Culture Shock,My First Day In Russia

Culture Shock,My First Day In Russia

The topic says it all. It was my first day in an odd ,cold, strange, and later discovered to be interesting country. Did I say cold, I meant freezing country -the word permafrost comes to mind first- because I ended up in the North of Russia. Think minus double digits cold, think so COLD black people don’t live here voluntarily. Now that I’ve got that off my chest let’s continue.

Honestly I also don’t know how I found myself in the country but I was determined to make the best of a terrible situation. Got admission into a prestigious university in a lovely city called Arkhangelsk situated in the North of Russia. With just the thought of getting out of Nigeria my main concern, I really could care where Arkhangelsk was, let alone try to pronounce it.

The day finally came and I met the other students at the airport and we chatted for a while , getting to know one another until we boarded the flight .It was a long flight but it was nice and was just eager to get out there and start a new chapter in my life .

We landed in Moscow which is the capital and i was impressed with what I saw, I was told it was a developing country like Nigeria.What a joke. Yeah right this was totally a developed country so I thought and It wasn’t as cold as I had imagined it would. Maybe that’s because I was well prepared. I was layed. with 2 trousers on, 2 t-shirts and various items of clothing I was all padded and ready for whatever temperature I found myself in.

We had to board a connecting flight to Arkhangelsk which is in the Northern part of Russia. Arriving about an hour later and on getting off the plane, we were ushered through the immigration and customs, and of course with this comes form filling and all that red tape. I was shocked to discover that very few people spoke English but was glad when a lady walked up to us and introduced herself as the representative of the school. Her function was to help us navigate the Russian officialdom, translating and all what not. In short Settle the new students.

But out of the corner of my eyes, I noticed people staring at us. Some actually stopped in their tracks and I could feel the intensity of their gaze. While still trying to adjust to the people staring, I could see some of them smiling and giggling, pointing at us and other laughing off their heads. We summoned up courage and agreed we should smile back and just be as friendly and wave.

Wow!! Was surprised at the outcome it worked, the young gals waved back which immediately made us smile and wave hardly, and could see the elderly ones staring so hard, although still a little surprised we were happy to see smiling faces so it was all good. We proceeded to pick up our luggage, while waiting we saw a group of young lads looking at us funnily and we decided to use the same strategic , we waved at them and BOOM, It worked and to my utmost surprise they did manage to wave back but with words as well, the more they waved, the more we did as well, and they kept saying a word, “обезьяна”

Which we assumed was hello in Russian language,they laughter around us in the airport got louder and I thought it was just a way of welcoming us into the city. Our guide kept telling us to stop waving, and we initially ignored her until we discovered she was upset and was almost shouting at us to stop it. She couldn’t help it anymore and we asked her why that we were only being friendly, suddenly the cheering was dying down and she blurted out the meaning of the word.

“обезьяна”, wow such a hot powerful strong word, meant monkey. Oh my God, I almost passed out, here we are in the middle of nowhere and been cheered on only to discover that we were being called called monkeys.I personally wished the ground would open up and swallow me. The next words that came out of my mouth was, “where can I find the bookshop”?

Some of the people I came with were shocked and still didn’t understand why I needed to get to the bookshop but I knew if I was in Rome, I had to behave like the Roman blah, blah….

Hahaha so right there and then I had my first language lesson. Hot with all kinds of emotions I bought a dictionary, well to be honest I got two as a matter of fact, a pocket one to go with me everywhere and the other one was going to be my second book of life while in Russia.

Well watch out for more stories on my life in Russia because I later discovered the country is filled with nice friendly people and I did meet a lot of good people and still have them as friends till now.

I finally devised a method that worked faster than even the dictionary. Am sure I got you wondering what the method is.

Stay tuned and keep the frequency open.


18 thoughts on “Culture Shock,My First Day In Russia” by iyandasdiary (@Iyandasdiary)

  1. What an introduction!

  2. Will definitely wait for your next write up. Racism is a disease that can never be fully eradicated.

    1. Thanks.You are right about racism but we can stop trying to eductae people about it either.Mde some lovely friends while i was in Russia

  3. Good one… but Russia is like that

  4. I laugh tire… so you were waving when they were calling you monkey. Racism tins.

    I can’t wait for the sequels. Could you tag me in them… just put @kodeya in the comment of the sequel

  5. Lol, what an experience. Nice one. Waiting expectantly for sequels

  6. This is an illustration of what life is outside the shores of Nigeria, thanks Iyanda. I doubt if a Nigerian would do that to a foreigner in Lagos?

  7. Nice one.Sorry you had this experience.
    I would replace “layed” with “layered”.
    @blackgold, if Naija is not racist, so why does the word “oyinbo” exist…. :-)

  8. @Jefsaraurmax, Oyinbo simply means a white person, is not an insult to the best of my knowledge.Same way a British person or American would refer to a Nigerian as an African.

  9. @Blackgold, I think the original word may not have been derogatory but the use has changed. Oyinbo is not only used to describe white people or foreigner but also in a demeaning way not only toward foreigners but also Nigerians who have spent time abroad. When was the last time you heard it in a conversation and it was not a critic of someone? Plus if the first think someone sees in a person is their color, there is obviously some underlying racism. If you come to Miami, kids will not chant “black person, black person” to you.

    1. Or if they do, you will probably find this offensive and you will be in your right to think so.Oyinbo is also used for people who are or look mixed.Teju Cole was called oyinbo.Just saying.

      1. @jefsaraurmax I see from your photo that you are white. I assume that’s why you feel this way. Children chanting “Oyinbo” is the exact opposite of derogatory. I know because I did it as a child. It is usually out of excitement. They are happy to see you. If any of them does something you feel offended by, they are kids. Nigerians like white people far more than they should. (I used to be racist, not because of colour but from reading too many history books). At a restaurant, a white person would more probably be served before me> It has happened to me a couple of times. Teju Cole’s case is envy. Nigerians make fun of other Nigerians who have been privileged like him. An example is an Ondo girl who grew up in Lagos. They call her lost or halfcaste. It is a Nigerian thing. Some might be spiteful but most love you. That’s the truth. You can check this out. Please read having in mind that Oyinbo isn’t in anyway an insult for most people.

        1. @brownieowolabi, I appreciate your explanation but the link you included kind of prove my point. The kids may say it in a nice way but nobody likes to be called by their color. Please tell me how you would feel if someone would call you black when they see you and would define you by your color, not by who you are.
          Anyway, my point was that no country or place is exempt of racism.I was born in France and there are racist people there.I live in Miami and there are people racist there too. It is in the human nature to be wary of difference. Nigeria is not different in that matter.There are racist people there too. That was just what I meant.

  10. @Jefaraurmax, thanks for the information, I understand what you mean.

  11. Chai! Black monkey so u waved back? ℓ☺ℓ. This episode is short Ooº°˚ ˚°ºoo

  12. Please vote for me in the STCOLOURS A-SCHOOL SCHOLARSHIP, please subscribe on and respond to the email you receive from the school, with my name TEMITOPE GODIS. Thanks in anticipation for your vote. ABEG NS .Voting started on the 10th Jan ends the 24th January 2014.
    Had to include this in here, since i couldnt on my profile.

  13. @IYANDASDIARY, the issue of race, principally triggered by differences in skin colourization is something never approving………..

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