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“I’ve never met a real native American!”

February 1, 2012

“The first brother’s name was Rurick, which meant he was a great warrior; the second brother’s name was Sinius, because he had a sort of blue beard; the third brother’s name was Truvor, which doesn’t mean anything.”

-Russian history professor

When I was 17, I got sick of high school and went to Russia for a few months. The process was a bit more complicated than that, but that was the end result. I decided languages were my thing and wanted to learn a new one in a new place. I got Hillary Clinton to pay for my Russian lessons at a world-class linguistics university in an awesome city (Nizhniy Novgorod, it took me a while to learn how to pronounce it…) about 8 hours east of Moscow. I had no prior knowledge of Russian, Russia, or Russians besides what James Bond movies had taught me.

Red Square, classic Russia.

The average Harry doesn’t know too much about the biggest country in the world, I didn’t before I went and I’m by no means an expert now. Russia is everything you’ve ever heard, and also the complete opposite of everything you’ve ever heard. It’s taken me a while to come up with that simple explanation, but it’s the best way I can think of to explain. It’s a new country (it’s only been just over 20 years now since the collapse of the Soviet Union) with a bucket and a half of history. There are immensely rich and powerful Russians (yup, mostly men) and then everybody else that lives like poor college students (of which there are also plenty). Russians are blunt, they say what they mean and often what they say is mean. But dammit, I love it. None of this smiling at everybody business, pretending to care how life’s going for the cashier in the checkout lane, having plenty of “friends” that you deep down hate, or keeping up with the latest politically correct terms.

“I like Chinese people. They are so childish and emotional.”

-my Russian teacher

But hey, style. That’s what I’m talking about here, right? Sure, okay. Before I went to Russia, I was worried I would stand out as a stupid American because of how I dressed. I think I dress pretty normally, a shirt and jeans is my everyday. I’ve never been out of the country apart from O Canada! I didn’t know what to expect. And actually, I tried not to expect anything. Culture shock can be a bitch. For the most part, Russian fashion is comparable to your standard European fashion (or so I’m told). Maybe a little more extreme, but what isn’t in Russia? The women wear high heels no matter what, short skirts in the dead of winter, and some pretty questionable tops. So yeah, I kinda stood out… My host family was a little more conservative however, my host mom and sister (no dad, etc.) wore jeans and such. But never sweatshirts, never ever no one ever. Men wear dress shoes/boots ALL. THE. TIME. Never sneakers, oh no. Always fancy shoes. In this way it was pretty easy for the guys on my program to fit in (with one exception as you’ll see as you scroll down), all they had to do was wear boots.

The Formal


Military guards in the Moscow Kremlin. The police in Russia are f-ing scary. They're called the "militia," that's how scary they are.

The Traditional

This is the cutest little girl ever, she and her teacher were showing their class some traditional Russian clothes.

"Day of Knowledge" the first day of school in Russia, it's common practice for girls to wear these giant hair bow things on special occasions like this. But for everyday, schoolkids do wear relatively fancy clothes. Usually suits for boys, and black dresses/skirts with fancy tops for girls.

The Fire-dancers and the Weddings…

The black guy in there was on my program too. This happened a lot to him, a wedding party was taking pictures and they grabbed him and got a picture... There aren't many black people in Russia.

One of those rich guys I was talking about.

In conclusion, I dress more casually than Russians.

P.S. Here’s some Russian fashion blogs I found when writing this post, they’re pretty cool:

The Russian Fashion Blog

Russian Doll


One Comment leave one →
  1. February 10, 2012 7:51 pm

    Oh man! This is awesome. What a cool experience.

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