Dos and don’ts in маршрутка

If you have been in Russia (not as an oligarch), you may have taken маршрутка (a little bus):


In English, it is possible to spell this word as marshrootka, marshrutka and even marshroutka (the last one sends you back to the concept of “route”).

Quick must-know facts, tips and tricks about marshrootka:

– replaces almost all public transport in majority of Russian towns – so, it is important to know how to use it;

– drivers are known as fast, fearless, breaking all possible and impossible traffic rules, men with a sense of humor;

– drivers do not recognize usual bus stops and take/unload people anywhere;

– to catch this bus, you need to wave like mad and sometimes even jump to attract driver’s attention;

– if the drives shows you with his forefinger and middle finger (kind of V but upside down), don’t get him wrong – passing by, he is just asking if you agree to stand as all seats have been occupied (this gesture resembles feet);

– often overcrowded, and during rush hours, you will never get into it if you remain a typical English gentleman – alas, you will see lots of men getting inside before women and children;

– during super rush hours and on student routes, the only way to catch one is to stand in the middle of the road and wave to the driver like your whole life depends on his decision and show letter V upside down;

– made of a super elastic material unknown to the rest of the world (proof: looks like designed for 13-14 people max but can easily take 20-30);

– if you have taken a seat, it does not mean it is yours (British, beware!): somebody can take a sit on your lap;

– to request a stop you need to use a special tool which British people use very reluctantly – their voice (read: you need to shout you want a stop – you would rather miss it than shout, ah?);

– having found a place to sit or stand (the latter is actually illegal), you need to pass the money to the driver straight away to avoid execution and interrogation – if you sit far from the driver just ask other people to pass the money;

– the previous tip explains why the seat right behind the driver can become your unpaid full-time job;

– it is divided into 2 parts: driver’s cabin with 2 extra seats for passengers and main passenger part;

– the former (read above) one is normally for beautiful girls and those who can, during the whole journey, hold the safety belt in such a way that it seemed it is fixed properly (Normally safety belts do not work in these buses. If you don’t know what to do, just put the buckle under your bum, and the road policemen will think (or pretend to think) you are safe);

– marshrootka has rules, peculiarities and sarcastic slogans you can find inside (to understand this humor, please read above):

We fly for you (drivers of marshrootkas)

Don't run around inside

Don’t run around fast inside


Dear passengers, don’t forget to leave valuables

10 minutes of fear and

10 minutes of fear and you are home! Cost of amusement ride – 5 rubles

Cost of ride

Cost of ride – 25 rubles. Faster – 50 rubles. Standing – 20 rubles. Lying – 15 rubles. Run with the bus – 10 rubles. Sit on driver’s lap – 30 rubles.


Getting closer and closer to the person next to you, you give hope to people waiting at the bus stop

Random words: ДУРАК/fool

Quite a rude word, isn’t it? However, as it is unfortunately used very often, it won’t hurt to know it. So,

дурак is about a man, and

дура is about a woman:


Muuuum! I found a cat!  – Fool! You’re 35 years (old)… Find a husband!

To brush up your imperative mood skills, refer to my super scheme here. (ИЩИ is formed from stem ИЩ, infinitive ИСКАТЬ).

It is possible to soften this word slightly and instead of ДУРАК say ДУРАЧОК (with a proper soft intonation) – a woman who calls a man ДУРАК does not love this man, but if she says ДУРАЧОК, she probably does!

Also, in our failry tales we have a famous character ИВАНУШКА-ДУРАЧОК (something like Ivan-the-Little-Fool). He is usually silly, kind, lazy and not selfish at all, yet (or therefore?) lucky and in the end he marries a princess and gets half a kingdom! (How? He inherits a cow, foolishly changes it for a goat, then the goat for a chicken and the chicken for an egg but this egg turns out to be magical, etc).

And yes, in Russia single women in their 30s are in a tough condition as the society thinks they should already be married!

It’s not just about language

When we start learning a new language, often we focus mainly on pronunciation and words, more rarely on habits and traditions, even more rarely on non-verbal language, forgetting there is something more than that – the general idea of the world (including time and space).

For example, we Europeans think time is a horizontal line. Present is in the middle, past to the left and future to the right. It’s hard to believe that for somebody it’s very different.

As noted by Lera Boroditsky in her research, for one Australian tribe – Pormpuraaw – time goes from east (where the sun rises) to west. Therefore, if these people are given photos of a person, from childhood to an old age, they will arrange them from right (childhood) to left (old age).

We think that past is behind us while future is ahead. While for Aymaras (Bolivian and Peruvian Indians), present is ahead of us (we see what was there, don’t we?) while future is behind (it’s unknown).

Photo 06-01-2014 21 03 17


One Russian student Sergey Tsygalenok tells the following story indicating similar differences in cultures (how different cultures treat 7 pm):

“I invited all my friends to my birthday party and asked them to come at 7 pm. Germans came at 6:55 pm and were surprised there was nobody else there. Chinese came at 7:05 pm and apologized a lot for being late and explained why they were late. Russians and Hungarians came at 7:30 pm and said “Let’s begin”. Koreans came at 8:30 pm and apologized briefly. Americans came at 9:15  pm and were really happy the party was in full swing and did not say a word about being late. Other Russian friends kept arriving all night “.

If we for example take different parts of day in the Russian culture, we will see the following picture (rather subjective):

  1. Morning: 4-5 am to 11 am-12 pm.
  2. Day: 11 am-12 pm to about 4 pm.
  3. Evening: 4 pm to about 11 pm.
  4. Night: 11 pm to about 4-5 am.

It’s different in Britain, isn’t it? Especially during the night which is actually morning in the UK. We can’t know a language well without these bits, so I would recommend learning not just words and grammar!

A bit on Russian women

Russian women don’t like mean men, so many expect great presents (often not for having something expensive but knowing their man is no Scrooge McDuck). Add to this typically cold weather in Russia. What will we get if Generous Man + Cold Weather? Yes, ШУБА (fur coat)! Usually НОРКОВАЯ (mink).

Норковая шуба:

шуба 2


Isn’t she beautiful? As we joke in Russia, there are no ugly women, only “underfinanced” ones, so why not trade one of your kidneys for a good cause, even though it’s expensive?


– Love, buy me a fur coat! – But it’s expensive! – But you have two kidneys and only one me!

Surely it is a joke about kidneys, but why spend on your car more than on your wife or girlfriend?

March 8th in Russia

Восьмое марта – women’s day celebrated annually. If you consider this unfair and wonder about men, just check this post.

A special and hard day for men who struggle with presents and buy same things all the time. Many women consider themselves free from cleaning and cooking, so men just have to take over.

The spirit of the holiday is expressed in the pictures below:


Picture:    8th of March is a sad day…1 day a year


Picture:     Be silent woman! Your day is 8th of March!

Forgot about 8th of March?

Picture:    Forgot about 8th of March?

C восьмым марта!

February 23rd in Russia

The Fatherland Defender’s Day is an official holiday in Russia celebrated every year on February 23rd. Considered a men’s day, so every man or boy, being potential or present defenders in Russia, receive congratulations and various presents from women.

Women in their turn have their own women-only day (8th of March) when they receive congratulations and presents from men.

Great holidays but they cause lots of pain as many men and women struggle with ideas for presents. Traditionally, men receive grooming and personal care kits (which many of them are dreading) while women typically receive flowers, perfume and chocolates. Such presents are always subjects of numerous jokes in the “gift battle” between men and women.

A joke about childish men:

23rd of February

23rd of February: feel yourself a man 1 day a year

And about presents:

скорее бы

(I wish) the 23rd of February (comes) faster, because I have run out of shampoo


What’s so special about Челябинск?

Челябинск is a Russian town. You can find some smart and boring stuff about it here. If you want something funny on Friday, see below.

This town is very well known on the Internet for being ‘rough’ and ‘tough’. If something of this sort happens, they say it’s from Челябинск and in Челябинск (does not need to be true though, it is just a synonym of everything rough and tough).

Tough Chelyabinsk football

Tough Chelyabinsk football


Chelyabinsk masseurs

Chelyabink's men  so tough

Chelyabinsk men so tough

Tea - Chelyabinks style

Tea – Chelyabinsk style

Well, (by coincidence?) we had a meteorite shower there last year and therefore lots of jokes, like:


Before meteorite shower and after

How old is молодой человек?

Very often in Russian you would hear “молодой человек” about a man which literally means “young person” (male). The confusing bit is that it can be applied more or less to any man who does not look old. No borders, very subjective, so does not need to be obviously young.

Tricky meanings:

1) “A boyfriend”:

Мой молодой человек пригласил меня в ресторан! (Don’t picture a handsome 20 year old guy. This “молодой человек” can be 40 years old!)

2) Used to address a man you are not acquainted with:

–  Молодой человек, есть закурить?

3) Or just like in English, it can be used by a senior person during a conversation with a younger one (with a touch of patronizing, educating, etc)

–  Вы, молодой человек, не знаете жизнь.

To summarize:

молодой человек = молодой человек – OR –

молодой человек = бойфренд – OR –

молодой человек = мужчина (can be not young but should not be too old; often unacquainted to the speaker).


(a lonely hearts ad) Beautiful brunette will meet a (young) man. I’m 18 years and 173 months old.

Where is the north and what is “northern money” in Russia?

When I speak to people in the UK and mention the north of Russia, it turns out they think it is an area to the north of Moscow. It’s correct but often by “the north” in Russia we mean “Siberia”, especially its part which is famous for its oil and gas deposits. A good example of “the north” would be the town of Surgut or the Respublic of Yakutia. So don’t just restrict yourself to the north of Moscow!

Useful words:

Север – the north

Уехать на север – to go to the north (to work or live)

Работать на севере – to work in the north (you remember where the north is, right?). Often associated with work on rotation basis, for example 1 month on and 1 month off: you spend one month at your home in a warmer area and then travel to the north and stay there for a month. Also associated with a much bigger income.

Северные (“northern”, about money) – a kind of allowance which is paid to those working in the north. The reason for paying is severe life conditions. The amount depends on the area and can be additional 20-100% to your income.

And a northern joke for those who are not too bad at geometry:

90 градусов

If you’re cold,
Stand in the corner: there it’s 90 degrees.

Why Sturdy Russian celebrates Xmas twice

Christmas is coming, so Sturdy Russian is taking time off until January 8 to celebrate it in full. Our lessons are continuing to take place, so if you’re as dedicated to learning Russian during this festive season as we are, join in or browse previous blog posts.

If you learn Russian, you can consider yourself part of the Russian community. What benefits does it have? Well, we:

1) Celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January;

2) Celebrate New Year just like you do it here (on a larger scale though!);

3) Celebrate “Old New Year” on January 13th-14th (you can crack it here).

Combined with British holidays, that’s 3 weeks of fun, celebrations, presents and great food!new

С Новым годом! – (on) New Year! (Happy New Year!)

С Рождеством! – (on) Christmas! (Merry Christmas!)