If you have been following my Moscow blog since day one, you might remember that on my very first post I wrote how one of my fears was to get yelled at by a babushka at a grocery store. I wrote how this happened to a friend who once studied abroad in Russia because he did not understand a question about “plastic or paper.”
Welp, it happened to me last week. And, boy, was it overwhelming and embarrassing. But I learned a lot in the process.
I did not pack certain toiletries when I flew over from the States because I knew that I could easily purchase them here in Russia. So, I went to a grocery store to go buy soap.
First, when looking for the soap I asked a person who worked there “Где отдел мыло?” Which means, “where is the soap aisle?”
However, in Russian, vowels have different pronunciations depending on where the ударение (phonetic stress) is on the word. For example if the “o” has a stress sign above it, then it is pronounced like an “oh” is in English. However, if another vowel aside from that “o” has the stress, then it is pronounced like “ah” Another example is “е,” which is pronounced as “ye” when stressed, and pronounced as “eee” when unstressed. Constants can also do this. Phonetics in Russian and word stresses in Russian are VERY important, and the equivalent cannot be said for English.
Anyways I thought that the “д” de-stressed to more of of a “t” sound and asked essentially “где отель мыло?” — In translation, I asked for “Where is the soap hotel?” The first employer was confused but the second one understood me and told me where to find the soap. RUSSIAN IS HARD.
THEN. I went to go buy the soap and it was CONFUSING. After the math, I learned that some stores still use the old Soviet cashier system which includes a lot of queues and tickets.
To buy a 35 cent soap bar I had to bring the bar to a first counter where the babushka looked at what I want and gave me a little paper ticket with the name of the item and its cost.
Then, I have to bring the item and the paper ticket to ANOTHER line, a completely separate line, where you then actually pay for the item. Following that they print you ANOTHER ticket and a receipt that proves you now own the soap.
Then you have to take that second ticket to a THIRD person in a THIRD line and it is your ticket to leave the store essentially. THREE LINES FOR SOAP.
I was SOOOO CONFUSED at the time that I was trying to pay the babushka in the very FIRST line. And she was yelling at me in Russian because I was not supposed to do that. But I can barely understand old people speaking here when they are not yelling. She kept saying ~something~ ~~~who knows what~~~ to me until I finally understood by watching what others were doing.
So, getting yelled at by a babushka is off the checklist. Check!
The experience instantly made me think of going to JFK airport in NYC and seeing TSA yell at people who do not understand English instructions on what must be scanned, taken out of suitcases etc. I see now that it is overwhelming and stressful for those 30 seconds of confusion. It makes you sweat in the pits and you feel so 답답해. (There’s not a super great English word for that feeling so chose Korean).
Let’s be nicer, everyone 🙂
Annnnnnd…. here is your few photo update!