I have to assume the woman is apologizing. She’s working the coat check desk at the Armory Museum in the Kremlin, and she’s just aggressively slammed my coat down onto the table. My DSLR was inside one of the pockets, and a horrible sound filled the room as a part went flying. All eyes are now upon us, and the woman is rapidly speaking to me in Russian.
I look at her empathetically and give a half shrug as I try to non verbally communicate that it’s okay. She’s still speaking as I pick up the wayward camera piece. Her voice rises now and it seems almost as though she’s… angry? That can’t be right; for all she knows, she’s just broken my camera and I’m more than willing to let it slide. Something must be lost in translation. I continue gesturing that it’s okay. I’m not upset and the part, as it turns out, is just a lens cap. The camera is fine. But there’s no mistaking it now. The woman isn’t apologizing at all. Her scrunched, ugly face and agitated hand gestures plainly show that she’s irate. Apparently it’s all my fault – I shouldn’t have had the camera in my pocket at all, and I’m now fully deserving of a good Russian admonishment (nevermind that the previous museum had made me put my camera in the pocket.)
All I can do is shrug and walk away. After all, I am in Moscow, Trip Advisor’s least friendly city in the world. And this particular experience tends to be the rule and not the exception. Besides placing last for having the least friendly locals, Moscow also rated dead last in the “Friendliest taxi drivers”, “Best taxi services”, and “Best for shopping” categories, and it placed second to last in the “Best value for money” category as well.
Silly Moscow. We tourists travel far and wide to wander your streets, jaws gaping at the grandiose architecture, the wonderful theater, the museums, the art, the history and so much more. We come and we brave your frigid weather, we decipher your funny alphabet, and we pay your astronomically high prices. Is it to much to ask for you to crack a smile?
My advice? Go to Moscow anyways, and think of situations like these as part of the travel experience. No need to take it personally; the locals certainly don’t. The city’s very much worth visiting… even if you spend your entire time without ever seeing a Muscovite wearing a smile.