Friday, May 15, 2009


Because I was born in the Soviet Union and immigrated to the United States when I was 10, I've spent a good part of my childhood answering people's question about what the biggest difference between the two places was. Because I was a huge suck up as a kid, I'd say things like "religious freedom!" "freedom of speech!" and sort of rattle off the Bill of Rights, when secretly I was thinking, "duh! There's gum here and Brady Bunch reruns, what are you, retarded?"

But that's not all.

Russians will greet you once and that's it. Americans greet each other throughout the day. They'll say "hi" in the morning and if they see you again in the afternoon, they re-hi you. I don't understand. Did the original "hi" expire or something? Also, "hi" is taking the place of "excuse me" and "fuck you", apparently. Someone shows up in your office while you're on the phone and waves to you, "hello!!!" (translation: excuse me) "Hi," you mouth, while pointing to the receiving that's cradled to your ear (translation: fuck you).

Don't get me started on the hi vs. hello. It almost gave my father a nervous breakdown when we first got here.

"So you say the hello when formal, and hi when time is short?" he asked my having lived in America since age 4 cousin, who was the local linguistic expert.

"Yeah, like when you're in a rush," my cousin explained.

"Because the hello is the long they have to have something even shorter," my father shook his head. It's zdrastvuyte in Russian. Privet, if you're all colloquial. It's hard to be sympathetic.

The "you had me at hello" popular didn't help, either. Which time, I kept wondering.

Yes, there is a slight chance that I'm overreacting.


Blogger Keyona said...

What? Huh? Oh hi. :o)

May 15, 2009 at 10:15 AM  
Blogger for a different kind of girl said...


Multiple daily hi's make me a bit crazy. Also capable of making me crazy? Hi'ing me first thing in the morning when I'm not even prepared for a Hey!

May 15, 2009 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger Magpie said...


May 15, 2009 at 11:08 AM  
Blogger Annje said...

I don't mind the Hi/Hello so much--though more than once is totally unnecessary-I agree, but really as far as I am concerned it is optional--and I am more a fan of head-nodding myself... but the obligatory kiss-everyone-when-you-come-and-then-kiss-everyone-when-you-leave greetings/farewells from my husband's culture are exhausting

May 15, 2009 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger SweetPeaSurry said...

You missed the 'hey' and 'yo' colloquialisms. I'm disappointed!

Actually, I didn't even notice how often I say hello to people throughout the day. I'm going to start using things like, 'how's your day going?' and 'Fuck off' more often now. Thanks for the tip!!

bright blessings!

May 15, 2009 at 11:45 AM  
Blogger Karie said...

That's really funny. I always thought hi and hello was just preference here. Just say what you feel like saying?

And I was born here too. How sad.

May 15, 2009 at 11:54 AM  
Blogger WA said...

And that's why I always put my head down and run when I see people coming.

May 15, 2009 at 12:25 PM  
Blogger Amy@Bitchin'WivesClub said...

My kids took Russian for a year.... so I know exactly what you are talking about. I wouldn't say any more than I had to if I had to speak Russian all day! ;)

May 15, 2009 at 1:16 PM  
Blogger Amy@Bitchin'WivesClub said...

And don't think you're going to trick me into trying to *spell* any of the words I know in Russian. I will not fall for it!

May 15, 2009 at 1:17 PM  
Blogger Roshni Mitra Chintalapati said...


May 15, 2009 at 1:22 PM  
Blogger Roshni Mitra Chintalapati said...

ok, maybe 'namaste' may make you feel better!!

May 15, 2009 at 1:23 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

I am just guessing that LOLcats "Oh Hai" would make your dad's brain leak out of his ears. I was a Russian Studies minor in college. I totally get the whole thing. My Russian Language teacher was always a hello person. If I had ever got a hi I would have been shocked.

May 15, 2009 at 1:58 PM  
Blogger Pink in a sea of blue said...

Hi. What does your father think of "Have a nice day?" What does "nice" mean exactly? I've often wondered. :)

May 15, 2009 at 2:26 PM  
Anonymous Andrea's Sweet Life said...

I had a friend whose mother was Indonesian, and instead of answering the phone, "Hello?" she always said, "Who is calling, please?" because she said you save your "hello's" for your friends.

Interesting cultural differences, for sure.

May 15, 2009 at 3:07 PM  
Blogger Ann's Rants said...

Try dark glasses and a cane.

Works for me....

May 15, 2009 at 3:13 PM  
Blogger Kate Coveny Hood said...

We had a Russian temp as a receptionist, but she wasn't hired full time. Reason? She was too abrupt on the phone. Apparently Americans need to feel special/sexy/wanted when they call a place of business. Hello wasn't even enough. So typical of this consumer driven society. Nothing will ever be enough.

May 15, 2009 at 5:45 PM  
Blogger ♥ Braja said...

Hi Marinka.

May 15, 2009 at 7:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You could try Shalom. You know, kill two birds with one stone....hello & goodbye with one word.

Those Jews are brilliant.

May 15, 2009 at 7:49 PM  
Blogger Comedy Goddess said...

You're right, hi's should not expire.

Do Russian's air kiss each other hello? Just wondering.

May 15, 2009 at 9:47 PM  
Anonymous Sophie, Inzaburbs said...

I come from the middle ground where you top up a little through the day. You know, just in case your earlier hello did get a bit stale. Non-stop greetings bother me, but I also have trouble with cultures where there is only one hello, I never know what to say the other 202 times and end up making all sorts of strange detours just to avoid the situation.

As for Hi vs Hello, I use Hi as much as possible. Because I wasn't supposed to say "hi" when I was growing up. Apparently it was too American.

May 15, 2009 at 10:04 PM  
Blogger Maelstrom said...

Please explain to your father about use of "Yo" and "Sup".

May 15, 2009 at 11:15 PM  
Blogger Pop and Ice said...

Many, many moons ago when I was working as a contract employee for a large company, somebody complained to the contract firm that I was not friendly. That I didn't say "good morning" or "hello". Well, I was pregnant and very hormonal so I started shouting, right outside the building near the parking lot that "no one could fucking make me say hello" and if they insisted they could just fire me now because I wasn't hired to be "nice", but to do a job. I got a new contract agent (guess I scared the other one away) and still got the job.

May 16, 2009 at 12:42 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

I never thought about a Hi expiring. But clearly they do.


May 16, 2009 at 7:27 AM  
Blogger bernthis said...

I could not agree with you more re: the "Hello" to you when you're on the phone. and did you see how in a hurry I am that I had to write re: I'm such a busy woman. gotta go

May 16, 2009 at 11:31 AM  
Blogger anymommy said...

Good thing Paparinka didn't get hit with 'how do you do' or 'well hey there' too soon after arrival. Worse, what if you had immigrated to Georgia. Hiyah sugah, honey chile, might have sent him over the edge.

May 16, 2009 at 5:59 PM  
Blogger Mary@Holy Mackerel said...

What about herro?

Or Helllllooo (Seinfeld style)?

This sure is confusing. I think I'll just stick with ignoring most people all the time.

May 16, 2009 at 10:39 PM  
Blogger Nap Warden said...

Well don't go south...they'll hit you with "Howdy";)

May 17, 2009 at 6:34 PM  

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