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How to Get on Russia's Sh*t List

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If a stampede of angry drunk Russians is your idea of adventure, get on the Soviet sh*t list and unleash the beast.

Photo by: Kyle Taylor

If there is one thing in your life that you never want to do, it's piss off a Russian. There's a reason why Russian actors can only get work as burly assassins and angry mobsters; they're fucking scary when they're (even pretend) mad. The following are ways to get yourself knee-deep in Soviet trouble.

Refuse a Shot

Photo by: Tristan Kenney

Russians will not ask you whether you want to take a shot. They will pour a shot and you will take the shot. End of story. What? You're six months pregnant and do not possess the alcohol metabolizing gene? In Russia, that deserves a toast and you better be drinking alongside everyone else (maybe even hold up a shot to your belly button for the fetus, in case it needs to play a participatory role).

Leave Food on Your Plate

Photo by: wharman

Whether it's at some babushka's 80th birthday party, or a burly man's stripper-littered bachelor pad, if you don't finish your pickled herring, oily fried potatoes, or beety borscht, there will be hell to pay. Nobody gives a shit if you're a vegetarian, have just eaten prior to arrival, or have some sort of virus preventing from you from consuming food. Russians want to see you clean your plate and will be extremely irritated and concerned about it if you don't. Food is never wasted; leave the calorie-counting at home.

Refuse to Take Your Shoes Off in the House

Photos by: Wayne Wilkinson & Luca

It doesn't matter if you've been walking on bunny fur and angel feathers all day, you must take off your shoes right when you get in the door. You will be given house slippers (tapochkiy) and you will put them on without a second thought. This tradition is followed as a sign of respect for the home into which you are invited. Let's hope your smelly backpacker foot odor doesn't offend anyone.

Fail to Praise the Riches

Post-socialist Russians have a taste for stuff; fancy stuff that they want you to notice. You may not think your Ruski friend's long-haired cat is particularly an interesting thing to talk about for half an hour but it's not a shelter rescue for a reason. You are expected to comment on the horsepower of his car, the blinginess of his watch, the expansiveness of his house, and yes, the regality of his cat.

Be a Non-believer

Photo by: Tracy Hunter

Russians may follow a certain, gritty code of badass but they're also driven by some ridiculous superstitious forces. Small, everyday things that you may never think about are considered bad luck and doing these things with no regard for the superstitions that exist will send a Russian into a fit of rage. Here's the intel:

  • Never put your keys on the table.
  • Take off your hat inside.
  • Sit down in a moment of silence before departing on any sort of trip.
  • Look in the mirror should you return home after you have left.
  • If you step on somebody's foot accidentally, put your foot out so they can equally step on yours.
  • Once you're done talking about something terrible that happened, say the sound for spit ("ptt-hoo") three times before moving on to another topic.

Ask Too Many Questions

Photo by: Miranda Granche

Yeah, so what there's a marble tiger in the living room that likely cost more than your college tuition? It is not your business how said tiger was acquired. To you, some questions might just be part of casual conversation but when you start poking around for answers too hard, you become suspect. Russians are used to doing shady shit under the table and are very selective with whom they trust. Ask too many questions and you land on the deep-in-shit list automatically.

On any given day, you will find Russian dudes standing around a vehicle spewing insults at each other in good fun. This shit-talking doesn't actually piss anybody off. But you leave a shot glass full after it's been poured, and all hell breaks loose. Russians love to party with enough food and drink to explode your average Western stomach and liver. Keep up or get out.