Hey there and welcome to the BigAppleSchool podcast – the weekly English show where we speak about everything under sun. The major goal of this show is to help you improve your English by listening and of course learn something new. My name is Katya, I’m your host, and today with me…
So let’s get started. Today we’re gonna talk about domestic difficulties – so all the annoying, surprising things that we’ve seen in different homes in different countries. So, I have and I’m gonna jump right in with one question I have for John. John, when I was in Britain, I was shocked about separate hot and cold water taps – why is that?
Okay, well. It’s a bit of a historical thing. I mean these days most people have mixer taps fitted when they’re having a new bathroom, or new house are fitted with mixer taps. But many houses still have separate ones – in fact, my mother had a new bathroom fitted what, three years ago, and she insisted on having separate hot and cold water taps for her sink.
Well, historically, houses originally were fitted with just cold water, right. And this was fed straight form the mains and was considered safe to drink and still is. Hot water taps came later and hot water was fed from the mains to a tank where the water was stored, usually in the loft, you know, and that would feed the hot water tank which was heated.
And as it was sitting around in a loft for a day, for a couple of days, it was deemed unfit to drink. It was probably totally safe, but they were playing on the safe side and not wanting any more cholera breaks.
So hot and cold were kept separate, and the idea of having a mixer tap was at least two… Well, the problem with the mixer tap is that the main pressure from the cold water was much higher than the pressure from the hot water, which is only using the gravity from the loft.
And so the imbalance of pressure may mean that there could’ve been a crossover in feeds in a mixer tap, with mixer taps at the time, so. Everyone on the side of caution kept them separate.
Oh god. This is so much more complicated.
So much to do with plumbing.
So, but how do you, let’s say, wash your face or wash your hands? Cause you can either, like, use cold water or the hot water?
Well the idea was you put the plug in the sink and filled up and mixed in the sink.
Oh that’s too much effort.
So basically you’re, like, okay. You plug the sink, then you mix the water, you rinse your face once, like, you rinse the soap, and then you have to let the water go and fill it up… Oh no! But… You know, I remember when I was travelling around the West Coast of the US, I was booking a hostel and it said ‘Victorian style building’ and I was like – oh, sounds nice, also not very expensive.
So you can imagine my surprise when I got into the room and I saw the separate hot and cold water taps. I’m like – whyyy? This is… Whyy?
You know, it’s just historical. In the 19th century Britain there were a number of cholera outbreaks and people were concerned with the purity of their drinking water. So the authorities when they were making regulations about plumbing were just being ultra cautious to make sure that cold water supply the stuff you drank, was never gonna get contaminated.
Well, no, not really, cause I’ve got mixer taps.
I know. Actually, my bath has got separate hot and cold, but I’m not.. I mean, you can… I know why I did that, doesn’t make a lot of difference, you don’t wash your face in the bath, do you?
Fair enough. I feel like with the bath it can’t be that annoying. And what is it like in Australia? Cause I know nothing about homes in Australia.
Yeah. The old style homes, the federation homes what they call them, which were.. Which was established about a hundred years ago – those homes still have those separate hot and cold water taps. Probably, I’m not sure, historical reason – something that John was saying.
But these days, I mean, mixer taps are pretty standard. So. Now, it’s just for the people who are listening – I think in the British English we call them taps, water taps, right. But apparently the Americans and the Canadians call the faucets.
Yeah, so just to be aware they are equivalent, the same thing, just depending on the region you’re in.
And have you found anything annoying or surprising when you moved here to Russia?
Plumbing-wise, no. Oh yes! Yes I have. Sorry, yes. British houses have their own boilers – every house has its own boiler, be that a combi-boiler, an immersion heater, or some form of heating your water is yours and yours to look after and service and to maintain.
Whereas if you live in an apartment, or we call a flat, in England, you’re at the mercy of the entire block or possibly area. And for two weeks having your hot water turned off in the middle of summer I find quite weird. Why?
But of course I know why cause you gotta service all the pipes and they are fed centrally ad so it’s better to turn off in the summer than the winter. I knew about this before I came here, so it wasn’t a surprise.
So you were like mentally prepared for those two weeks.
Yeah I hate those two weeks, I hate them. Every year I know this is gonna happen, but every year I’m like aah, here it goes. And usually what is annoying is that no matter what area or neighborhood I live in, it always happens in the hottest time of the summer. How? Mike, what about you? What did you find surprising, annoying?
Anything. I mean like domestic-wise.
Well, you know, a surprising thing is something you call kipyatilnik, right. When I first arrived here, I arrived here on the 9th of June last year 2019, so. The day I arrived actually I was told that that was the day that the city turned off the hot water supply.
Which I thought – oh wow, this is pretty cool, first day in Siberia, Siberian experience. Right. So for those two weeks I think I took a shower just using cold water.
But it’s fine, it’s fine.
But it’s like freezing cold!
Oh no, it’s not, it’s not, it’s perfectly fine, because it’s summer. Actually even in winter it’s okay because it’s centrally heated right. The houses are. So yeah, so the first time I, so it was okay, and now we’re going through that same period now where the hot water is being shut off here and throughout the city.
And of course the girlfriend can’t take that, right. So she asked for what’s called a kipyatilnik. I’m like – what the hell is this thing, right? So I went to the central market, bought this thing – it’s a just coil basically that heats the water through electric currents I think.
So I remember my dad long time ago, you know, he went to Moscow in the 80s and he told me about, when I was a little kid, that the hotels had these coils hat heat up water, right. And this is what it was, right, so kipyatilnik. So 25, almost 30 years later, kipyatilnik is still in usage.
Oh I’m pretty sure that like a hundred years from now..
I know, but most Russians from now have moved on to localized boilers. Right. Little little tanks that heat up water. But all in all, I don’t use kipyatilniks, you know, true Siberian man takes cold showers. And he loves it.
So a kipyatilnik is a coil inside of kettles, but how big is it?
It’s a little bit different. I think the coils inside of kettles they heart up. These things don’t heat up as I can see, they do but they don’t, it’s weird. It almost feels like they don’t, it’s like they’re heating coils, so the coils don’t go red.
But they need electrons I think, and they introduce them to the water and they heat it up.
But again, there are those of different sizes. They can be no bigger than a fist, let’s say, if you need to heat up a small amount of water. They can be…
This one was as big as a forearm.
As big as a man’s forearm.
Oh you put it in a metal bucket, metal bucket full of cold water.
You know what I could never understand about those? When I was a kid my mom was like – never put your fingers into the water! Why?
They still exist in other parts of the planet actually. An American friend of mine he came over and I showed him – hey look at this, this is called a kipyatilnik. It looks like a kettle rod you can electrocute people to death with right.
And he said to me – actually, where he’s from, which is New York, he says that they still… Some people actually still use these things. They’re small but they use it to heat up tea.
Yeah-yeah, I’ve seen those.
Tiny little versions right. So some people in the United states still use these.
You can buy those in Britain in petrol stations, and they run off your cigarette lighter in your car.
Wow! Well now I’m surprised. As a lighter? Okay. So and quick question – what was your reaction when you found out that you won’t have hot water for 2 weeks?
Well I came here prepared to experience minus whatever degrees.
Oh, so you were ready or everything?
I just kinda took that as the Siberian experience.
Alright. Cause I’ve heard stories of people who come here to Siberia and then they find out that hot water’s off. So, when today is it gonna be on again? I’m like, oh, well, you know, it’s not gonna be here for another 2 weeks. Whaaat? Ah, yeah.
More annoying is when all the water went off in our block which has happened twice for 24 hours. Now that I wasn’t impressed with I must admit,.
Well I have to ay that it doesn’t happen often. It’s not supposed to happen often.
No, it was just the block, it wasn’t the area. It was something to do with the plumbing in the basement.
I don’t know what you guys are talking about cause I get those a lot.
Yeah. Last year I had about two weeks straight with no hot water, and then there were periods intermittent like, a day, 24 hours, I must have lost about 7-8 days.
No no no, no water at all, just not hot water.
Oh you were talking about no water?
Oh okay. Well that’s a bit of problem.
A bit. Alright. And what washing machines? Cause again, like, I have noticed that they are always places in different places in the apartment or in a house. So what is it like in Australia? Where are they usually?
They’re always in the bathrooms. There’s a laundry room or a bathroom. There’s actually a separate room called a laundry room. Or the bathroom. So the thing I noticed – I went to a friend of mine’s house yesterday, he recently moved back to Novosibirsk and I went to his apartment.
Nice spiffy apartment and… But the thing that I noticed that was really weird was that the washing machine was in the kitchen. That was really weird to me.
Yeah. I mean, as far as I know, I had a question to John about it, cause as far as I know, very often in Britain the washing machine is in the kitchen because of the small space I think?
Correct, yes. In British homes most washing machines are in the kitchen. My little apartment here it’s in the kitchen in Russia, though before I believe most times it’s in the bathroom. Quite good idea, it was novel to me to find a washing machine in the bathroom, but when you think about it - why not?
Got all the plumbing in there, so sensible. Why it’s in the kitchen in my particular apartment I don’t know. The bathroom’s next to the kitchen so the plumbing goes straight through the wall, so, not a problem there.
But the reason why washing machines are in the kitchens in Britain is, you’re right, is simply the size of houses. Yeah, bigger houses have separate laundry rooms et cetera. I’ve seen some American houses where it’s not so much a separate room but like a cupboard.
So you open these bifolding doors and there’s a huge washing machine and a dryer, it’s usually top-loading where you can get in yourself, never mind the clothes. They’re excellent machines, they last forever, but they’re quite crude really, aren’t they.
Yeah. Whereas in Britain and then in Europe, because of the smaller sizes of kitchen, we don’t have two machines, we have one. So that’s why it’s automatic washing machine.
So it’s both a washing machine and a dryer?
Oh that’s amazing. Oh I need…
No, well, I mean, depends on the type of the dryer I guess. Cause, let’s say, in here like most of the washing machines, they work in such a way that you take out your clothes and they’re wet, like, a little bit. But, let’s say, the dryers that I’ve used in the US – you take out your clothes, they’re so hot.
Yeah, but they’re ruining clothes, that’s why people don’t like using them.
They’re actually ruining your clothes over period of time.
Right, so a lot of people don’t like using them.
I don’t… It’s like.. You don’t eve n have to iron them.
Well yeah, that’s the advantage I guess, but I wear just half of my laundry outside.
Well, if you have some space and time.
Also remember – things shrink if you heat them, certain materials.
Certain materials do, yeah.
So it’s a big no-no for some people, right. So one thing that I found in Russia is that almost top-loading laundromats, laundry machines are almost non-existent. I haven’t seen one here.
Um, no they do exist, cause let’s say my parents have one.
Because they have a very small bathroom, so the front loader I think it’s called, it wouldn’t be possible to place one there. So they got a top loader.
We call them European style.
No no, the front loaders. They are called the European style washing machines, and they are sort of a new addition to Australian life.
So they are top loaders in Australia, like in America?
They are always top loaders. And what’s changed is of course that in Sydney, in Melbourne – mass urbanization of population growth. People…
The houses got smaller, so the kitchens have got smaller.
Not the houses, apartments. So apartments were not a standard living in Australia when I was a kid. Most people lived in houses in suburbia right. So what’s happened is people getting urbanized, their houses you know, started to get replaced by apartments.
And apartments had, you know, these front-loading European style laundry machines built in. So when they bought the apartment it was already there. Yeah. And it had dryers as well. And the reason for that is what they found that people used to hang out their laundry outside to dry.
Even though they had the dryers.
And that made the apartments look ugly and therefore the property value used to come down. So instead they said – we’ll give you a dryer, put it in that and don’t hang it on the balcony.
I mean it’s business right.
It’s interesting. Cause again, with the washing machines, it’s like a heated… Every time you talk about washing machines with somebody in Russia it’s like a heated debate – whether it should be in the kitchen or in the bathroom. I feel like most people say it should be in the bathroom, but then again…
What, do you want your kitchen smelling like detergent?
But then again, what if your bathroom is too small for a washing machine?
Well then it’s a necessity dictating where it should go right, but I mean ideally we are looking at something that, you know..
And that is something that surprised me when I moved, well, when I went to the US, cause I would expect to see a washing machine in the apartment. But it was never there, cause it was in the basement! Like, always in the basement! And usually it would be like you know, you had to insert some coin.
Americans are horrified at Europeans and British people having their washing machines in the kitchens – they think it’s very unhygienic apparently.
I think so too. That’s what I felt when I saw yesterday at the apartment. Why is your washing machine in the kitchen?
But I think that’s because the top-loading American style are quite, if you like, old-fashioned to Europeanized machines.
It requires a lot of time with clothes, taking it in and out in between the dryer, whereas in a European one you put it in there, shut the door and forget about it. And so it’s done. But…
However, I find the top loaders more convenient in the sense that they are more efficient.
Yeah. The trick to doing this, the laundry, is actually to spin in the first cycle, and then pause it and leave it in the detergent for 20 minutes, and then re-start again.
Wait wait wait, so your clothes do not need that much detergent actually. The length of time you leave it soaking actually, so with the front-loaders you can’t do that right.
Yeah, so, to put the clothes…
Actually you can, if you select, if you get the new one with 25 different programs, if you can be bothered to read the instruction manual, decipher it, decode it, program it, you can do that. But life’s too short.
That’s why automatic washing machines were invented, to replace twin tops and front-loaders and standing in front of the thing for hours on end dragging it down to laundry. The drying thing in Russia is interesting though.
I’ve not seen many tumble dryers, and of course as you said Kate, the washing comes out of the washing machine and it’s still damp, so you gotta dry it. So in summer you’ve got your balcony, every Russian’s got a balcony, and thus, there goes the dryer and it sits on that perfect. Winter- put the washing on the balcony and what happens?
Oh it’s gonna freeze. But then again, not everybody can do that. Let’s say, I have a balcony, I cannot hang my clothes there, just because I live on a central street, so it’s gonna be, like you know, covered with dust, so I can’t do that.
Ah, I see. So where do you dry it then?
Yeah-yeah, but inside the flat?
Right near the heating they call that thing. The wall-heaters.
Radiator, yeah. Or battery in here. Oh yeah, that’s one thing, people who are listening. Battery – don’t call those batteries!
They’re radiators, right.
Speaking of. What’s the heating situation like in Britain and in Australia?
Yeah we don’t need any to be honest.
They need air-conditioning.
Yeah, pretty much, But the air conditioning is actually a very-very power efficient heater. But most people don’t know this in here. That you can actually use… The air conditioning, when used as a heater, the heating source is actually the one of the most power efficient things you can use.
Right. Convention is the right word I think. I don’t know, maybe. But yeah, generally the winters in the two big cities which half the population lives in – its +15 degrees in the winter.
And what about the humidity and whatnot, do you use anything to, like, heaters, electric blankets or something like that?
Yeah, people do use those if they’re cold. Right, But generally no, because Australia has a lot of wool, it produces a lot of wool, so you just put on a wool jacket.
Or a jumper and then wool pants, and you’re good to go. Pretty much.
Yeah. Wool is highly-valued because, well, wool is apparently the only clothing that keeps you warm when you’re wet. So they say you know, wool is holy. But then.
I’m doing the math in my head like, how much you’re saving on heating.
Well, if you… Well, I’ve had girlfriends who get cold very easily, they tend to be thin girls, not a lot of fat. They always get cold and they always want to put on some heater or… They usually like those heating rod heaters, so they, you know, they turn red and get hot and you sit in front of it. A very inefficient way to heat a room but that’s the way they do it. If they wish they do it, I don’t.
Alright. What about Britain?
Well, as you can imagine we need heating in winter.
We do. The further North you go, the more you need it. Now most houses now have central heating, however, I didn’t live in a house with central heating until the 1980s. Yeah. You’d have a fire in the downstairs rooms and nothing in the upstairs rooms.
So the fire is usually gas, but before that there were coal and iron bar, having the fire in the lounge, a bit of newspaper and woods and then you put the coal on and the room would be filled up with smoke. If the chimney hadn’t been swept properly. Great fun.
They were all replaced pretty much in the 60s and the 70s with gas when natural gas was discovered in the North sea, and every house was put on natural gas and everyone had a gas cooker. And we had a gas fire. And then these were gradually moved when we had central heating fitted, with radiators everywhere and a gas boiler.
And pretty much every house now has a gas boiler and radiators. And that’s fine, that’s great. Except the government now in an attempt to cut down the emissions now wants everyone to have their gas boilers removed.
And we all go over to electric. Gas boilers cost about 5 thousand pounds, I’ve just put on a new one two years ago, so the government can whistle. That’s standing there for the next 20 years.
Yeah. There are other sources of heat. I have, for instance, in my house two wood burners mainly because I can manage to find, don’t pay for wood, it costs too much, but I find, scavenge bits of trees when they are blown down in storms.
I wish I was there now actually because there was a big storm there this weekend or the last couple of days, so there’d be a few trees blown down so I’d be out there with my chainsaw, help myself to some wood.
It is great fun. I mean it is efficient, it’s nice and warm, it’s nice to look at. But most people it’s gas. Though those fires might refer to as really inefficient. One kilowatt, two kilowatts bar electric fire – they’re still around.
There’s always, every year, we have this business of old people saying they’re too poor to heat their houses, get these shots of an old woman sitting in front of a one-bar electric fire trying to toast a piece of bread in front of it. That’s why every year they have winter fuel payment, to anyone over 60 gets an extra 200 pounds whether they need it or not. Including me now.
But I mean, so what about the monthly bill? I mean like do some people… Cause, let’s say, in the US a lot of people would say just put on a sweater, and then the second sweater, a third sweater, but just don’t turn the heating up cause that’s gonna be way too expensive if you do that. So what is it like in Britain? I’m not asking about Australia cause, well, apparently there’s…
Well yeah, I’m afraid in Britain people do overheat the houses, they have their central heating thermostat turned up at 23-24 which is totally unnecessary. It should be at 18-19 to be healthy. And if you get a bit chilly, put a cardigan on, why not. That would be sensible, but people don’t I’m afraid.
I remember when I was… Three years ago when I was in Boston, that was one of the coldest winters within the last hundred years. So we had the thermostat at 18-19 but still. There were seven of us, it was a three-story building, so there were seven of us renting rooms.
The monthly bill for the heating was about $800 and it was like at the 18C. And a funny story. Story time! So in December we all left, you know, well, somebody left for home, I went travelling, so there was no one in the building.
So our landlord, love him, he turned the heating down to 13C degrees in the coldest winter within the last hundred years for a month. I came back from holiday, I was the only one there. My friend was staying with me, she came with me. I found like you know, a sheet of ice in my bathtub.
So I turned the heating up to like 23 just so the house would warm up a little bit. Well, several hours later we decided to start a washing machine. So half an hour after we did that I heard a splash, so I was like what? Is there water somewhere?
I ran to the basement and I found out that the pipes have broken out. So I didn’t know what to do, I was panicky. There was water everywhere! And we had those huge, you know, recycling trash cans – really, they’re big. It got filled up with water within like 50 seconds.
And I was thinking what am I gonna do with it? So I just poured it out to the back yard, no one’s there anyway. And I didn’t think of anything better than call 911. So they came, they stopped the water, they called the water department, they came in.
But the thing is that they have no right to do anything inside the house. They can only check everything outside. And they said – okay look, everything’s fine outside. Which means that there’s something wrong with the house, so I couldn’t use the water for, let’s say, 3 days.
So I had to call my landlord, shout at him and threat to sue him if he doesn’t find a room for me to stay in. Yay. And he only did that when I, again, threatened to sue him.
So you didn’t know where the stopcock was then?
No. What? No. But then again, what would… No. I didn’t know anything about the house.
You should always know where the stopcock is when you need to stop the water supply in your house, just in case something happened.
Well, mine’s under the sink.
I mean I know where that is in my apartment in Russia. But in that huge house – no, I had no idea where that was.
Wait wait, explain to me this stopcock.
It’s basically a valve that turns off the water supply into your house. You have one pipe supplying water into your building, right. And all other pipes will come away form that pipe and it’ll supply a tank of the hot water or a combi-boiler if it’s that sort of system.
But there’s one valve, you turn it off and no more water will come into your building. So when… And it also supplies the water to the radiators as well ultimately.
Ah, no, that’s different with apartment building I don’t know.
It’s actually outside, I saw it. The valves. But it’s near the elevators and stuff.
That depends on the building. So very often it is inside, in the bathroom.
Yeah, see, if you were living in an old brownstone or something like that.
So it was a modern thing. Cause in old brownstone which was originally a house they probably have one stopcock somewhere in the basement. But if it’s a modern apartment, you might have several, one for each flat. I don’t know.
Yeah, I did not know that.
One student here told me a story. You know how in Russia they have these big coil towel-drying?
I think they’re fantastic
I think they’re fantastic too. I didn’t know what the hell they were when I first came.
Wait you don’t have those?
We have heating radiators.
Not something that’s centrally heated.
We don’t have them. People buy them, but they’re electric. So when I first saw these, I was – what the hell are these? But his story, this particular student, is that… was that it broke. Yeah it broke, that pipe, and all the water started flooding his apartment. And actually in the middle of the night.
Oh no. And it’s hot water, right?
That’s right. And then the plumbers had to come, they came in the morning. And then by that time the entire floor as wet. All the neighbors were kinda yelling at him. And when they stopped it, they had to stop the water supply for the entire apartment block, that’s the way to stop it, because they’re centrally controlled.
Right. So but, I told him, okay, if there are a thousand apartments in one block, and the chance of one of these malfunctioning is real. So what, you’re gonna stop the entire… That’s inefficient. Is there a valve that stops the flow in each apartment? And he said no, right.
Yeah, I don’t know much about it.
So your water could’ve been stopped because of one of those things somewhere. It’s my point. You know when you said that you didn’t have any water.
Oh no no no, that as definitely down in the basement. That was the whole block. Was nothing to do with… No, I know you mean valves operated by a screwdriver, that can turn off, isolate individual radiators or supply just the toilet system for instance.
But those things are often retrofitted or are fitted in more modern buildings by plumbers that go along – this is a good idea to do it. For instance, you fit one in your toilet system, because suppose the one inside of the flashing mechanism breaks, they’re plastic, they do.
You can just isolate the toilet system, and then drain it down replace, put it back in. You don’t have to, like in a block you were talking about, just to turn off the supply to the entire block while you do this small plumbing repair. You can isolate one particular device.
Right. So if you do have a burst waterpipe in your apartment, like what Katya went through, the ideal solution is what? Just to get a towel and put pressure on it? Just like sucking venom.
Try. It depends, you see. Katya’s system sounds like it was the main’s pressure, so that is the pressure that is supplying the entire city. So that pressure is enough to drive the water all the way to the top. How many stories was that?
Three. So it was enough pressure to drive it all the way to the top of this, to the top of the building.
I have just realized that I haven’t told you what the reason was.
Since the house was empty for the whole month and the temperature was 13 degrees and it was really cold, there was like a thick layer of ice inside the pipe. So that’s why it happened apparently.
Yeah, when they freeze they expand, burst the pipe, and then when it melts, out it comes.
But that sort of pressure, the main pressure, you putting towel to make it stop is the same as blocking the split in Titanic with a towel to stop it sinking, it’s a waste of time. You need to turn the water supply off.
Right. Always locate a stopcock you’re saying.
And try not to panic if something happens.
So when I go back to my apartment today, the first think I’ll look for is that valve. Usually where?
Probably, in Russian apartments, I think most of the plumbing stuff is in the bathroom. Try the bath.
Is there a special look to these valves?
Yeah, usually like a wheel valve with a red hand.
Yeah, it’s a wheel or sometimes…
And they are red for a reason.
They’re red, they’re always red.
Actually. The one under my sink at home in England isn’t, but.
Well, speaking about heating and whatnot, what about Russia? And winters in Russia. Have you found anything annoying, surprising when you experienced your first winter here?
The ice. Slipping on ice and getting a concussion when you fall on your head.
You did not get a concussion! You did?
Yeah, about four times. This winter. No, because I’ve never walked on ice before like this. Right. So it actually takes a few weeks to actually get used to walking on ice if you… If you just use your normal gate, you are going to probably slip.
So you gate has to be shorter, the altitude.
I do remember you fell on the stairs once, right?
It’s the ice, it’s the ice. The snow is not a problem, it’s the ice.
It is. And sometimes when the snow falls and you don’t see where the ice is. There we go.
Yeah. It’s something. But people here tell me that this is a standard experience, that it is expected at least once or twice in one winter, you’re gonna slip in.
If it’s once or twice it’s kinda like a good year.
You just have to learn to fall properly, haven’t you?
Well I do know how to fall properly, but in the moment when it happens. Happens in microseconds.
Also true. What about you? Did you find something?
I fell over a few times, I expected that. Just look over for a big bank of snow to fall into, it’s soft. Np, the thing that annoyed me most about, well, not annoyed, because you know it’s gonna happen. Just wish this wasn’t happening is the end of winter, the slush.
I knew it was gonna come, but it’s just horrible. It all melts, and all the crap and rubbish that has been underneath that snow for the last six months appears. And all the mud and smut doesn’t go anywhere, it just lies there. And if you have to walk through it. Now that’s the bit I don’t like.
You know there’s a joke like the two situations when the city’s clean – when all the dirt has frozen and when all of that has dried, there’s nothing in between.
But yeah, I understand, I understand. So now, what about trash and recycling and whatnot in your countries and here? Do you recycle? Do you have special trashcans and whatnot?
Oh yes, yes. Yes yes yes. It’s an obsession of our government these days to try and pressurize people into recycling because the EU, the way that we’ve got rid of rubbish in Britain up to recently is a landfill. Dig a big hole, throw it in a landfill, cover it up. This is done all over the world, I guess it’s done here.
This is done in America. But the EU is saying we are filling up too many holes and they are fining us. And they are right. I mean, Britain’s running out of space. There are too many of this, the island’s too small, and we are digging too many holes and having too much rubbish.
So we’re being told to recycle. So we… The trouble is it varies from local authority to local authority. There’s no consistency – which sorts of plastics you can recycle, what you can put in which bin, can you put plastic and metal, cardboard and plastic, plastic on their own.
So a lot of it you recycle and it still gets thrown away because it’s not been sorted properly because the people don’t’ understand cause it’s not consistent. But I have outside my back door I have three black boxes, which are emptied every fortnight.
One for glass, one for tins, and one for paper. Then I have a big upright wheelie-bin also emptied once a fortnight but the alternative week to the black boxes. And that is full of cardboard and… what goes in there? Cardboard and…
Cause you haven’t mentioned it.
Yeah, plastic. And then there’s another wheelie-bin for rubbish. And that’s emptied to the alternative week to the recycling.
That must take so much space.
It does, but it’s outside and I have enough space. But then you come to Russia and you live in an apartment and there is recycling bins at the bottom outside of the base of the block, and I can see why it doesn’t happen so much around here.
Because you got small kitchen, where are you gonna keep? Every time you empty a milk plastic carton, are you gonna go down twenty flights in a lift just to get rid of that thing? And come back and go all the way up again? Or are you gonna have 4 or 5 little bins in your kitchen?
I have a couple of little bins on my balcony. One for plastic, one for glass.
Well you might as well cause you can’t dry washing out there, so it’s a good place to put your little bins isn’t it.
Mike, what about Australia?
I would say the one national value of Australia that everybody can agree with is environmentalism. Right. Regardless of what religion, what ethnicity, what age you are, right, so Australians are hardcore environmentalists.
I can’t think of one Australian who say screw the environment, I’ll just do what I want. That’s, yeah. But anyway,, so when I first came here, after a couple of months somebody asked me what do you miss about back home? And I said actually nothing, except for one thing. Recycling. I wanna recycle. But there doesn’t seem to be any infrastructure for it. Right.
In Russia if you want to recycle you need to take so much effort to do this, you need to find, you know, the trashcans for that.
Right. So there’s a universal color for recycling – red, yellow, blue, or red, yellow, green. The only time I’ve seen those colors on bins was actually at the grand central station here. There they have them, but they’re tiny. But I’m told that actually they all go to the same pile in the end anyway.
It doesn’t matter if you put it in the yellow or the green or whatever.
Depends on the place actually.
So if you see those trash cans t, let’s say, train station or tiny ones at shopping malls – usually yes, they do end up at one landfill. But if you ever noticed bright yellow metal container which said Arctic on it, then those have…
Well, in there you can put plastic and usually there’s some kind of a picture what types of plastic you can put in there, and those go straight to the recycling factory.
Can I ask you a question? You said landfill here or land pile? Those are two different things.
Well, mostly they’re land piles, but there are a couple of landfills I think.
Right right. So landfill can be covered and the land on top of that can be used to build stadiums, you can actually build infrastructure on top of it.
It’s mostly land piles in here.
But I heard that in Russia it’s land pile, which, as you can imagine, can we reuse that? Right. But then again Russia doesn’t have problems with space. Right.
I mean look. Oh you live close to the center, so you probably haven’t noticed that, but in the summer very often people who live in the outskirts they come outside the feel the… Well, they see the smoke and they can smell, you know, this terrible smell of a smoke.
Yeah, that is from the land piles.
Yeah, this is the thing. Every now and then , you know, once or twice a month you’ll smell this pig farm smell, right.
Oh that is coming form a pig farm.
It does. There are so many urban myths about it. But I asked so many Russians about this, particularly Novosibirsk, and they all give me different answers. Some say it’s a pig farm near Бугринская роща, some say it’s like some pig manure that’s coming in from Novokuznetsk. Some people say… It’s all very different. Some say it’s a chemical factory. Right.
We can talk about it after the podcast cause I know a person who did a little investigation into that.
Yeah, they really should, because there’s so many urban myths about this, about this farm.
But yeah, with recycling – it is a problem. Because the thing is that, well, let’s say, I try to recycle, I have one of those trash cans for recycling next to my building. I usually rinse the plastic, whatever containers and throw them away.
But everyone around me thinks I’m crazy. They’re like what are you doing? Are you rinsing that? Recycling? Come on, be realistic. No, I want to be optimistic! It starts with a small step, yes, baby steps, but still. So yeah.
There is a serious problem with the waste culture here, I would argue that. I mean, if I look at just the amount of plastic usage here it’s phenomenal. Plastic is everywhere and everything is done in plastic, right.
And just the amount of plastic that’s generated if I look at the rubbish bins near my apartment block – it’s pretty amazing, right. Maybe Russia has so much petroleum they can just produce plastic constantly possibly. What do you do with that? Cause the life spans of those things are long. Yeah, so.
Alright. Yay. I still have a question about.. Well, one last actually. Pests. Have you ever had pests? And what did you do to get rid of them? And what were they?
What do you do with them? Cause we have several wasps nests at my parents’ place, like, in the outskirts of the city. We use acetone.
I don my double thick overalls, my anti flush gloves, my plastic visor and I go there with aerosol, find the nest, and spray the aerosol at the nest, which coats in with white foam and seals them in, and that’s the end of them.
Pests in Russia or pests in.. I can’t, which one?
Right. There’s a big difference to me.
Okay, so what kind of pests are common in your country? Cause in Russia it’s mostly cockroaches, sometimes mice.
Really? Well, you are lucky one, sir.
Because in Australia. It’s one of the things that I actually started missing when I first came here.
Because it doesn’t matter how clean is your house, it has nothing to do with that. There’s life everywhere in Australia – sun, warmth, hydration, right. So plenty of that. So every day or two you will a cockroach no matter what house, no matter how clean you keep it.
Wait wait, when you say cockroach, how big is it?
So for those who can’t see…
It’s like an end on you, it happened to my mom once.
This concludes today’s edition of reasons why I’ll never go to Australia.
Right. So, but you’re about to see life no matter what – crickets, spiders, something you’re gonna see in the house.
Wait, I can’t understand, in my… In houses in Britain – spiders. I like spiders.
How? You can’t trust a creature that has 8 eyes.
Why? What is that purpose?
Why are there no spiders in my apartment here, there’s nothing.
There’s nothing here, I couldn’t see one cockroach, one anything. In Australia…
Say thank you and move on!
No-no, it’s just weird! It is weird.
Spiders are normal to have a spider around.
There’s very little life in Novosibirsk actually, asides from humans, that’s what I figured.
In the summer every now and then you will see some flying insects come through your window. But because I live 22 stories up, the wind force is very, you know.
So those who make it up to 22 floors are the champion insects, right. These champs, right, these champs make it through the window – I don’t wanna kill them, right, but they are the alphas of their species. So last time I saw like a moth come in I was like oh my god, a moth! How are you?
You move to like the fifth floor, you’ll have plenty of those.
Yes, I live on the sixth and yes, you get plenty of those. And you should eradicate them as fast as possible, cause they will eat clothes.
Yeah. Well. But, you know, either way I just find that the lack of cockroaches and rats and mice and possums, and whatever, you name it. For the first two months it was really eerie, it was really eerie. There was almost no life in the apartment, right, it was strange.
It’s amazing, I love that.
I was talking to people, and people are like – well, that’s weird, why would you want cockroaches? Well because you see a cockroach or two a week no matter what in Australia.
Wow. I mean, I’m so used to not seeing any kind of life in my apartment, so when I was living in a student residence in Wellesley. Its an old building, like a hundred years old but I only saw the, oh god, how do you call those creatures that have way too many legs, like a hundred of them?
Centipedes, yeah. So I saw those a lot, cause it’s like, you know, the humidity.
Depends, it varied from like 5 to 20 centimeters.
But I mean, they’re harmless. But then once I saw something moving in my room, I jumped outside, like, you know, out of my bed, went to the hall and saw someone and said – hey, how brave are you? The girl was like who’s in your room? Oh I don’t know, this is something scary.
She told me it was a cockroach. I’m like there’s no way this monster is a cockroach. Cause, like, it was like big, it was like what? 7 centimeters, 8 centimeters.
It’s a standard size for a cockroach.
No, not for Russia! In here they are like 2-3 centimeters max, they’re tiny. You can kill them – hit them with a slipper. They’re dead.
Because when you kill a cockroach, if you do that the eggs will fly outside and stay and will breed. You should kill them with chemicals only. Don’t squash them.
Okay. I mean, if it’s… I mean, if it’s just one and it’s tiny… But in the US for example I’m like there’s no way you can kill this. And the thing is that very often they don’t even die if you spray some chemicals on them, so what the girl did – well, she saved me. She caught it and then flushed it down the toilet. So it went travelling.
One thing that I noticed here – Russians, when they eat like a packet of chips, they don’t put it in plastic containers and store them. Right. And I was wondering why. They just put it in the cupboard or leave it outside. Right. And I was wondering – why do you do that?
Because I bought a lot of plastic containers the first thing I arrived here to put food. And they thought I was weird putting things into plastic containers - breads and whatnot, right. And I realized why they don’t do that here – no cockroaches.
There are no ants. You leave something outside in Australia in the kitchen, I will guarantee within 24 hours there will be an army of ants.
There will be a party in your fridge.
That are gonna come and eat that sugary thing you left in the kitchen. So that’s why you gotta cover it with plastic containers or glass or whatever. Right. But strangely enough when I first got to the apartment, I opened the cupboard and there were like 20 glass jars, right.
And I thought – who the hell leaves 20 glass jars for a new tenant, right. But then I went to the central market and I saw all these pickled things, pickled everything and I realized – a-ha, they wanted me to pickle. Right. I get it now.
You want to become a true Russian, to get a true Russian experience as you said? You should do that.
They only thing I wanted to try here is a pickled watermelon.
Why? Why would you pickle a watermelon?
Because I’ve never, cause I’d never seen a pickled watermelon till I came here, right.
No, neither have I. Pickled watermelon.
Central market, they have all sorts there.
Apparently you can pickle all sorts of things.
There’s a huge jar with half a watermelon actually pickled, or an entire watermelon pickled, you’ll see it.
Doesn’t sound like something I would like to try.
No. I’d rather eat it fresh, thank you.
Oh god. Okay. Well guys, thank you so much. That was the BigAppleSchool podcast and today we discussed domestic difficulties, surprising things that we have in our houses and that you guys experienced here in Russia.
We discussed washing machines, heating, recycling, trash, pests – all the things you can think of. So thank you for listening and remember – if you struggle to understand our conversation, you are welcome to our website which BigAppleSchool.com/podcasts where you can find full scripts of each episode.
You can read them while listening, isn’t it cool? Also if you want to get more content which will help you learn English you can follow us on social media which is Instagram, VK, Telegram, YouTube- everything. Just search our name, again, BigAppleSchool. And that was Katya and my guests for today were…
Stay tuned and I’ll see you around.