Monday, November 22, 2010

Not From Around Here

There's always this moment when interacting with locals in Moscow when you can tell they've got you figured out.  It's a moment that you are trying your hardest for them to never figure out.  That moment when they realize that you're not from around these parts.

  • The Look - For most encounters, there's always this look they give you when they realize you aren't Russian.  It is difficult to explain.  There's just a flash.  Suddenly something happens in their eyes when they realize there's a reason behind your odd accent.  Or a reason you don't understand their question.  You can just tell.
  • The Switch - This doesn't happen that often, but when we're at restaurants or stores that are exports from the States (Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, etc.), most of the employees have a larger knowledge of English.  These places are more tricky when it comes to getting away with Russian.  They're more eager to use the English (or other) language that they've learned.  I can imagine-- I'm definitely going to have the same reaction if I'm in the U.S. and a Russian is trying to speak with me.  But as someone trying to learn the language and trying so hard to get away with what Russian I do know.... I feel so defeated.  I was at Starbucks one day, ordering things and getting everything right.  I was so proud of myself until the cashier asked me, in English, "Is this for here or to go?"
  • The Point - This one sneaks up on you.  This is when you're at a store or fast food place, and instead of telling you how much you owe, they just point at the amount on their cash register.  At some time during the transaction, you did or said something that completely gave you away, so the person doesn't even bother trying to speak to you.  [So my pride isn't completely shattered, sometimes I'll speak the number back to the cashier, as a question-- but really just to prove to her that I can in fact understand.  Yes, I'm that pathetic.]
  • The Repeat and Smirk - This is probably completely harmless and nothing personal, but sometimes the person we're interacting with us will notice a glaring mistake in our language.  Instead of letting it go, they will look at us with this sarcastic grin and repeat exactly what we said, kind of chuckling to themselves.  Like I said, I know they aren't trying to insult us, but it's always disappointing.

Of course, even though these do happen, I speak only in jest.  On nearly every occasion people are incredibly patient and courteous with our mistakes and stupidity.  Most people we interact with go out of their way to be helpful-- it's been such an aid for Beth and I.   We have been thankful for assistance nearly every time we have needed it.  As I have said before, we try in every way possible to avoid being "found out" that we're not Russian, but when it inevitably happens, it's almost always cordial.


    1. This post made me laugh. :) I know what you mean...exactly.

    2. This post really made me smile! Happy Thanksgiving to you guys!