Immediately after my nine hour flight, I emerged into a culture not unlike our own, but to prevent culture shock I searched for an American treasure-Starbucks! Like ALMOST every college student, I have my everyday drink down to a precise order : iced dirty chai with two espresso shots, light ice, and a shot of hazelnut. I was prepared to make a smooth transition into Russian culture with my iced dirty chai, but then the barista asked “что вы хотите?”. From that point on I knew there wasn’t any turning back. For the next month I would have to put my crude Russian skills to use!
Ои! I can confidently tell you your dog is beautiful and count to 100, but when it comes to speaking about anything significant I lose all faith in myself. Needless to say we spent about 5 minutes playing charades before we settled on an order.
From that brief interaction, I learned two things :
1. My coffeehouse order is too complicated.
2. Stereotypes are deceiving.
In American pop culture we are taught to see Russians as unfriendly “frenemies”. Movies will tell you they’re stern. Newspapers will say they’re corrupt. Textbooks put us at historical odds, and imply that a World War III is inevitable. Yet, I haven’t experienced any of these stereotypes. My Barista was
friendly, far from corrupt, and didn’t express a single desire to enter nuclear warfare!
A simple (or not so simple) Starbucks order disproved the stereotype, and showed me that even though we are thousand of miles apart we aren’t so different after all.