RUSSIA EXPERIENCE AND VOLUNTEERING
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Living in Russia
Russia. Living Standards. Housing.
Such apartments can be quite small. One enters a hallway where, as it is customary, shoes are removed and replaced with slippers. Or one can walk barefoot if he chooses to do that.
When people in Russia talk of a two or three room apartment, they do not mean bedrooms only but rather all the rooms except for a bathroom and kitchen. Probably because many turn their living rooms into a sleeping place for the night.
Many keep a dog or a cat (or both) home.
Lots of city dwellers have a dacha, or a country house, where they would spend their vacation and weekends during the summer months.
Some of those comimg from the cities can afford individual houses, slightly nicer if being just built, and often half dilapidated if been there longer. The most of country-side people live in individual houses. Those houses are most of the time very rustic and have a toilet and bania amenities outside. Many individuals in Russia still do not have (many do, though) cars and solely bank on public transportation.
Taking a taxi is a good option. It hardly costs more than two or three dollars to go all the way across a middle size city. Very often it is 50% less than that if one negotiates. We have heard a number of stories of people being robbed by 'taxi-drivers', so perhaps, if one is not 100% confident that nothing will happen, it is not worth the risk. It is particularly true with the areas around the airports in Moscow.
All the public and private offices are normally closed on those days. Families and friends get together for dinners and parties.
People here may ask you very personal questions about your life, earnings, relationships - something you may be not quite prepared to anwser. Try not get angry and do not shy away: they are sincere and just do not know that you are not used to such types questions.
What is starnge though, is that people would not talk or would avoid conversations about their body or the way it functions. Women in an open conversation should avoid mentioning anything related to solely their problems. Very often not only in talks with men but with the not quite known female as well.
Complete strangers, mostly the senior generation, often offer unsolicited advice on a wide range of topics usually having to do with health. Be tolerant with them and view them as it is a part of culture.
On leaving, if you have less than $1500 you may progress through the green "nothing to declare" channel. It is illegal to take more than $1500 out of the country without a special certificate.
If you buy an original piece of art, icon (normally never allowed for export), balalaika (other than the toy type mass produced ones) or similar object, make certain that you get a legitimate(!) receipt and a signed and stamped certificate (no less legitimate too!) to say that it is not antique for customs purposes. The frequent problem may be to be able to tell the right certificate from a bogus one. Do not buy it then, unless you really want to run the risk of ultimately losing it at customs.
Food in Russia.
A main meal in Russia will usually consist of soup, perhaps some salad and a main meat/vegetable dish followed by tea. Russians drink a lot of tea, usually often with no milk but with sugar, sometimes lemon. It is customary to have something sweet with tea, such as biscuits, cake, jam (eaten by the spoonful!) or sweets.
There are vegetarians in Russia. Not too many, though. Being one is not hard: your environment will be tolerant to your choices.
Eating out in Russia can cost a lot of money if you choose to eat in the centre of a city in Western style restaurants. Check out the prices first. There are however many other places to eat although these are best found with someone who knows their way around and the language.
Healthcare in Russia
If you have more serious problems, it is wise to know somebody, who is Russian and who can take you to a doctor, the one he or she knows, who in one's turn will assist you for either free of a token of payment. No insurance helps much in Russia, strictly speaking.
Religion in Russia
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