A few things we do differently in Brazil and Russia

Today I am in São Paulo, getting ready to go to Russia, hopefully to begin an amazing new job in a cool Russian company.

Well, I know I planned on talking about something completely unrelated to today's topic, but I figured "Hey, it's my blog, I can do whatever I want!", so I changed my mind and decided to speak about some of the things I noticed in my first weeks in Belgorod. These are not the commonly spoken things about Russia, because there is enough of that in the internet. Jokes about vodka and bears are below me.

Kebab Shaverma Shawarma Shaurma 

Shaurma is the name used in Moscow for this food, so that's the one I am sticking with, pretty much the same way the right Russian is the Russian spoken in Moscow. Hopefully, none of my future colleagues in Saint Petersburg will read this.

Let's begin with this delicious street food that is not normally found in Brazil, or at least it was not popular here until very recently. This is simply everywhere in Russia. Particularly, the first time I ate it was at a small cafe near the dorm, which was ran by foreign students of the university.

Resultado de imagem para shawarma
No one cooks Middle Eastern food better than Caucasian immigrants in Moscow. I am sure this affirmation is not polemic and won't be taken out of context.

It is very common to find these small shaurma shops near bus stops, so sometimes they do have a reputation for not being very hygienically prepared, which can lead to dangerous situations. However, there are, of course, gourmet versions of these venues where you can have some gourmet shaurma for three times the price of a regular one.

I, for one, am a daring person and just one salary away from living under a bridge, so I prefer the regular street food.

Smiles (or the lack thereof) 

I think no one would be impressed to find out that Russians really do not often smile, and Brazilians smile very often. Or so says the legend.

The thing about smiling that normally they don't tell you about is that Russians like to smile like anyone else, and it's very easy to see that once you are acquainted with any person. They just don't think it's appropriate to do that in public spaces, which is part of their culture, and there isn't much we can do about that other than understand it. Not smiling at you in public really does not mean that a person does not like you or is not friendly. Everyone likes to smile. :)

Russian Formality

Now this one is a bit hard to describe, especially since in both Portuguese and English, the formal and informal "you" is the same thing. Russians, on the other hand, have very strict rules on how you should treat teachers, older persons or authorities.

This means that in these cases you must always use the formal "you", or Вы, which I normally pronounce as Vwi, and I am sure no one will criticize me for not using the correct transliteration for the letter ы. Even if you are friends with your teacher, you should keep using the formal "you", at least in public.

Also, it's not common to address someone by their profession, as we normally do in countries like Brazil or the U.S. I still don't understand why, but it's not acceptable to call your professor "professor" or the director "director".

In universities, for example, when addressing a teacher, you must say his name and patronymic. In case you don't know, a patronymic is the name of the person's father. Let's say I am Andrey, and my father is Yuri, my patronymic will be "Yuryevich" and if someone is going to address me formally, they have to say "Hello, Andrey Yuryevich".

So, yep, lots of rules. Nothing impressive, given that the Russian language is so friggin complicated. But I will write more about that personally in the future.

Plastic bags (and packers) 

This is a thing in Europe as well, as far as I am concerned. In Russia, you have to pay for plastic bags in shops. Yes, I know, how dare they charge me for a plastic bag? Well, actually it makes sense, since it stops people from wasting plastic bags (Do you really need more than one bag anyway?), although I suspect they don't do this because of love for the environment. 

Also, in Brazil there are packers at the check-out counter. In case you don't live in Brazil and is wondering why there is such a job, then, yes, there is a person (often one person per cashier, by the way) whose function is to specifically put your goods in plastic bags, while in Russia, you are supposed to pack your own things like a savage, and in bags which are not free. Why, Russia? Why?

I would not be impressed if this is done in Brazil because of some stupid law obliging shops to have packers in order to generate jobs, since I know for a fact we have a law that prohibits self-service fuel dispensers in gas stations.


This one I did not notice in my first days in Belgorod, but I found out eventually that Anticafes are a popular thing in Russia. "What is an anticafe?", you might ask. Well, it's basically a café ("What is a café" you might ask, but oh, come on, just google it) where you pay for the time you stay. Why would I pay for the time I stay? Well, because normally this includes eating and drinking, and playing board games, without paying only for the time.

At first, I thought this would be a good business idea for Brazil, since I think it doesn't exist here, but then I realized in Brazil people would just eat all the food in one minute and leave. Come on, if you have ever been in Brazil, you know this is exactly what would happen. Why don't they do this in Russia, anyway? I would do it. Nah, I'm too shy for that.

Civic Spaces

Anyone who has traveled to Europe has noticed that any kind of civic space is treated waaaaay better than in Brazil. By civic spaces, I mean squares, parks, memorials, etc. It's one of the first things you notice in Russia and in other European countries as well. People actually refrain from vandalizing civic spaces in other countries, can you believe it?

Resultado de imagem para Victory Park Belgorod
A monument to WWII in Belgorod. Not only it's always very clean, often people place flowers on monuments to fallen soldiers. 

I know in this blog I have been particularly acid towards some aspects of Brazilian culture. It's my culture as well, and I love many aspects of it, but I have to criticize it where it needs to be criticized, so moving on to my next offense: I think the main reason about this is that Brazilians on average do not read, and are likely not to be aware of historic events and personalities, and therefore, don't care about monuments, statues and parks to them. It's sad really, but maybe in a few hundred years we will value history more. 

Well, sorry for ending this article on a sad note. I brought up these topics, mostly because all of them (except perhaps, for the smile thing) are normally ignored in other blogs about Russia and Russian culture. (Shaurma is not even a Russian dish, but it's so popular in Russia that I had to mention it)

Next week I will definitely write about Belgorod. Promise. 


  1. >Hopefully, none of my future colleagues in Saint Petersburg will read this.

    He he he ;)))


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