What is the most Russian thing ever?
There are several, which I experienced in Russia and nowhere else. The one’s that immediately come to mind are below:
The New Year is the most important holiday for Russians. The whole country shuts down from 31 December till about 10 January. Russians prepare well for meeting the New Year with family and friends - a very elaborate dinner and exchange of gifts are a must. Five minutes before the New Year begins, everyone sits glued to the television to listen to the short speech by the Russian President. When the clock strikes 12, champagne bottles are opened. And every New Year eve, one of the most popular Soviet romantic comedy movies ‘The Irony of Fate’ or ‘Enjoy Your Bath!’ (Ирония судьбы, или С лёгким паром!) is telecast. Russians never get bored watching this movie. The New Year is celebrated more than Christmas. And yes, the Santa Claus (Дед Мороз- Ded Moroz) comes on New Year eve and not on Christmas.
(A still from the movie ‘The Irony of Fate’ or ‘Enjoy Your Bath!’. That a movie can have two names also seems very Russian to me.)
Russians love their drinks, especially Vodka. But I must say that in the last 16 years, I have seen a rapidly increasing number of teetotalers in Russia. After Russians have had their drink, they will never put an empty bottle on the table. It has to be put on the floor under the table. No one has yet been able to tell me the real reason behind this tradition.
You will never find an ill dressed Russian lady. She will never go out without dressing well and putting on her make up. Even if it is a trip to the local market, Russian ladies would never go without dressing up properly. So, don’t be surprised if you see a nicely decked-up lady in high-heels buying vegetables at the market.
Russians are fond of their sauna (Banya or баня). If they do not have one in their homes, they will go occasionally to the public sauna. People often hit themselves or others with bunches of dried leaves from white birch or oak (Banniy Venik or банный веник). But the most interesting part is they congratulate each other with the words ‘С лёгким паром!’ or ‘Enjoy your bath!’) when the sauna ritual is complete.
If you go to a Russian home and give your hand while still standing out, your host will first pull you inside before shaking hands with you. A Russian will never shake hand across the threshold of a door.
The Russian table (Русский стол) is legendary. There is always more food than the number of people, no matter how many people there are. And no one can beat Russians in the length of toasts.
Russians sit quietly for a moment (even on their suitcases) before leaving for a journey.
If you ask a Russian ‘Как Дела? (Kak Dela) or ‘How is it going?’, she/he will most likely tell you frankly how life is rather than just saying ‘Thank you’ and asking ‘How are you?’ in return. And if the person has not been asked this question for long, she/he may pour her/his heart out to you.
Two other very Russian things are:
Black rye bread
Kvass or a fermented non-alcoholic drink made from black rye bread.