And today we’re asking what’s the craic about
Our experiences in Russia.
Alright, wow, this should be an interesting topic.
Will be. Okay. So, the Russian Federation Ken, how long have you been here in Russia?
Well, probably not as long as you. I’ve been here for roughly, what, 7 months now. What about you?
I reckon 2,5 years. I’m not counting that. l But I guess 2,5 years. I also… Do you know that I lived in another city?
Really? Before Novosibirsk?
Yeah. But I was a student there. So I was in Rostov-on-Don.
It is European Russia. The South.
I guess west, yes. Never eat shredded wheat. Do you know that? Never eat shredded wheat.
You should never eat shredded wheat. Do you know shredded wheat?
I don’t even know what it means.
Then you haven’t lived Ken? Well shredded wheat is a breakfast here. It’s not the sweetest, there’s not a lot of added sugar and stuff. In fact maybe none. Shredded wheat it’s literally wheat that has been shredded. And it kinda looks… Have you ever seen farmers field when he’s gathered the hay? In a big In a big bundle. That’s shredded wheat. That sorta looks… That’s not shredded wheat, but it looks like that.
So never eat shredded wheat – North-East, South-West. They tried to teach me. They failed.
So anyway. I was talking, wasn’t I? What was I saying?
How long did you stay there before you moved?
I was there 8-9 months, studying Russian a little bit. Taking a break from things. Then I came back. Cause I was working and studying back in Northern Ireland. And I took a break to study, you know. To study Russian. I thought it would be easy. And then I learned bad grammar, and I…
It was an interesting experience I’ll say. New, different, very new, very different. I liked it. And then I went back after that for two years to finish my degree in Northern Ireland, Ulster University. it was called the University of Ulster. Ulster. Okay. Yeah, so I… About 2,5 years here. And I’ve lived a bit of that time in Akademgorodok.
I’ve heard about it, but I haven’t been there.
Nice nature. Plenty of trees and stuff. And you have Novosibirsk State University.
Yeah, I was there. New building. Ken!
You were gonna ask me something.
Yeah, I have a lot of questions for you. What made you decide to come here to Russia?
So, Russian for a long before I came… I was learning the language, but not too seriously. Like, travel language, you know. And I had been reading the history, particularly 20th century history. It was interesting to me.
So that was a pure interest?
Yeah. And like this big big country, I mean, from my point of view unexplored. If you ask someone in Northern Ireland or the UK about Russia, they don’t know anything. In fact, a lot of people get mixed up, or used to, between some of the former Soviet countries. Is it the same place? Is it the same thing?
Because there have… Especially a little bit older people still remember the Soviet Union and don’t see it as a certain country. They don’t… just don’t know enough. And like, what we know about it, what I knew about it before I started to learn was more from James Bond films.
Have you seen the Bond films?
Yeah. Is that about From Russia with love? Are we talking about the same thing?
I don’t know specifics. That’s absolutely one, but there… Sure there was more than one Bond film with Russian villains and stuff. I mean, they’re always villains, right? Always evil Russian people, trying to take over the world, the Cold war and all that. So that’s the stereotypical stuff… And bears play balalaikas and drinking vodka.
This is stereotype. Matryoshka.
And everyone’s a spy in Russia.
I’ve heard about that. KGB.
And if I go there, I’m a spy.
I automatically become a spy if I come to Russia. I mean in the eyes of stereotypical people, you know. But I ended up… Let me interrupt you interrupting. I came to Siberia specifically because at heart I may be a bit of a hipster Ken. And I don’t like to do what everyone else does, you know, and go where everyone else goes. But when they came to Russia, they go to…
Or maybe Saint Petersburg.
Saint Petersburg. And I was like nooo.
Weren’t you hesitant or I don’t know, like.. Did you think twice about it? Cause I don’t know, when you say Siberia, the reputation is kinda like ‘Oh my god! That must be, you know, very cold out there’. I can imagine like bears and white everywhere.
It didn’t scare me. I mean, people are living here, so it must be livable. So it didn’t scare me, the idea. No. I’m not one to be afraid of weather, bad weather. I would be more afraid of hot weather than cold weather.
So, what does it feel like living in Russia so far? You’ve been here 7 months, yeah?
Just for 7 months now. I should say though that so far it’s, you know, so far so good. I like most things here. I’d say that most things are affordable and, you know, services in general are quite good. People have been very nice to me. They’ve been very pleasant, especially at the shops and sometimes when they hear you speaking English, they realize oh, we have a foreigner here.
Not people like you, local people. You know, when they hear somebody speaking English they think oh, okay, so there’s a foreigner. And you know what? There was one particular experience, I went to one place, I forgot the name.
But anyway, I was walking with a friend and then suddenly one woman, I was kind of like, why is she staring at me? And so I asked my friend – could you please take a photo of me? And so he took a photo of me and then after that this woman, who was a complete stranger, she came up to me…
So she came to me and she asked – so where are you from? I’m from the Philippines. And then she started….
Of course. And she was just kind of fascinated, that there are foreigners who visit Novosibirsk. And then she asked me what I was doing here. And I said – well, I work here as a teacher. And so she was with us for a little while, just, you know, to speak.
She was honest with me when she said that – I wanna practice my English with you, that’s why I started a conversation with you. Of course I didn’t mind, cause she was so nice.
Good. Good. She kinda of accosted you. I kinda experienced something like that once. I was stopped by someone on the street and someone came up to me like ‘HiiI!’
Yeah, that was out of the blue. And it was… I didn’t know that person. That was quite strange. It was like hiiii! I was talking to someone like a friend in English, and there was a guy that came and was like HiiI! It was unusual. It’s a little bit strange. But it was okay.
So how did you respond to that?
I think I just said hi. And then I walked on. I was like Whaaaat?
You could’ve been a little nicer.
I was a bit shocked to be honest.
Hi! – So, what can I NOT do for you?
Maybe I hadn’t drunk my coffee.
I hadn’t drunk my coffee. I’m drinking my coffee.
I can see you’re high now. Caffeine effect. Which reminds me I should drink mine too.
Impressions about Russia.
I wanna know more about… So, what are your impressions of Russia?
You know, as I’ve said earlier, I think… You know, to be honest with you. And I hope, you know, our listeners here don’t take it negatively, I spent 5 years in Kazakhstan and I was told that Russians and Russia are like.. I don’t know, maybe more serious and less friendly. So I thought – okay, let’s find out. So I think I was…
That’s why you came to Russia?
Are they serious about that?
But I remember on my second day here I did this kind of a social experiment.
Chinese people are very serious.
Anyway. So on my second day here… Stop interrupting me! On my second day here I made this kind of a social experiment. So I started asking people… I pretended I didn’t know how to go to a certain place and then first this guy in particular, his name’s Alexander, who’s become my friend now. You know, I call him Sasha. At first, of course…
Yeah. Of course, the first thing I asked him was “Вы говорите по-английски?» Which translates to “Do you speak English?” And unfortunately though he said “Нет”, which means No. So I tried…
You understand! I don’t need to translate. So he said Нет, and so I thought okay, how am I gonna explain it? So I just asked him – Где Новосибирск галерея? Just when I thought he would just tell me the directions, he told me ‘Пойдём’, let’s go!
And I was really surprised, really surprised! Because when I was in Kazakhstan, nobody, you know, walked with me to my destination. They all just told me okay, you have to go left, right, go straight on. But you know, surprisingly he said пошли, like let’s go.
And I told him не надо, ну нет. But he was so king, he was so nice to me, we were talking and he asked so where are you from, what are you doing here. And finally when we got to Novosibirsk Galeria, I really thanked him. After that we exchanged numbers and guess what? He’s my friend now. I’ve got a friend!
On your second day. It’s great, great, great. So you were kind of an actor.
And I have just proven that in fact Russians in Russia are friendly, warm, and they’re very very nice.
But in what way serious? Like, serious not joking, or like serious…
Yeah. But not serious like… Anyway!
Now, what experiences do you have with weather?
Okay. So I want to tell you Ken about an interesting experience. Or at least interesting for me. When I first… Cause it was completely new to me to feel -35 you know, on the street.
The temperature was -35 but maybe it felt worse, you know. There was a day… It was a couple of years ago now, maybe 2.5-3 where I and a friend from NGS.
He was Japanese. Here’s me, Northern Irish. And we were living in Akademgorodok. But we were invited to a musical theater of a sort, and it wasn’t simple to get to. And I’d never been there. And I decided – 2GIS, right? Do you have 2GIS?
I have, but I’ve never used it.
Why not? It’s great, it’s great, it’s really useful. But I 2GISed it, if you can say that. Right? And I was like okay, I mean, back in the olden days we would have, you know, drawn a map. Or I mean, literally, drawn a map, like a really rough one or we would have printed out something. Yeah? Do you remember those days?
I’m not so old. Okay. That means I’m as old as you maybe. Am I as old as you?
No, you are a little older.
So, he and I were 2GISing it. So we came on a marshrutka, you know, this minibus and from Akademgorodok, onto the metro and out into the street. We were dressed well, I mean, for the winter. But not well enough!
I think we got like a 100 meters from the metro station and we were like – wow, this is cold. And we went to the burger place. And interesting – I got ice. It was an American place, and I got ice n my drink. It was -35 outside. And I couldn’t remember how to say ‘No ice’, but they just automatically gave me ice.
At -35 we came in to get warm. It would work better in California I guess, but…
What a great way to have a drink!
But anyway, we moved on and what I didn’t know, Ken, is… I’ve never experienced this, that when you’re out, say, 20 minutes holding your phone in -35, your phone starts to lose interest in life.
And my battery died and we were very cold. And he and I were sort of half-way there and spoken broken English, broken Russian together, cause I don’t know Japanese. I’m not great at Japanese. And he used his phone.
And so we… Between my phone died, he got his phone, we got like ¾ a way there and we just managed to see the street before both our phones died. And I was like worried because I didn’t know where to shelter. And we were so cold!
You must have been in panic.
It was a shock to me. I don’t know – was it just… My hands were freezing, I wasn’t wearing my gloves properly and stuff. And it’s not a temperature that you want to go out for more than an hour, right? And it was a very cold day and I was just…
We were so glad to get to this musical place. A musical hall or whatever. But that was an eye-opener. Next time if I have that experience I’ll be drawing a map. It won’t crush.
I guess this is something for you to remember about Siberia.
I don’t know. I’ve never… I don’t know if it was just because we were out searching so long, it was cold wind. I’ve never had a bad… such a day like that…
So that must’ve been worse…
I thought I’m not gonna survive.
That must’ve been your worst experience in cold weather.
It was my first winter in Siberia and I think it was just such a shock. Such a new experience.
Well you can just imagine if, you know, if that were me, I would’ve… oh god… I don’t know, I would’ve screamed.
It was just the fact that we were in an area I’d never been and there didn’t seem to be anywhere to shelter, you know. It was so cold. It was… I don’t know…
Let me share. Well, I remember specifically last year. I can’t recall exact month, but there was a time when I decided to go out, to leave my flat and go somewhere. Well, meet my friend. And I decided to wear just my coat and I can’t remember if I had my scarf that time, but I didn’t have any kind of protection.
Cause I was thinking that I wanted to buy an ushanka, which is a Russian word for a cap.
I had this fantasy of looking like a Siberian and I thought – okay, I’m not gonna use my cap or hat for today. I’m gonna go out there and go to a shop and buy this ushanka to fulfil my Siberian man fantasy.
But! Oh my god, it was a huge mistake. So I went out. As I was walking I was about to meet my friend, I thought oh my god, this is impossible. You know, the cold, it cuts like a knife. It was… I don’t know, it was so stupid of me to do that. I was walking and I was literally… I was shaking. I was shivering. And I thought – what a stupid idea!
We have a word for that – you were thundered.
It was! And I thought – god, I’m not gonna do this again. So I was shivering and then my friend said – oh my god, Ken, what are you doing? Where’s your cap? Where’s your scarf? And I was like – I didn’t expect it to be this cold today.
When was it? What time of the year was it?
I think it was in middle of winter.
I can’t remember which particular month, but yeah.
Do you use an app to find out what the temperature is?
Yeah, I know, I do have that on my phone. However, that day I just didn’t check it.
I’ve decided it’s quite important, because you could go out in the morning and come back in the evening, and it would be completely different temperature. And it’s very unusual for me, cause Northern Ireland doesn’t do that. Rain rain, but not different temperature like that.
At least it’s consistent.
Yeah. Well, the temperature doesn’t change, but the rain on off, on off, you know.
Changeable weather, but in a different way.
So you never got your ushanka?
I got my ushanka! I have finally fulfilled my Siberian man fantasy. I don’t have my ushanka now, but I was so happy to wear it. And of course after that I immediately uploaded my photo on Instagram and I was so proud to share by the way it on Facebook. And my friends of course, they reacted – oh Ken, finally, you look like a Siberian!
But you needed a beard with icicles!
I know! There was a time – when was it? Maybe two or three weeks ago, when ice formed around my eyelashes, I took a photo of it, with my ushanka, which I uploaded on Facebook. And they said – oh my god, you’re becoming more and more like a Siberian. And then everybody was, you know… They laughed at me somehow. I just need to grow, you know, some beard.
Face garnish. I like to call it face garnish.
Yeah, face garnish. How’s your Russian?
I mean, when you go… You have to live here, maybe not at work, but when you go shopping, you have to buy groceries, how do you communicate? What’s it like?
Express that to us, explain.
Okay, before that, I just want to share our listeners, as I’ve mentioned earlier, I’ve been to Kazakhstan, and I when I was there I was trying to learn Russian by myself through an app, and I just wanna share – this is a classic example… I’ve said this many times to my students.
When I tried to learn Russian and then there was a time, I think it was in 2014, I went to a café to have lunch and then I thought okay, I know some Russian words now, let’s put it to test. So I went there and then I talked to this lady, I was pointing at some food.
I said “Это пожалуйста”, this one please, this one please. And then she asked what to drink and something like попить, and I understood it, I thought – mmm…
I thought okay, макси чай, it’s a kind of an ice tea. And then when she asked me “ноль пять”, I said oh, what is ноль пять? I was like, ноль пять, ноль пять, ноль пять, what the heck it this? And then I figured maybe she was asking me what kind because…
That threw me at first actually, because we never really do that.
I know what it is. Now. But at first I was like – what does that mean? Because we never say it like that, it’s small, a can, a bottle, large, medium. We never say it like ноль три, ноль пять. We don’t do it.
But! So when she asked that, I just assumed that maybe she’s asking.. Because you know, макси чай, it has different flavors, you have strawberry, you have apple, so I thought just maybe…
I can just imagine it from her point of view, like – ноль три? Cherry, please. Go ahead! Spoiler alert!
I was about to say that! So, so! I was thinking maybe she was asking me are you… Do you want strawberry or maybe pineapple? And so, I asked her to repeat the question, and then when she asked again ноль пять, I said “нет, яблоко”. She laughed at me.
Oh, she’s laughing, so I got it wrong. She went to the fridge, she got two bottles, one of them was big, the other one was small, and then she, you know… I said это, это, this one, this one.
And then she told me “Это – ноль пять”and then I understood!
She could be a good Russian teacher!
I was so happy, because you know that’s how I learnt my Russian. I don’t go to courses.
I’m just interactive from experience. But so far, now that I’m here in Russia, to be very honest with you, I haven’t really made any serious effort to improve it. I think my Russian…
My Russian I think it comparable to that of a six-year-old boy, but not bad. Because I can buy something when I go to the shop. What else?
Do they ever ask you where’s your daddy?
Because you speak like a six-year-old boy. No, I don’t sound like a six-year-old boy.
I just sound like one, because, you know, of my… Because of the way I say my sentences. What about you?
Can I make it the sound of coffee?
Make it louder, so that everyone can hear.
I want to gargle it, but I don’t think that would…
I don’t think people’d want me to…
Coffee, Ken, how do you take it? I mean, I know, in your mouth, right? I mean, not yet? Black? Do you take sugar?
Of course I do, but not a lot.
Not a lot? How do you say one sugar? Cause I never take sugar. I don’t need to say it.
I just… This s something.. How do? If someone asks me два something, I don’t remember how do you say it. But anyway, I understand because they’re asking for it, and then I just say – два, пожалйста.
We can ask our listeners. Answer’s on a postcard.
I’m just like no sugar, no milk.
How do you say that though in Russian?
Oh yeah, без, that means without.
Без молока? Something like that.
That’s ‘without milk’, I understand that.
So, that’s all you need to say, right?
At least it works for me.
So, speaking of which, how’s your Russian?
Oh, okay! You’re way ahead of me.
I don’t practice often, maybe not as much as I could or should. But I think because I’ve studied a bit at University, I’ve got quite a bit of grammar. Maybe not used as much as I would have liked.
But I know quite a bit of grammar, and I know quite a bit of vocabulary, just I think the execution of it all, you know, the practice alludes me sometimes. Maybe a little bit hesitant, let’s say. I’m not so outgoing with strangers, even in English, so to speak with strangers in Russian sometimes can be very unnerving for me, a little bit scary. I’m like they’re judging me, you know.
The same thing happens in my head!
I just feel, oooh, they’ll judge me, and they’ll now I’m not Russian. Cause for me…
How do you find the pronunciation of words though?
It’s what we call in Belfast… In Belfast, Northern Ireland, we would say – it’s mustard!
It’s tricky. It means it’s tricky, it’s not easy. Pronunciation… Well, I’m sure… I’m always told that my L’s and T’s sound like English.
Could you… Okay, for the benefit of our listeners, I just.. You know, I’m sure they’re gonna have fun with this…
Нормально. How about that?
Say that again, say that again.
I think that… Нормально. I think I have a better pronunciation.
Give us one sentence, just, you know… We’re not gonna judge you.
Here’s the typical scenario in a shop, this is what my conversation in a shop would be like. So they’ll say maybe Добрый день. They say it. Maybe Добрый день, maybe добрый утро, whatever. And I’m like добрый день. You know, I probably speak quietly, cause I always do it anyway. And I’m like добрый день.
And then they’re like Пакет нужен? Пакет нужен? I’m usually like Нет, не надо. Or I’m like Да, пожалуйста. Маленький, большой? Маленький.
You have some accent, I can tell you’re not a local.
I don’t know, maybe I used to try more of the accent, then my attitude changed – they’re gonna know I’m not Russian. So why? As long as I’m clear, maybe I’m becoming lazy, I don’t know. And that’s about the conversation that you need everyday, for someone that’s only doing groceries.
Survival Russian. Не надо.
Не надо. Пакет не надо, спасибо. Anyway.
So I guess that’s about it for our third episode for today. What do you say?
Yeah, we’ll talk a bit more about Russia.
And stay tuned! We’ll see you in the next episode
That has been What’s the craic?