When you are married to a Russian woman you have to keep in mind there are cultural differences that you must be realized and understood. These difference can lead to issues in the relationship if you are not aware of them. Below are issues you may run into when dealing with Food and Etiquette.
When talking about Russian culture we can’t forget to give special attention to food etiquette. Russian food etiquette differs from American and therefore should be known in order to avoid misunderstandings and possible conflict.
It is important to know that for the majority of Russians food is just food and an everyday meal is just the way to satisfy hunger and not a social event.
Even though food is not such a big deal in Russian culture and Russians are not terribly picky when it comes to what to eat, they don’t like American food and find it not only untasty but unhealthy as well. I find it funny that many Russians (myself included) fuss over greasy and harmful American food, even though Russian cuisine is far from being healthy as well. Russian dishes are full of mayonnaise, butter and sour cream. Russians like to eat everything with bread (the habit goes back to the Soviet times), so they feel satisfied longer.
In Russian there is no phrase “hungry for” something. “Hungry” means needing to eat, and not just feel like eating or craving something. I can’t say “hungry for a cake” or ‘hungry for sushi” in Russian, but I can say: “I would love to have some cake” or “I want cake.” Interestingly, there is no word “thirsty” in the Russian language, just the word “thirst”.
The main meal for Russians is dinner as well, but they usually have it sometime in the afternoon. (2-3 pm most often). Dinner is usually at least a 2-course meal: a soup and a second dish. The evening meal is called supper, which is lighter than dinner and can take place anytime in the evening.
One of the biggest differences that I noticed between Russian and American meals are dinner conversations. First of all, if it is an everyday dinner at home, many people don’t talk while they eat. Kids are taught that when they eat they should be “mute and deaf”, because it is considered to be bad manners to talk while eating and it also can be hazardous (they can choke). Russians talk a lot over coffee or tea though and it is OK to talk if it is a dinner celebration or dinner with friends.
When Russians talk at parties or at dinner celebrations, they love to talk about politics or have philosophical debates about life. It is fun for them. In America, many of the topics that Russians love to discuss are taboo and Russians often complain that Americans talk about superficial topics just for the sake of talking.
It reminded me of a Russian acquaintance who once suggested that the reason for small talk in America is that people want to avoid opening up and having real conversations. “They talk about meaningless things, such as food, weather or a new mall that opened up in the area, but everything that is meaningful is not supposed to be talked about. I think Americans invented this meaningless small talk, because they are just too concerned about privacy.”
Business meetings over dinner or lunch are also very awkward for Russians. It is not polite to eat while another person is making a presentation or trying to seal a deal (I already wrote about that eating or drinking in classrooms is very rude for both parties). It is OK to have a business meeting over coffee or tea and sometime even alcoholic drink.
Another difference to keep in mind is that usually, it is not expected to wait for your host to start eating, so if you are having dinner with your Russian wife’s friends or her family, feel free to dig in as soon as you’d like. But don’t forget to eat everything you put on your plate and expect to eat a lot. Otherwise, your host will be offended.