A Basic Primer on Russia: Lesson One
So read these Russian basics, and get involved! Your country needs you.
1. Tapochki: This is the foundation of Russian society. It means slippers. When you enter a Russian person's home (and the fact that my family has lived in the United States for over thirty years doesn't make us any less Russian, of course), you are accosted by tapochki. Everyone must wear slippers while indoors. If you wear your outdoor shoes, you are uncivilized and if you walk around barefoot, you are an animal. Stocking feet? An animal in socks. Don't make me go all "lipstick on a pig" on you, ok?
2. Fashionably late: This concept does not exist in Russia, so don't even try it. If the invitation says 7, arrive at 7. A college friend who spent a semester in Moscow was constantly amazed that when she'd show up at 8:30, all the Russians were already there, drunk and the food was mostly gone. She started to catch on after a few months. On this side of the ocean, my parents and I have had the mortification of knocking on someone's door at 7:01, apologies ready for the tardiness, only to have them meet us in hair curlers. Like The Bloggess.
3. Vodka: You must drink vodka. In obscene quantities. While you are drinking vodka, you have to tell everyone that you respect them, in a continuous loop. "I respect you, Sasha". "And I, too, Boris." No one understands why everyone respects everyone else, or why they will shortly confirm that respect with vomit.
4. If your guests want to leave, don't let them. So let's say you arrived at the party, dinner, whatever, at the appointed time. Your feet are tapochkied, you are having a lovely time.
"Well, I better be going," you say, after a few hours.
"Please stay," your hostess pleads.
"Maybe for a minute," you agree.
This conversation will repeat itself many, many times. Begging your guests to stay is as Russian as vodka and caviar, so don't fight it.
It was a rude awakening for our family when we were invited to our first Passover Seder in New York and my father started to make Getting Ready To Leave noises and our hosts shot up, said "Ok, good night!" and practically changed into their pajamas in a nanosecond. My parents were outraged.
"Did you see how they couldn't wait for the us to leave?" My mother complained.
"People are rude," my father agreed. "Americans have no manners."
"Well, you did say 'It's been so nice, but we have to go now'," I tried the Voice of Reason on for size.
"What does that have to do with anything?" My parents were generally perplexed, as though I was speaking in tongues.
Oh yeah, that's another thing. In Russia, tongue is a delicacy. Even kids eat it. Suddenly, the "large quantities of vodka" is starting to make sense.