western sense of the word is to do them an injustice. They do have some, it’s just that they are different.

Where an over-polite Japanese will probably say “Would you be so kind as to do it in such a way that the window should find itself open?” and an Englishman will limit himself to “Could you please open the window?”, the Russian with brisk economy, will say no more than the curt “Open the window, please,” which saves a lot of time and effort.

There is no reticence about expressing your feelings in public; for instance, if you are displeased with the service in a shop or a restaurant, you can tell the shop assistant or the waiter exactly what you think of him, his relatives, his in-laws, his habits and his sexual bias. But first fighting in public is not approved, so when it happens there will always be someone who will pull the protagonists apart.

When meeting, kiss each other on both cheeks if they are friends and have not seen each other for ages. Three kisses are due if both are clergymen or one of them is Brezhnev. Not long ago, young people who kissed in public would be taken off to the police station. Passers-by would blush and turn away in shame. Now you may even kiss a policeman and nobody would mind including the policeman: this is how far Russians have gone in imitating the manners of the corrupted West.

On entering their homes, Russians take off their shoes and put on slippers. Housewives keep a few extra pairs of slippers for guests.

In the days when standing in line occupied a considerable part of Russian life like a special queuring etiquette developed with its own rules and taboos, like no queue jumping and not leaving the line for a long time. Now that the shops are full of goods and the only problem is where to get money to buy them, many a housewife secretly hankers for those long hours of waiting when you enjoyed the company of others: good company is good company.

As a substitute, modern Russian women use benches at the entrance to their blocks of flats. You will see the gossips solemnly sitting there, watching people come and go and exchanging the latest news of their courtyard. You can rely on them if you want to know if Tanya Manina had a visitor today or if Manya Tamina has changed her boyfriend.

 


Date: 2015-04-20; view: 157


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