When it comes to the Russian people, they are unfortunately surrounded by various stereotypes. This is largely down to the fact that the country, along with the other Soviet Republics, were so closed off to the western world for decades during the Cold War. The Russian stereotypes range from them being cold and rude to generally unfriendly. The reality, however, is very much different and can be discovered when you make Russian friends. So in this article, we’re going to look at 5 of the best ways to make a Russian friend whether you’re in Mother Russia or in your home country!
5. Make a Russian friend online before you travel!
We live in a truly exceptional age where almost the entirety of the world’s population is reachable via an internet connection. Thankfully, the Russian speaking world are very much active online. Using the internet to your advantage can be a great way to make a Russian friend before you travel to a Russian speaking country. Think of it as a modern day version of the penpal world!
There are various active communities online that will allow you to engage with Russians. For example, on Facebook and Reddit you can find countless groups full of Russian speakers looking for native English speakers to converse with in order to practice their English and gain a better understanding of life, culture, fashion, etc. in the West from the people who live there. It will also be beneficial to you if you are keen on learning the Russian language as most of the Russians in such groups will be happy to reciprocate with an exchange of language skills.
Facebook is not the only platform that you can use. The lesser-known (in the West) social media of VKontakte is the primary social media platform for Russian speakers. It’s free to use and worth downloading just for the invaluable insight into Russian social media it provides as well as it serving a useful tool that will allow you to keep in touch with any Russian friends you meet on your travels who do not have Facebook.
4. Try to find a Russian friend through a local tour guide
Unless you’re the fiercly independent type of traveller, it’s likely you’ll be using a local tour guide at some point during your journey across the world’s biggest nation. Whilst primarily a local tour guide’s role is to provide you with a local insight into a nations culture, history, food, or otherwise, they can also serve as a useful in road to making a Russian friend.
For example, when I was first living in Russia I was seeking some Russian friends in order to gain some practical Russian learning skills as well as find out some local advice about living in Moscow. I took a free city tour to get my bearings, albeit around the tourist areas, and soon struck up a conversation with my local Russian guide who promptly put me in touch with some of his friends who were keen to practise their English with a foreigner and help my advance my Russian in exchange. Achievement unlocked – Russian friend!
3. Order some Russian coffee and make some friends
One thing that Mother Russia isn’t short of these days are coffee shops. Such venues are increasingly becoming more popular, especially amongst young Russian people. As well as being a great place to grab a cup of joe and relax, they’re also an ideal spot to potentially make a Russian friend!
Throughout my various travels through Russia, I have found myself in a bar or coffee shop by myself and ended up having some fantastic conversations with local Russians who were either fellow patrons or staff. The atmosphere is generally very relaxed and allows for easy conversation to flow.
“Coffee is a language in itself.”– Jackie Chan
In Russia, it’s normal to go to a bar or coffee shop alone so don’t be intimidated by the thought. In my experience, various techy and hipster Russians frequent such places and they are often keen to practice English with a foreigner or find out more about you. You will likely be surprised at just how easy it is to make new friends in such places if you allow yourself the opportunity to start a conversation with those around you.
2. Utilize a social media following or a blog
If you have a useful social media following or have a Youtube channel or a blog related to travel, using it to inform your Russian followers that you are intending to visit the country is a great way to make a Russian friend. Various social media vloggers, writers, and influencers such as Bald and Bankrupt such techniques in order to obtain tours by locals and provide a unique insight into various travel destinations. Take this video where he collaborated with the Russian Youtuber NFKRZ to explore one of Russia’s most forgotten towns for example:
On a daily basis across social media, there are countless people sharing events going on in cities across Russia, asking for or providing advice, or simply seeking new people to join them and explore different destinations across Russia. So the possibilities to find a Russian friend or two through Social Media and make plans are endless, especially if you have a significant following.
1. Make Friends With Locals on a Russian Train!
When it comes to traveling in Russia, one of my favorite ways to cross the biggest country on earth is via Russian railways. It’s safe to say that Russian train journeys are some of the most epic adventures on earth. From the city streets of Moscow or the Baltic coast of Saint Petersburg, you can catch a train to the Grozny in the majestic Caucasus Mountains, Yekaterinburg in the heart of Siberia, or the coastline of the Russian Far East and gaze out to Alaska. Most importantly, they can be a great way to make a Russian friend!
Naturally, Russian train journeys can be long and see you sharing a sleeping compartment with a handful of a wagonful of Russians depending on which class you opt for. Thus it’s helpful to create a friendly atmosphere with your fellow travellers. To break the ice, feel free to share some snacks with those around you. Once you’ve passed the initial boundary, you will likely find that they will be keen to converse with a foreigner and pass the time whilst learning more about you and your culture. It’s a great time to practise your Russian if they don’t speak English.
“Russia’s vastness, history, and literature are etched into its trains.”– Sara Wheeler, Riding the Russian rails
By making a Russian friend or two on the train, you may find out some fantastic local tips on the destination you’re heading to, hear incredible life stories, and gain a unique cultural insight into the Russian world. Additionally, you’ll be providing Russians with the same when it comes to conversing about your own country back home.
And there you have it, the Eastern Europe Insight guide on how to make a Russian friend. Whilst we hope you follow our advice, above all, be you and don’t change your values on your journey to make a Russian friend. Stay true to who you are and the rest should fall into place. Keep an open mind and leave any stereotypes at the door when visiting Russia and embrace any friends you make along the way. Of course, with a healthy dose of common sense!