I live in a flat with five other people: four girls and one guy. It's okay - the guy lives in the basement room and I'm pretty sure that he has more of a social network than any of us girls do... One of my flatmates is named Teresa, and she and I have really hit it off, or "get on well," as the English would say. Her family is originally from Russia, but she has lived most of her life in America. Her extended family is still in Russia, so that heritage brings quite a unique flavor to our friendship. I've learned all sorts of tidbits about Russian culture, so I thought that I would share some with you.
- For instance, did you know that orthodox Russians celebrate Christmas on January 7th? According to the old Julian calendar, that's when Christmas is. Easter, on the other hand, falls on the same day as the new calendar. I'm not entirely sure why the date was changed to December 25th in the Gregorian calendar, but I'll leave that to you to find out if you wish. We when returned from break with presents for each other, we happened to exchange on the 7th, so it was marvelously appropriate.
- When Russians display flowers, they place an odd number of flowers in a vase if the flowers are attached to someone living and an odd number if they symbolize death. So, for example, sympathy flowers sent after a death are displayed in even numbers. Flowers sent for pretty much any other reason are displayed in odd numbers. Thus, if you send a Russian woman a dozen roses, she will split them up into two vases.
- If a man who is pursuing a women gives her flowers and she preserves the stems in water, then if the stems rot it means he didn't really love her, and if they do not rot that means his love is true. When Teresa was dating, she kept the stems from one of her boyfriend's bouquet. While we were chatting in her room, she pointed them out to me. They were rot-free!
- Russian women wear their engagement ring on their left hands, but they wear their wedding ring on their right hand. Teresa is recently married, so her wedding band and ring are on her right hand. I'm not sure where this tradition came from, but I think that the idiosyncrasy is cute.
Teresa also has extensive international connections through her many friends, so I am constantly picking up culture bits here and there. She recently knocked on my door to excitedly show me her new shoes, which were given to her by a friend from Khazakhstan. They looked somewhat like moccasins without heels, were primarily white with green swirly designs, and had pointed, curled-up toes like an elf shoe. What a far cry from the sneakers I had sitting by my door...
Here's to cultivating an ever-widening global perspective!