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Author Topic: Russian Life 101  (Read 26673 times)

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Offline mendeleyev

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Russian Life 101
« on: June 29, 2009, 09:39:45 PM »
With a healthy influx of new members now might be a good time to reintroduce a bit of Russian life--how people live in the countries of the former Soviet Union.

Except in very small towns most Russians (we often use Russians as a generic term) don't live in single family houses. Now they'll use the term "house" but that doesn't describe their home, it generally describes the building in which their apartment is located.

Most Russians live in apartment buildings. There are all sorts of apartment buildings from fancy new ones (usually in major cities) with all the latest European conveniences to some places you might view as slums, and lots of varieties in between.

When in comes to things like conveniences most are either of European or Asian standards. Basically, and this is a bit of an over simplification, the difference between a North American (USA and Canada) standard and a modern Euro standard is size and functionality. For example, Euro and Asian appliances, such as a washing machine, is designed for space as well as function. Very often Euro standards also include more water saving features as well.

You can see this for example in water heaters. Lots of Russians live in apartments where the only source of hot water is piped in from a central location which is a distance away from the apartment building. But many do have water heaters, generally located in the kitchen or bathroom, and they are tiny in comparison to a big 50 gallon water heater commonly found in an American home. They usually feature a technology which heats the water quickly so that it eliminates the need for a large holding tank.

So lets begin a tour.


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Please welcome Olga and Andrei to this tour. They are real people and look a lot like most Russians (agency photos don't really look like most Russians, btw). They live in the city of Chelyabinsk (Челя́бинск) which according to scientists is the most contimated inhabited city on the planet, due to military chemicals produced for the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Russian friends like Andrei and his family might live in a modest apartment home like the ones you seen along this street.


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Summer activities include drinking a cola (with a bit of fermentation) called Kvas "ka-vas." That yellow trailer in the photo below is filled with kvas so dig in your pocket for some kopeks and give it a try! (Warning: it is definitely an acquired taste.)


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Russians love ice cream too. In fact it's fair game for breakfast or any meal. And as Russians don't have a meal order (certain foods for certain meals) like we do, don't hesitate to have some ice cream at any meal, even breakfast! There are no rules! Mendeleyev family secret: We like ice cream (most on muggy summer days) on our morning blini (thin pancakes).

Below: That red canopy kiosk in the photo below is selling ice cream. Psst...there is another yellow Kvas tank near the ice cream kiosk!


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Of course in afternoons since most buildings don't have air conditioning you'll find neighbors out catching an afternoon breeze.


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Before we go inside let's become familiar with some common terms regarding a Russian home:

Building = Здание  "zz-dawn-yeh"


Apartment = Квартира   "kvar-tira"


Home = дом   "Dohm"



Okay, lets enter. By the way, Andrei and Olga greet you with Добро пожаловать! "Da=bro  pah-zhal-ah-vat" means "Welcome."


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Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Russian Life 101
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2009, 10:28:25 PM »
You probably noticed that many apartment buildings have shops with businesses on the ground floor. (Ground floor can mean "basement" to a Russian so guess we should say "first floor.")

This apartment home has a small market on the first floor to serve the hundreds of families who live in the building.


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These first floor apartment markets pack a lot of punch in a very small space! You'll be able to buy bread, milk, Coca Cola!, rice, yogurt, tea, sugar, eggs, packaged juice, small round pretzels (a Russian favourite!), cigarettes, vodka and small selections of sausages and rolled (compressed) chicken. Candy too for a sweet tooth.


Most tall apartments have an elevator. It's called a "lift." Now just because the building has one doesn't mean it works.  :)  The stairways are usually made of a combination of concrete and steel.


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Wait to enter before shaking hands. No matter the season take off your shoes. In winter the host will take your coat. If you see multiple coat racks wait for your host as there is a good chance that it's a shared (communal) apartment with other families and each family has their own reserved coat rack at the entrance in that arrangement.


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Okay, you've been handed a worn pair of slippers. No matter the fit, put them on. Walking without slippers can be an insult to your hosts, as if they are not providing for you properly.

Next, see these two doors? This is a communal apartment shared by more than one family. The door on the left is very heavy. It's a security door with more than one deadbolt and made of steel underneath a wood casing.

The door on the right is the "room" in which the neighbor lives. That one room is his living room/bedroom/dining room/office, etc. Everyone in this apartment shares the toilet/bathroom and the kitchen. Times for kitchen use are scheduled and posted on a wall or the refrigator.


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Welcome to the living room. Its also a dining room in the evening and likely the main bedroom at night. In fact you can see that narrow bed off near the wall. That is a sofa by day and bed by night.


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Door = Дверь  "Dver" but you will need a lot of practice because you must learn to trill the r, but at the same time soften the r. Very hard for most of us.


Elevator = лифт   "Lift"


bedroom = спальня   "spal-nahya"


staircase   лестница   "leest-netz-ah"


living room   гостинная   "goh-stin-naya"

Offline mirror

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Re: Russian Life 101
« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2009, 09:03:44 AM »
Mendy,
You found a good way to tell  about our life to foreigners.

Bravo! 


Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Russian Life 101
« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2009, 01:10:00 PM »
Thank you, Mirror.  :)

Offline jseddy

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Re: Russian Life 101
« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2009, 02:14:39 PM »
This is FANTASTIC! Thanks Mendy.

Offline 2tallbill

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Re: Russian Life 101
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2009, 02:48:26 PM »
(Attachment Link)


Door = Дверь  "Dver" but you will need a lot of practice because you must learn to trill the r, but at the same time soften the r. Very hard for most of us.


Warning Boring window trivia alert

Being a window guy I thought I would add a couple of my kopecks
to Mendys interesting and educational thread.

Window = окно = okna
There is a zillion cases for window(s) okna is for one window (I think)
Microsoft would let people believe that they invented windows but it's
not true, people have been using them centuries to add light and
ventilation to their homes

A Window in the FSU almost always open inward. This way they can
have shutters or decorative metal grating or security grating on the
outside and still open the window for ventilation.

Some windows in the FSU can open inward in two ways. Inswing like a
door, or a tilt in from the top like a hopper. It's called a tilt and turn.

In the US and Canada the windows almost never open inward. They
usually either open out (casements) slide up and down (single hung
/ double hung) or slide side to side (sliders)


Single window: окно is "akh-NO"

Plural, windows: окна are "OOK-nah"


Udachi

Bill

to see Windows that 2tallbill sells follow link below

http://www.myspace.com/476309311




FSUW are not for entry level daters. FSUW don't do vague FSUW like a man of action so be a man of action  If you find a promising girl, get your butt on a plane. There are a hundred ways to be successful and a thousand ways to f#ck it up
Kiss the girl, don't ask her first.
Get an apartment not a hotel. DON'T recycle girls

Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Russian Life 101
« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2009, 03:12:02 PM »
Usually within minutes of entering a Russian home you will be offered something to drink. Contrary to popular rumours your host is not going to walk in the living room and begin vodka toasts upon your arrival. But unless it's mealtime and you've arrived for a meal which will begin in a few minutes, you will be offered tea and generally some snack to go with the tea.

Russian tea is considered like water. Unlike coffee, which is not a staple, tea is the glue that holds Russians together and a very important part of Slavic hospitality. It is served in the cold of winter, the warmth of spring, the hottest of summers, and the coolest of autumns. And it's hot, not "iced" tea all year around.

чай is the word for tea and you're probably already familiar with this word: "Chai."

In tea making often the family uses a samovar.  In Cyrillic it looks like this, самовар, and sounds like "sahm-ah-VAR."


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The samovar originated in Persia (modern day Iran) and made its way to Russia via traders from the middle east. Over the years it has evolved and changed with the times but it's main purpose is to boil water. That is what the name means literally.

Please note its not an urn or pot, and has nothing to do with coffee. It is a самовар and its sole purpose in life is to boil water.

See little pot on the top? That is a kettle or as Russians say, a чайник, "chai-nik." It may be colour coordinated but it is unattached so that it sits up there to keep tea warm but is easily removed to pour tea.

Speaking of "chai-nik" the little electric kettle below is also called by that name. It's an electric water kettle and of course smaller and more handy in most homes than a large and impressive samovar. This is in fact quite handy because in summer when municipal hot water lines are shut off for repair, this little чайник is how many Russians obtain hot water for everything from washing dishes to bathing. Rare is the Russian home without one of these.


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There is a procedure for making tea so let's go thru it:

First, water is boiled either in the little чайник or the larger самовар.

Next, loose tea leaves are placed in a separate teapot (never in the electric chai-nik or in the samovar) and then hot water is poured so that the leaves can steep for several minutes. Don't be surprised if no filter is used and remember that some loose tea floating around in your cup won't kill you and might even add to the taste experience!  :)

Then, tea is poured into cups. Chances are that each cup will be only 1/3 to 1/2 filled with tea. That is because the tea will be very strong after it has steeped. So the hostess will first put hot tea in the cup and then return with hot water to top it off.


[ Guests cannot view attachments ] Tsar Nicholai brand tea.



From there you can add сахар (sugar), "sah-KHAR." It is highly unlikely that your host will have artificial sweetners which are so popular in the West so it's either sugar or nothing in most cases. Most homes have honey and you can ask for that if you'd prefer.

лимон (lemon) slices are very popular, in season, and make a nice addition. Lemon is one of the easiest words to remember but you must remember that it's spoken differently, "li-MON."


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Of course with the tea will be some snack usually in the form of fruit, chocolate, tort (cake), etc. If you've been a good guest and brought along some chocolate (yes, you really should do so), then it will likely be enjoyed along with the tea.



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Russians and Ukrainians adore chocolate, especially the dark kind. It's an excellent little gift for your hosts. The Russian word for chocolate is much like ours, but here are some hints to speak it correctly. шоколад is "sha-ka-latt" and you must forget about a "c" sound at the beginning. Even though it ends with a "deh" д at the end, that is converted to a "teh" sound. The last syllable LATT is much like "latte" without the e on the end.

Sometimes a cake or pie is served with tea. Russian cakes are somewhat different from what especially you've experienced in the USA. There is a bigger emphasis on fruit and gelatin toppings and filling, for example. The type of flour used will not render as gentle and fluffy of a cake as your taste buds may be expecting either.


[ Guests cannot view attachments ] Russian торт (cake) "tort."



[ Guests cannot view attachments ] Emphasis on decorations too.

Offline Manny

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Re: Russian Life 101
« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2009, 03:42:00 PM »
Next, loose tea leaves are placed in a separate teapot (never in the electric chai-nik or in the samovar) and then hot water is poured so that the leaves can steep for several minutes. Don't be surprised if no filter is used and remember that some loose tea floating around in your cup won't kill you and might even add to the taste experience!  :)

Regular style English teabags are what I have mostly seen in Russia Mendy.

please tell me where I'm being / have been 'dishonest'? 
Yes, he said that.........

Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Russian Life 101
« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2009, 03:45:22 PM »
More and more as a convenience it seems. I hope it doesn't become the standard though. Some things should be sacred, for cryin' out loud!   :chuckle:


[ Guests cannot view attachments ] Dirty, rotten tea bags....probably a Western plot!  :GRRRR:

Offline Rasputin

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Re: Russian Life 101
« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2009, 04:25:15 PM »
Warning Boring window trivia alert

My wife just came back from a trip to Russia. One of her beefs: the lack of window screens on Russian windows allowing large numbers of mosquitoes to fly in during the night.
"Seems I live in Russia Rasputin visited" - Millaa
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Offline 2tallbill

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Re: Russian Life 101
« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2009, 04:50:36 PM »
Warning Boring window trivia alert

My wife just came back from a trip to Russia. One of her beefs: the lack of window screens on Russian windows allowing large numbers of mosquitoes to fly in during the night.


Yeah, I have never seen a screen the entire time I was in the FSU and
everyone knows the Mosquito is the State Bird of the FSU.
(Borrowed Alaskan Joke)

There are a number of companies that make aftermarket roll screens
which are mounted on the exterior and retract so you don't have to
look through them all the time.

There is an architect friend of mine who swears by some kind of treatment
that you can put on the frame of the window that is supposed to cause
all sorts of flying critters to take a U turn and leave. I don't remember what
it is called.

For a traveler I don't know how effective those anti mosquito candles are.
While camping in the US I use mosquito repellent. It might be interesting
to know what others do. There is an Avon product that is supposed to soften
skin and repel mosquitoes all in one.

Maybe Mendy break the question off into the travel section or something.
I don't want to hijack his thread.
FSUW are not for entry level daters. FSUW don't do vague FSUW like a man of action so be a man of action  If you find a promising girl, get your butt on a plane. There are a hundred ways to be successful and a thousand ways to f#ck it up
Kiss the girl, don't ask her first.
Get an apartment not a hotel. DON'T recycle girls

Offline Rasputin

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Re: Russian Life 101
« Reply #11 on: June 30, 2009, 06:05:01 PM »
Maybe Mendy break the question off into the travel section or something.
I don't want to hijack his thread.

Having to deal with things such as mosquitoes in your apartment is part of Russian Life 101  :ROFL: So, I would say that it is on topic  tiphat

However, I have heard that Moscow is getting better: they must spray for mosquitoes in the city.
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Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Russian Life 101
« Reply #12 on: June 30, 2009, 11:50:26 PM »
....speaking of windows:


[ Guests cannot view attachments ] A typical window.


Russian homes need thick windows because of the cold. Concrete or brick walls, plus plaster and wall paper, and concrete floors and ceilings (sometimes with a hardwood floor on top) are normal in Russia. It is customary to build walls one and a half bricks thick - i.e. their thickness equals the length of one and a half bricks. That is approximately 40cm, or 15 inches. Further north 2 bricks is the norm (conveniently, that also means you can have a fairly wide window sill - wide enough to put a flower pot on, or even sit with your legs stretched out along the frame looking out the window).

The windows of an apartment serve a purpose even in winter--to vent excess heat and allow fresh air to enter. Unlike American homes, Russian homes generally have central heating with water radiators. Thick pig iron radiators are mounted right underneath the windows. They are heavy and hold lots of heat. Together with thick walls, they provide a good barrier to cold air outside. They work continuously, don't make any noise, and even provide a means of communication (nothing sends a neighbour a signal quicker than banging on the radiator with a monkey wrench).


[ Guests cannot view attachments ] Remodeled windows!


But the controls however usually don't work and the pipes typically so rusted that you could be seriously burned by the pressurized steam should you break a pipe. So it's just easier to crack open a window for a few minutes if it becomes too warm inside.

Russian windows are almost always double panes with thick wooden frames. Lately, they are often plastic frames with vacuum sealed double - or even triple - panes in them. 2TallBeeeel is right, they always open to the inside.


[ Guests cannot view attachments ] Windows of a school.



A ключ (key) "klu-ch" to an apartment might be valued even more than money here. I should give you a bit of history about keys and doors here. To get into a Russian apartment, you have to pass through several doors of varying strength, but all with locks. The first door, a thick steel one opening onto the street, is usually a "domaphone" door, or a door with a special key and an intercom. A special key, impossible to make (it is magnetic) and hard to find opens this door, or you can use the intercom to call the apartment you are visiting, and they will "buzz you in." Sometimes, in dire straight, you can buzz random apartments and try to convince the occupants to let you in, which usually works. In the middle of the night however they'll just curse and ignore you.

The second door is usually another thick steel door and it is at the beginning of a shared hallway. This door does not have an intercom, just a huge lock and key. The next door, the actual door to the apartment, is also a thick steel door with a big key and a peephole. Last, but not least, there is an interior door, just inside the main door, that is used to keep out dust and drafts from the hallway. Each of these doors has a key, but not everyone always has keys to all the doors.

Keys are hard to come by here. There are only a very few places in Moscow where certain types of keys can be made, and rarely can even the most connected Russian can produce an extra domaphone key. Grown women have been know to break down in tears where they loose a key, or worse, an entire keyring.

When you receive a key here, that is the day you are considered a true friend or part of the family. Which is why that was one of the very first items I presented to my wife upon her first arrival to the USA.


[ Guests cannot view attachments ] Lost key blues.


Ah, losing a key doesn't make one popular with family members. In some cases a specialist must come out to cut open the steel door and open the lock. After that you get to go steel door shopping.

Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Russian Life 101
« Reply #13 on: June 30, 2009, 11:56:25 PM »
PS...yes mosquitoes big enough to qualify for a horse in Texas. Those candles have warnings about not burning in unventilated places such as indoors. Must be effective!  ;D

We do use the mosquitoe candles at our summer dacha in Volgograd. Very handy as we are right on the river.

How bad are they in Russia? Just look at their name.....mosquitoes!

Offline Chris

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Re: Russian Life 101
« Reply #14 on: July 01, 2009, 01:16:45 AM »

For a traveler I don't know how effective those anti mosquito candles are.
While camping in the US I use mosquito repellent. It might be interesting
to know what others do. There is an Avon product that is supposed to soften
skin and repel mosquitoes all in one.


The candles certainly helped me a couple of years ago, after getting bittne the first few nights in Ukraine. No more problems after that. The Avon product you talk about Bill is called Skin So Soft Replenishing Dry Oil Body Spray, if it works in the height of the Mossy season in Bonnie Scotland it will work anywhere, try it, works wonders, you end up smelling like the Only Gay in the Village, but hey, it works!   :chuckle:

Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Russian Life 101
« Reply #15 on: July 01, 2009, 01:45:43 AM »
Your gracious hosts Andrei and Olga have invited you to spend the night at their place. To refuse and stay in a hotel, etc, would likely offend your new friends so you agree.

They're going to put their family all in one room and you'll have the room normall occupied by their two teenagers.


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Below: a fairly typical room which is bedroom by night and living room by day.


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No AC, no internet, and no sleep number comfort bed...but the experience of a lifetime to taste living just like a Russian.

Offline TrevorM

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Re: Russian Life 101
« Reply #16 on: July 01, 2009, 02:49:06 AM »
Dirty, rotten tea bags....probably a Western plot!  :GRRRR:

Last year when we went to Kerch to visit Irina's parents, as usual the first thing we did after being collected from the station was to stop at a supermarket and buy provisions for the week for our stay in the beach-house. One of the things that Irina put in the trolley was a box of Earl Grey tea bags which on reading the cyrillic  info on the side of the box was found to have been shipped from Chandlers Ford, UK, about two miles from where we live!  :laugh:

Offline Chris

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Re: Russian Life 101
« Reply #17 on: July 01, 2009, 05:34:25 AM »
Dirty, rotten tea bags....probably a Western plot!  :GRRRR:

Last year when we went to Kerch to visit Irina's parents, as usual the first thing we did after being collected from the station was to stop at a supermarket and buy provisions for the week for our stay in the beach-house. One of the things that Irina put in the trolley was a box of Earl Grey tea bags which on reading the cyrillic  info on the side of the box was found to have been shipped from Chandlers Ford, UK, about two miles from where we live!  :laugh:

 :laugh: you could have saved them the trip Trevor.

Recently when at a friend of my wifes apartment in Chernivsti she makes us tea from Early Grey Large Leaf loose tea with bergamot, not bags, proper tea, the same as we have in the cupboard at home  :)


Online andrewfi

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Re: Russian Life 101
« Reply #18 on: July 01, 2009, 05:54:07 AM »
Cool thread! Thanks!
...everything ends always well; if it’s still bad, then it’s not the end!

Offline mirror

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Re: Russian Life 101
« Reply #19 on: July 01, 2009, 08:43:31 AM »
....speaking of windows:

A typical window.


Mendy,

don't frighten people with this your illustration of a window.

Avarage looking window is something like that...


[ Guests cannot view attachments ]

Offline mirror

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Re: Russian Life 101
« Reply #20 on: July 01, 2009, 08:52:27 AM »
...no words about illustrations of rooms. :duh:

I show other picture of a room with 2 sofas.These sofas can be transformed to beds (if it needs).

Mendy, you have a good idea how to show Russian style of life but ,pls,don't show such terrible pictures.You know that the most people live much better that what you show.


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Offline mirror

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Re: Russian Life 101
« Reply #21 on: July 01, 2009, 09:03:55 AM »
Many people live in houses like in the West. So you can see multyflats houses and private houses in same town.


Offline mirror

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Re: Russian Life 101
« Reply #22 on: July 01, 2009, 09:14:23 AM »

Of course in afternoons since most buildings don't have air conditioning you'll find neighbors out catching an afternoon breeze.


Yes,it is true but nearly every flat has ventilator.  People like to sit outside and to talk with each other.

Offline mirror

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Re: Russian Life 101
« Reply #23 on: July 01, 2009, 09:25:00 AM »

Home = дом   "Dome"


...other multyflat house.



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Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Russian Life 101
« Reply #24 on: July 01, 2009, 09:40:43 AM »
I like the layout and design of Mirror's living room. It is tight but well designed and very comfortable. As she mentioned both of her sofas are also fold out beds. In most cases a Russian sofa bed is far different from most American style where we see a sagging and very thin (uncomfortable) bed. Most Euro sofa beds fold or pull out and instead of the thin wire springs, have a solid base which is very comfortable as a bed.


Let's look at some of the items in this Комната (room), "KOM-na-tah."


The Russian word for sofa is диван. It sounds like "di-VAHN" which was what my mother called these in my childhood. That term, at least in America, gave way to sofa.


The Russian term for bed is кровать. That sounds like "kra-VAT."



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You see a Tелевизор (television) "ti-li-vee-zar" in this photo too.


Most rooms also have a Часы (clock) "cha-siy" with which to tell time.


And what living room would be complete without a Телефон? A Телефон is called a "til-ee-FOHN" and by now you've guessed correctly that its a telephone. Its cool how Russians say it so just click on the play button at this link.


Notice also the number of cabinets in this room. In smaller apartments one needs lots of storage, especially when a room is truly multi purpose as bedroom/livingroom, etc, during a typical day. The shape of this room is long and thin, also a very common feature.


There are different types of words to describe various cabinets and closets so we'll stick with a common one and you'll be easily understood. The generic word for closet is шкаф, "shkaf." Here is a nice link to hear this word, and you don't have to copy and paste this one to listen. Just click the play button and listen.


Mirror, thanks for sharing these photos!