By and large, Nizhny Novgorod was opened to foreigners only this summer - before the World Cup, foreign tourists came here infrequently, preferring the obvious Moscow with St. Petersburg or rich Kazan. Life around spoke with foreigners who have been living here for many years and consider themselves almost local - about minibuses with character, love for the old quarters, problems with rubbish and happiness in central heating.
Greek, ex-volunteer and teacher, lives in Nizhny Novgorod for five years
I was always interested in volunteering, and I was always interested in Russia. At some point, I decided to google it and came across a volunteer organization in Nizhny, I found a suitable project for myself and came. First, for two months - to a rehabilitation center for children with disabilities in the Semenovsky district. This experience was so striking that I decided to continue my project and returned to Nizhny Novgorod for nine months as a volunteer in the Piano Theater. After that, I realized that I want to stay in Russia for some time to learn Russian better and understand Russian culture.
Most of all in Russia, people surprise me - Russians are always hospitable. But at the same time they are more passive. Still, minibuses still surprise me - in fact, in a good way. I think they are with character: there are curtains, the songs "Junior Lieutenant" and "I am ready to kiss the sand that you walked on" is very sweet. And of course, heating. In Greece there is no central heating, and in winter it is very cold in our rooms, and it is expensive to heat. Here I never freeze in the winter, because I don’t have to spend much time on the street, but it’s always warm inside. Imagine the surprise of my family when we call on Skype in the winter, and I sit in the same T-shirt! All stereotypes about cold Russia instantly collapse.
For three nights, I realized what Russian winter is, because I woke up in sweat - and in general it was the warmest winter in my life. I think that people here do not appreciate the happiness in the form of central heating that they have
In the first winter, I was, of course, very scared. I remember in November I opened a closet in my rented apartment, found a thin blanket there, and ran to the store for a thick one. Throughout the winter, I never needed this thick blanket! For three nights, I realized what Russian winter is, because I woke up in sweat - and in general it was the warmest winter in my life. I think that people here do not appreciate the happiness in the form of central heating that they have. In general, the first time it was surprising to me that, despite the whole amount of snow, life everywhere went on as usual. And I was very surprised to see the janitors who broke the ice.
I really like the fact that you have a lot of different restaurants and places where you can order a delicious business lunch. In Europe, of course, there are such places, but there it is much more expensive and less diverse. I also really like the banking system in your country: the queues at the banks are much less than in Greece and, in general, people are more advanced, many use mobile applications for transferring money, which, of course, is very convenient.
Syrian, chemist, lives in Lower for four years
To be honest, I was not going to go to Russia. I am a chemist by education, chemistry is my life. At home he graduated from a magistracy and wanted to continue his scientific studies abroad: he was looking for programs in Europe, found something suitable in Belgium. But then, due to the difficult situation in the country, all embassies were closed, it was impossible to apply for a visa there. And then I was advised to go to Russia. At first I thought: maybe wait, but I didn’t want to waste time either - as a result I ended up here. I thought that there was a low level of education, as everyone around told me, but then my opinion changed.
Here I study organometallic chemistry, now in graduate school. The first six months I had intensive Russian language courses, then I began to look for where to continue my scientific work in chemistry, and I found Alexander Trifonov, the head of a strong scientific group at the IMH RAS. I really liked his approach to work - I stayed to work there. At first it was difficult: I have never seen such methods that they used - neither in Europe, nor in Syria. For example, some reactions must be oxygen-free, and for this purpose the glavbox device is used all over the world. But here a small pump is used, which costs hundreds of times less than the main box, and works even better! At first it was difficult to understand, but interesting, and over time I got used to it. Russian people are very inventive.
Americans smile at 32 teeth, and what is inside is unknown. For Russians, on the contrary, inside is kindness, but they do not immediately show it
At first it was hard to make friends, in Nizhny few speak English. It was not easy to adapt in the new culture, and I still can’t say that Russians are Western or Eastern. They have their own mentality, special. The English club at the university, which I organized, and also participation in various city events and holidays helped to adapt.
Of course, it was very surprising that no one ever smiles, moreover, sometimes they did not greet me. This is not customary in our culture: we smile a lot even to strangers, and if we see each other several times a day, we say every time: "Hello!" Here, people find it strange to say hello once in the morning for the Russians is enough. Therefore, at first it seemed that all Russians were evil and that there was some kind of problem, and only after a while I realized that this was the norm of culture. From the very beginning, Russians do not seem nice and kind, they are revealed only when you make friends with them. For example, Americans smile at 32 teeth, and what is inside is unknown. For Russians, on the contrary, inside is kindness, but they do not immediately show it.
It was also unusual for me to hear you say, “Be healthy!” Only when a person sneezes. And we also have a cough, so when I realized that it wasn’t accepted with you, I had to restrain myself very much, and still have to. Also here, in Syria, if they want to say no, they raise their heads a little higher, and in Russia it looks in some sense as approval, and at first there were misunderstandings because of this - I said “no” nonverbally and people didn’t understand me.
Kuncho of Flowers
Bulgarian, baker and owner of San Francisco Bread Co., lives in Nizhny Novgorod for three years
I used to live in San Francisco, I had a business in Europe and North Africa, and then my wife, a girl from Nizhny Novgorod, suggested trying to live in Russia. I thought, "Why not?" - and agreed.
Bakery has always been my hobby, I did not do it professionally. When I moved to Russia, I didn’t even know what I would do — I didn’t speak Russian, I didn’t know anyone. As a result, I decided to do what I really love: bake delicious bread - and at age 40 I started all over again in a new country for myself.
For the first time I was at Rozhdestvenskaya during a big city holiday: I was passing by, and something inside unexpectedly made me stop, this place seemed to be talking to me. Nine months later, I was there again, I saw a rental advert and realized that it was at this place that I stayed the last time. Some kind of magic! I'm sure this street chose me. However, at first it was not easy: for the first few months I sold almost nothing, because people did not understand why to buy bread for 100-200 rubles. But then things went uphill, I had buyers who noticed that my bread was incredibly tasty and even healthy - many said that their digestion began to improve. This bread is really much healthier than usual and gives a lot of energy: I use whole grain wheat and rye and do not use yeast, and the process of preparing for baking takes from 36 to 48 hours.
Many of my friends in the US and Bulgaria ask, "What the hell are you doing there?" And I see the future here, there is potential
It’s not atypical for Russia to do something completely new — there is a lot of carbon copy business here, and it’s obvious that the country is just beginning its path in developing entrepreneurship. Therefore, I am pleasantly surprised when I meet people who are growing rapidly and striving to make a difference. Many of my friends in the US and Bulgaria ask, "What the hell are you doing there?" But I see the future here, there is potential.
I lived in the USA for almost 20 years and I understand that Americans and Russians are very similar - it is not clear why there is constant contention between you. I talked with some football fans during the World Cup, and once the Americans from Los Angeles entered my bakery, they asked in surprise: "Do you live here? So how?" - and I replied: "Well, not yet eaten!"
I don’t want to offend anyone, but Nizhny seems to me to be a big, slightly sleepy village: people here are slowly swaying, despite the size of the city. But I like the locals: I love each of my customers, I know their families and I feel personal responsibility, because I deliver food to the table, and food is health. And I have to be 100% sure that what I am doing is good.
Argentinean, teacher and programmer, lives in Nizhny Novgorod for 4.5 years
Prior to my first visit to Nizhny Novgorod, I had already been to Russia three times and knew culture, people, spoke a little Russian, and little shocked me. From time to time I was visited by thoughts about leaving, because when you are far from your family and friends and when something goes wrong, you want to go home. But such thoughts quickly passed, because here I met good people, and therefore I still live in Nizhny.
When I found out that Argentina would play in Nizhny Novgorod during the World Cup, I was in a pleasant shock. They wrote to me all from Argentina: "How is this possible?" They say that about 20 thousand Argentines have visited Nizhny - a huge number, but it’s very expensive to fly here for us. Just football in our country is a religion, so no one spared money. I created a site so that local people can post free ads for help and various services during the championship, and fans can use these services. The most interesting thing was to work in the fan zone: I taught Spanish from the stage, just spoke some phrases related to football, and the audience repeated. And once there was the Argentinean “First Channel”, I realized by their appearance that they were looking for something, and approached. It turned out that they needed to talk with the fans, but none of them spoke English. Then I offered to help with the translation, they immediately turned on the camera, and I was on the air!
It was very easy to communicate with the Argentines on the street. Psychologically, for me it was a very interesting moment: you go out into the street and everyone speaks Argentinean and not Russian. I have a favorite place with shawarma, and after the match between Argentina and Croatia I went there to console myself (my team lost 3-0). There were many Argentines, the staff was bewildered, they did not understand each other, the line was long. Then they asked me: "Are these yours? Can you help?" And I began to help, translated: "Spicy, not spicy, with beef" - and so on. Then, of course, my head hurt, but it was great.
During the championship, not only the city changed, but also people - they were more open, smiling, easily started a conversation on the street, were friendly, but after the championship everything returned to normal, everyone again became closed
Nizhny is a beautiful city, not far from the capital, and if you find your people and your places, you will not be bored here. If someone lacks movement, you need to create it yourself. I run a Spanish speaking club, used to do some lectures related to the Spanish language, last year organized a festival of Argentinean cinema. I love going to Solyanka language meetings; for foreigners in the city this is a very useful event. You relax there, because sometimes we get very tired of the Russian language (not because it is Russian, but because it is foreign).
I think after so many years of living here I became more like a Russian person than a "Latino". For example, in Argentina, we constantly touch each other, this is part of the communication - physical contact. I have no more such habit. Once I was sitting in a small company of Russians and foreigners, someone just touched me like that, and I was surprised at this. Then I realized: something inside me has changed.
In recent years, the city has changed a lot: I like, like everyone, the new embankment, sometimes I just go there to look at the Volga - such a place was very necessary. During the championship, not only the city, but also the people changed - they were more open, smiling, easily started a conversation on the street, were friendly, but after the championship everything returned to normal, everyone again became closed. This is not bad and not good - it’s just a given, and I think when a person decides to live in another country, you need to take everything as it is, you can’t think: “Why so, and not that way”. If I am here, then this is my choice.
Czech, works at GAZ, lives in Lower 2.5 years
In Nizhny I really like, especially the old houses. Of course, they need to be restored, because some show that they will fall apart in the near future. When I walk around the old quarters, I want to buy and repair everything at home. This attracts tourists, and the locals really like them, why not do it? It is noticeable that there are many opportunities for cultural pastime: theaters, museums, concerts. It can be seen that Russian people are very interested in this.
I also really like to walk and go out into the countryside - to the Gorky Sea or to some other interesting places in the Nizhny Novgorod region: for example, I like to go to the forest for mushrooms.
There is much in common between Czechs and Russians, but there is also a difference. For example, at work, I feel that people are waiting for directions, they say: "I can’t do this, I’m not the boss." Subordination is very respected, while people do not do what their position at work does not imply - not all, but many. Still Russians are masters of papers. Paper, printing, signature, another paper, original, copy - this is very important here. At the same time, it was surprising to me that you can transfer money from card to card quickly and conveniently, the discrepancy turned out.
I think that garbage is an acute problem in Russia. We have been sorting garbage for a long time, you have a lot of it, including in nature
People here live today, do not save money: here, in the Czech Republic, this is unthinkable. And your loan rates are very high. I also think that garbage is an acute problem in Russia. We have been sorting garbage for a long time, but you have a lot of it, including in nature. It’s also interesting that you only have a fine for speeding - which means that people who have money may not be corrected. In the Czech Republic, at first a fine is threatened, after which 12 points are assigned, and for each excess several points are taken. If within two years you spent all 12 points - they will take away your rights.
In the Czech Republic, there is still a negative mood towards Russia due to historical events. I think that everything that was not the fault of our generation, and we do not need to pay attention to it. We need to learn more about each other, and not move away: we will not develop if we get stuck in the past. I try to look for positive things in everything and I think that if a foreigner doesn’t like it here, he should go home and not complain. In our country, in the Czech Republic, it is neither better nor worse; in our country it is different.