As I look out the window of my hotel here in St. Petersburg, Russia, I see kids playing, trying to make snowballs out of the one centimeter deep powder that has fallen this morning. This could be anywhere, were it not for the clearly Russian letters on the signs.
Sometimes as I travel I marvel at how alike humans so often are, as if our behavior is because we are the same species, not because of race, country or creed. Take graffiti, for example…looks the same wherever I go.
I share with you now a couple of things one should keep in mind when traveling to Eastern Europe, as I have recently learned.
Don’t assume the Russian babushka will be as excited about you taking photos of her building as you are.
I discovered this helpful tip this morning as I wandered the neighborhood around my hotel taking photos. As I neared her building, she began yelling at me in Russian, or so I would assume, and wanted me to get the hell away from her building with my camera.
Since I don’t speak Russian, there wasn’t a lot I could say to her to smooth the situation over, except “nyet problem.”
To which she replied, very sternly “nyet problem DA!!”
Just to show I wasn’t about to be pushed around, I snapped this photo defiantly, then went on my way.
While in Ukraine, don’t stick your arm between closing elevator doors just because you want to help the guy running to catch it.
As an American I have this inherent faith in elevators, airplanes and amusement park rides…it’s just part of our social make-up.
Yesterday, while entering an elevator in Kiev, I saw a guy running towards me carrying his briefcase, obviously anxious to catch it, knowing that if he missed it he could possibly wait a bit before the next opportunity. Because of my natural reflex, I stuck my arm between the doors just before they closed.
I could feel them slam against my wrist, deciding whether to take my arm up the the ninth floor, or not. There was enough pressure on my arm that I must admit, I was a bit worried…and relieved when I heard the clang of the doors changing motion and open, leaving me with the ability to type this article with both hands.
The man thanked me for risking my limb for him and then told me how lucky I was. I explained that it’s just habit for me at which point he gave me some very good advice: “Always remember where you are.”
While demonstrating software to a group of women in England, don’t assume their meaning of “period” is the same as yours.
While presenting in Winchester, showing how to use InDesign, I was explaining how to use a nifty little shortcut to enlarge text while holding down the shift key and “your period.”
There was a look of confusion all around. They call the period a “full stop”, I was told and quickly informed that “the only period in England is what a women gets once a month.”
I stand corrected…end of story…full stop.