Personal Experience: Living with a Russian Family
Booking your Accommodation with Liden & Denz
After you have made the decision to study with Liden & Denz, the next thing you will need to figure out is what type of accommodation you will want. If you are new to Russia, I recommend booking your accommodation through Liden & Denz. You will have much less to worry about if you do!
There are have a few options you have when booking accommodation with Liden & Denz. You can book a hotel, a shared flat, or stay with a Russian host family. I booked with a Russian host family because I wanted to engross myself in the Russian culture to learn about the livelihoods of everyday Russians and to improve my language skills.
I arrived to my host family’s home with another student from France as both of us were to be living with the family during our stay here in Russia while studying with Liden & Denz. After being dropped off our host mom, Anna, took us up into the apartment complex.
1. First Night
We entered the door to Anna and Vladimir’s apartment and were immediately told to take of our shoes. Do NOT walk around the house with your outdoor shoes on. After some confusion, we put on our tapochkis – or Russian indoor slippers to wear around the house.
Once situated in my room, I was ushered into the kitchen where a 3-course meal awaited my roommate and I. Vladimir, our host father, set a bottle of homemade Cognac on the table to celebrate the arrival of us new students and welcome us to Russia. The first course was borsch, a Russian beat stew. The second course was yellow potatoes and cooked chicken. And finally, the third course was Медовик (Medovik), a popular Soviet-era honey cake. During the meal, Vladimir would make toasts in Russia welcoming us to their home, which Anna would translate into English for us to understand.
A Russian home is nothing if not extremely clean. I am surprised about how much emphasis there is on keeping the house clean. You are not to wear your outdoor shoes in the house. Take them off in the hallway after you enter and then put on your tapochkis. This ensures one does not bring in the dirt, salt, and snow from the street.
It is also common to have a separate room for your toilet from your shower and sink. No cross contamination possible here!
3. The apartment layout
The room I live in is much larger than I am used to back in the US. There is a lot of space, a high ceiling, a nice desk for studying, and a huge couch bed. It far exceeded my expectations. The kitchen, toilet, and shower rooms are all smaller than I am used to but the individual rooms themselves are much much bigger.
I was surprised that there is no common living or family room to hang out in, but I think that might just be the style of this particular apartment.
4. Food and etiquette
For breakfast, we will usually have блины (blini), a type of crepe, with sweetened condensed milk, or we eat eggs with meat and toast. Dinners so far have been a lot of borsh, chicken and potatoes, or rice; often served in courses with the final course being some type of sweet dish and of course, tea. Tea is served with every meal, and is usually served towards the end of the meal. It is not common for Russians to drink anything while they are eating.
One of the things I was worried most about before coming here was my etiquette. For the first few meals I was on my best behavior, trying desperately to remember the nuances my parents taught me about proper etiquette. After becoming friends with a French man, a woman from Switzerland, and a few Russians I have realized that “proper” etiquette varies very much culture by culture.
In Russia it is okay to eat some foods with your hands, as long as it makes sense. For example, with chicken it is almost impossible to get all of the meat without using your hands. (However, I have learned that this is practically a sin in France!) You can also eat blini and bread with your hands but you might want to use a fork and knife for the potatoes. Oh! And do not dip anything into your tea; this is simply unheard of. Though you can put lemon slices into your tea.
5. Housewarming gifts
Also, if you are ever invited into a Russian’s home, make sure you bring a housewarming gift. Food, toys for children, or flowers. However, if you bring flowers, bring an odd number – as even numbers of flowers are reserved for somber occasions and odd numbers are for happy occasions. Go to this article to learn about more do’s and dont’s when in Russia.
6. Learn firsthand about Russia
Why do I recommend living in a Russian family? For a number of reasons.
First, if you are serious about learning Russian, you will want as much practice you can get. And it helps when your hosts are fluent in Russian and will correct your mistakes.
Second, you will have a special opportunity to learn about what life is like for an average Russian. You will have every opportunity to ask them about what life is like living in Russia. The good and the bad. And their thoughts on just about anything you might want to know.
And finally, for the company. I enjoy the fact that after school, I come home to a house with people living there; instead of an empty apartment with only my thoughts to keep me company. And when I need to study my room is plenty quiet. So with that all said, I hope I’ve convinced you to agree to booking your accommodation with Liden & Denz
This post was written by Benjamin Bladow, currently studying Russian until May 2022, at Liden & Denz St. Petersburg.