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Russia: Remember You Are The Guest!

Embrace the American, Leave the Ugly at Home
When preparing for a vacation abroad, travelers will hear all kinds of contrasting advice about how to carry themselves in a foreign country.

On the one hand – When in Rome, do as the Romans do. On the other hand – Don’t forget where you came from.

On the one hand – Be yourself. On the other hand – Blend in with the locals.

It’s all pretty confusing; add to that the stigma of being the “typical tourist,” and it only gets worse.

Culture Jamming
Some of the tourist stereotypes border on offensive – this type of tourist travels in large groups and takes lots of pictures and video. That type of tourist sits on buses and peers out the window waiting for the next buffet. This other type of tourist puts peanut butter on the scones. Another can’t pronounce anything they see written down except brand names.

Americans traveling abroad have a particularly bad rap. They’re loud, poorly dressed, and worst of all – obvious. The Ugly American.

There are reasons for the ubiquity of this stereotype. First off, there are a lot of us. And our extreme affluence relative to the bulk of the world’s population means there are a lot of us traveling, a very expensive hobby without question.

And our Gap/Old Navy/catalog clothing culture tends to dictate that we dress alike, and sometimes colorfully; you don’t find too much basic black at Old Navy.

So the French and the rest would rather we downplay our American-ness. But can anyone tell me why Mickey Mouse, Jerry Lewis, and Cher have done so well as exports? Certainly it’s not their cross-cultural sensitivity, or their understated taste. It’s their American-ness.

I will say that one of the most important things to remember is: “Use eyes and ears before engaging mouth. Staying alert and attuned to everything going on around you is not only better style, but is much safer to boot. To paraphrase a very useful truism, better to be thought American than open your mouth and remove all doubt…”

Trips to the local markets are always an interesting & fun time. When they discover that you are American, the word goes like wild fire through the Market. (This is good & or bad!) We have refused to buy from many vendors because they raise the price, but in the same token we have gotten fantastic deals because they want to be the one to have sold to the American.

I am always one to remember prices & look for the best deal. Russia has a brand of socks that are made out of dog hair. These socks are the best socks that I have ever worn. My wife and I buy these socks from a local Babushka that sells them for 30 Rubles a pair. She makes good money and is very happy with the sales.

We went to a local market that sold clothing and found these same socks. The gentleman who wanted to sell us the socks (after he heard me speak English) presented us with a price tag (for the very same brand and style) of a 100 Rubles. Even with a 50 Ruble tag attached to the display socks. He was heart broken but lowered the price all the way to 60 Rubles. As we were walking away we heard 50 Rubles. We knew at this point we could have reached that 30 Ruble price, but we kept walking, for you see the Babushka will keep our sock business.

It is another fantastic day in Moscow….

Post by Kyle Keeton
Windows to Russia…


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