Russia – Culture Smart! by Anna King

When I was about five, I received my first atlas. I have a very clear memory of asking my mum what that massive section of the world that seemed to be called USSR was all about. At that instant an obsession was born. One that has continued to this day – intensifying somewhat when I made a proper Russian friend, and when I visited that Russian.

An obsession with maps was also born, but that’s perhaps another story.

When I saw this book in Waterstones before Christmas I didn’t buy it, reasoning that it would probably appear in my stocking on Christmas morning. Well, apparently nobody else spent quite as much time lurking in the Russian travel section as I did, and it did not appear. The Amazon voucher I received did the trick, though. Let’s gloss over the fact I said I wasn’t going to buy any more books.

The book starts with a history section which is really interesting, before moving onto different areas of Russian life, explaining the customs that you should bear in mind, and providing an insight into the Russian way of thinking.

My favourite section was about Russian superstitions. I love a good superstition, so it was great to add a few to my list: never shake hands across a threshold (this is repeated many times – must be important), always sit for a while before making a journey, don’t return to the house if you’ve forgotten something, do get married in the rain, always give an odd number of flowers.

Overall, the book was very interesting, and the illustrations made it feel quite fun, although I sometimes felt that I was told something but the details behind it weren’t fully explained. I found it a nice addition to my carefully stored up Russian knowledge, and I look forward to investigating the answers to the questions it left me with in the future.

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