We are going to tell you about Russian tourism and hospitality and what to take with you if you are invited for dinner into Russian home. Please come very hungry and be ready to enjoy the atmosphere.
There were not very many good restaurants in the Soviet Union, and it was almost impossible to book a table at a nice restaurant in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. Those restaurants that were popular and worth visiting were too expensive. Mostly people invited friends to their homes and there was no need for the official invitation. Your friends could just look in without warning, nobody found it abnormal. On working days they used to sit around a kitchen table having dinner together. On special occasions usually a big table was laid in the living room.
Still people in our country invite and visit their friends quite often. Though now the tempo of life in St. Petersburg is more active and thousands of cafes and restaurants there are in other big cities.
In the beginning of this article we asked you to come into Russian home hungry. The reason for it is simple – you are expected to eat a lot. Hospitality for Russians means much food. Foreign guests are expected even to eat more than Russian ones because they are considered to be special guests. If you do not eat your Russian hosts will decide you do not like what they cooked for you. If you are given some food you consider unusual try a little bit of it and leave the rest of it on the plate.
Usually Russians invite guests for dinner. It is not typical to have guests for breakfast or for lunch. Knowing you are a foreigner most likely you will be offered dishes from Soviet past that are popular at New Year – Olivia Salad, herring under the fur coat… There will be appetizers, the first course and the desert with tea.
Being a guest you can bring some flowers, a bottle of wine, some desert, for example, a cake or a box of sweets. If you have anything that could be a present from your native country Russians will appreciate it greatly. The thing you are bringing does not have to be very expensive, it can be a small “good luck” souvenir. Russians love them and not because of their value, they love the fact you spend time on choosing and buying them.
Please remember Russians do not wear street shoes inside their homes. Even if they do not ask you to take your shoes off, be aware of it. Your hosts will offer you home shoes to wear. Also you may take the shoes to change with you or you may stay in your socks only.
In the beginning of the evening in Saint-Petersburg you would better find out where the bathroom is. There you can wash your hands first and as the evening is going to be long, it is better to know where it is.
While drinking alcohol remember Russians usually drink for something and be sincere in your wishes. It can be a toast for your meeting – you are happy to see everyone, a toast for your hosts – you are very grateful they spent time on preparing for this evening, for happiness – you would like everyone to be happy.
After the first toast you may ask your hosts to arrange a tour around their home for you. Please do not be surprised Russian homes are smaller than homes abroad. It would be polite and true to say the home is very cozy.
Vegetarians and vegans are new and not popular in Russia yet. That is why if you are one of them you would better warn your hosts about it when accepting their invitation. Russian dishes, such as – meat jelly or herring under the fur coat – are unknown and may be even frightening for most foreigners. It is not a problem to say that you have never tried them before. Please try just a small piece of everything, I am sure, you will find something suitable for you.
Generally Russians do not cook gluten-free food and most of them eat everything with bread adding flour and grains into all food. Please explain to your hosts in advance that there are some ingredients you can not eat because of some medical reasons.
A deep and interesting conversation about everything is an integral part of every dinner in Russia. Please be ready to get involved into it, Russians will be interested in your opinion of everything – politics, sport, music, science, family relations and other subjects. Your hosts will listen to it very carefully and will discuss every point seriously. Russians love honest and open people – be yourself! They love listening to interesting stories and being asked questions about how they live.
I can not say Russians drink a lot – not very often and only on special occasions and in a pleasant company. They may offer you to drink vodka. It can be even Russian vodka tasting. If you are not used to it you may always say – it is not common for you. Russian hospitality means your glass must be always full. You will notice Russians do not drink vodka themselves very much. Russian women very often prefer wine, Russian men usually drink beer. If you do not drink alcohol at all you may always say doctors do not allow you to. It will be respected by your hosts.
Russians are very giving people and friends forever. We hope with this article you will be a very experienced traveller to Russia and will not have problems with communication and accommodation in Saint-Petersburg, Russia.
We are ready to help you with accommodation in one of the hotels we recommend. We also are happy to arrange staying in a private apartment in the center of St. Petersburg if you prefer this option.