The media has been arriving in Sochi over the last week in advance of the Olympics, and it’s clear that there have been some surprises regarding Russian accommodation.
The Olympics haven’t even started yet, and Twitter is already on fire with such “atrocities” as having to wait a bit for a room, tap water that’s not potable, having to throw used toilet paper into the wastebin instead of the toilet, and other inconveniences. None of these things are a big deal, and all of this amounts to normal life in Russia.
Of many gems, this particular tweet is probably my favorite:
— Harry Reekie (@HarryCNN) February 4, 2014
A curtain that fell off? Oh, the humanity! “Shambles,” indeed – how will you ever survive?
Dear media: welcome to the real world that exists for 143 million people. Now get over it!
I’ve spent a combined 50 or so days traveling through Russia: two weeks were spent on a train, and the remaining time was spent in hotels scattered across the country. I’ve undoubtedly spent more time traveling through Russia than have the vast majority of Russians, and I’ve certainly spent more time in Russia than most of the western media. In no way am I an expert, but I did learn Cyrillic before traveling there, I can speak some basic Russian phrases, and I know my way around the country fairly well.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned.
Russia is home to some of the friendliest people on earth
This might contradict much of what you’ve heard about Russia’s people. And if you never bother to dig a little deeper, you might also assume they’re a bit curt. They won’t smile at you on the street, and conversations tend to be point driven. But when you express interest in them as individuals, when you make the effort to share your food and drink with them, and when you need help, they become some of the friendliest and most hospitable people on the face of this planet.
Patience is a virtue
I knew I might have to be homeless for the night when I got stuck out on the streets of a frozen solid Tyumen. I had no way of contacting the hotel owners and I had no information as to how to find the place. But with a little patience along with some creative use of Google Translate, the hotel was found. Sure, it took half the day, but it was an experience in and of itself. And the hotel turned out to be one of the nicest places in which I stayed.
There’s a lot to learn
Inconveniences might be initially challenging, but maybe there’s something to learn despite the apparent chaos? Russia has a fascinating history, and Russian cities are chock full of some of the most ornate and elaborate architecture in the world. Don’t forget to appreciate it, even if the curtain in your hotel is falling off (poor you!)
It’s not that big of a deal
Unless you happen to be a stray dog in Sochi, you’re probably doing okay. In fact, you’re probably having the time of your life whether you know it yet or not. Russia is a massive and beautiful country, and you get to be there for the Olympics. Enjoy it, and try not to complain too much. The world is watching.