RIA Voronezh continues to publish monologues of foreigners who live, work or study in the Voronezh Region. Visitors share their observations about the life here, and a view from the outside is an opportunity to see shortcomings and advantages in order to improve the urban environment.
Englishwoman Genevieve Clough arrived in Voronezh on an additional education program in October 2018. Gennie is 23 years old, in Russia she fell in love with homemade pickles, learned to cook borsch and hide the smile.
About the motherland
– I was born in the village of Marsden in Yorkshire and then moved to Lancashire near Manchester. I have a typical Northern English accent - the same as Sean Bean who played Ned Stark in Game of Thrones. We’re simple both from the north of England. I grew up in a traditional family - I, like Russian children, could be slapped. They don’t do that now in Great Britain, but as early as at the beginning of the 20th century, they used to hit children’s hands with a ruler. It seems to me that you’ve found a golden mean in your education system. From the age of 13, I’ve been reading books about teenager detective Veronica Mars and so, while entering the University of Huddersfield, I chose Criminology. But we studied theoretics that was completely remote from real life, and so I lost interest in studying and took a sabbatical.
MarsdenPhoto – Genevieve Clough
About meeting Russians
– As a student, I used to get home on a bus that ran infrequently. One time I was late and the next bus was supposed to come in an hour. So I went to a pub and met a Russian girl, Lilia. A little after that, I met Liza there. And so I met six people from the countries of the former USSR in this pub within six months. The relations developed even better than with compatriots. I came to Voronezh at friends’ invitation. When I started packing for Russia, friends asked me: “Why are you going to this monstrous place?” But I replied: “Have you ever talked to Russians or do you live in stereotypes?” I found friends here - no worse than I had at home.
– I grew up in a village, so Voronezh is a big city for me. So I try not to go to one place twice in order to have time to go everywhere. I love the Scarlet Sails park next to the reservoir. Before coming to Russia, I had never seen fishermen sitting on the ice as yours do. In my homeland, there is a small lake which freezes a bit every two years, but not so much that it is possible to walk on the ice and even more so to fish.
Ladybower ReservoirPhoto – Genevieve Clough
About Voronezh stormwater drainage
– When I went to Russia, I thought: of all people, the Russians certainly made the most progressive system of water discharge. After all, you have a huge amount of snow and rather difficult climatic conditions. But, having arrived here, I found out that storm drains in Voronezh do not work. Once, during a rain, the streets were flooded in such a way that they turned into rivers, and I even joked about it: “I don’t need a taxi - I will call a gondola!”.
– At first, I traveled around Voronezh only by minibuses. It struck me that they were so tiny! They are crowded, people barely fit in - at rush hour it seems that the bus will come apart at the seams.
About Russian habits
– In Russia, it is customary to wash your hands when coming inside from the street. The British do not wash their hands so often - we do not have the narrative that it’s dirty in the street. On the other hand, the British take off their shoes just like the Russians do. I do not understand how you can enter the house with outdoor shoes.
– They tried to cheat me in one of the Voronezh bars but I asked not to take me for a fool and give the correct change. Another unpleasant incident occurred in a cab. I confused the numbers of minibuses - instead of the bus № 49A I took the bus № 49B and stopped in an unfamiliar area. As luck would have it, I ran out of money on the phone, the Internet was disconnected, and I didn’t know how to get home. I had to stop a “skipper” (a bypassing driver who can act as a cab for money) who, for the distance for which I usually pay 100 rubles, demanded 500. I realized that he demanded too much but I wanted to go home so much that I just turned a blind eye to it.
About gesture communication
– Once I tried to buy a grilled chicken, which I adore, in a Voronezh kiosk but the seller did not understand me. So I had to portray the chicken and even cluck. I remember my first trip to a Voronezh bakery. I tried to order a bun but they did not understand me, and one student girl helped translate my order. I feel guilty before Voronezh citizens for not having learned Russian yet, and I really appreciate it when I find someone who speaks English. Now, I recognize and understand the key words in a conversation in Russian.
About the main Russian feature
– The main feature that I like about Russians is sincerity. Before coming to you, I had a feeling that I had to smile at everyone, including strangers. And here I thought: why should I do this? In Voronezh, I quickly learned not to smile at bypassers because otherwise, they would start to look at me strangely.
About abilities of Voronezh people
– I came to specific friends in Voronezh. Here is Sonya – she graduated from the Faculty of International Relations, knows English but works as a manicurist. And recently I met a man about whom I thought that he was either a physicist or was working in the rocket industry. But it turned out that he was a taxi driver! In my opinion, with such an outlook and education, these guys could have found more interesting places in life. If I had their intelligence, I would use every opportunity to help my country.
– This year I went to an Orthodox church on Easter, but on the way the taxi driver told me: “You are the second Englishwoman who goes to church a week earlier.” I completely forgot that we have different calendars - Catholic Easter was on April 21. I did not paint the eggs, but I really liked to glue your holiday stickers on them.
There is something that unites the English and the Russians. At Christmas, we freeze in front of television screens listening to the Queen’s speech and you are waiting for Vladimir Putin’s speech on New Year’s Eve.
– Your holiday tables are full of treats, I admire the amount of home-made food. I really liked your pickles, tomatoes. I want to learn to tighten these cans. In England, it is not customary to preserve vegetables – except for making jams, but as for vegetables, fruits and berries – we freeze them. Sometimes we fill fish with a layer of melted butter and store it in a cold place.
In Voronezh, I tried shashlyk for the first time. Before that, I thought that my favorite Russian dish was a vinegret, but now it's a shashlyk. At first, I adored the Olivier salad, but then I heard that classical Olivier includes a tongue. After that, stopped eating it.
Here I learned how to cook borscht. I am familiar with aspic — meat jelly with carrot pieces beautifully floating in it. There is a similar dish in my area - Melton Mowbray. It is pork jelly in dough, a cold meat pie.
About retired people
– In Russia, many people think that British pensioners live well. But the situation in the UK is depressive. I know a few old people who died of cold in their own houses — they weren’t able to pay for heating. We do not have boilers and heating mains, and at home it is customary to heat from a gas boiler in the kitchen. But this is expensive, especially for pensioners who are forced to choose whether to spend money on food or on heat.
I look at my beloved grandparents with despair now. Grandma has arthritis, she had a heart attack. She worked for 60 years and constantly paid taxes. Now her pension is pitiful 400 pounds, and she is taxed off at that. In short, the situation in the country is deplorable, and most of the English old men are poor the same as yours.
About salaries and clothes quality
– Although incomes in England are higher, our purchasing power is about the same. When you receive a salary, you give away quite a lot for renting an apartment, then you pay bills, you buy food, and as a result you live roughly at the same level as the average Russian. You have cheaper food, and clothing costs about the same as in England, but it is better. You have much cheaper vodka!
– One time two guys came up to me in the street and asked for 6 rubles for ice cream. I gave them 15 rubles. I was so touched by that! It is not customary to approach a bypasser in the street In the UK and ask for money. But there are much more homeless people begging in my homeland. When going through the underpass at the Circus in Voronezh, I always see those who ask for alms. I cannot pass by, I give, but not more than 100 rubles. Although once in the winter, I met a girl in an underpass who played the Hang. She had such ruddy cheeks, fingerless gloves, and I saw that she was cold. I immediately gave her 500 rubles - only so that she would go home. I sing too.
– At home, I slowly get tired of being fed the need for feminism every day. Your men elegantly care for women. I am pleased that a man can pay for my coffee but each time, as I am not used to it, I have a background feeling of guilt. I think: maybe I am burdening him with this?