So, the decision to live in Russia for a while had been taken and now it’s time to choose the program and to prepare to the journey? What may you start from? — No doubts from learning this culture deeper, especially people and their relations, as you will be dealing with it all the time. Most volunteer projects involve staying with a traditional russian family, and it’s better to know what to expect.
Family and gender roles
Unlike Western countries in Russia you can see nuclear families not so often. More frequent it includes elder generation-parents, grandparents and other relatives such as cousins, uncles, aunts and so on. It’s normal to help and support each other, meet for different occasions and spend together a lot of time. For example, in comparison to the West where nannies look after children while their parents earn for living, In Russia this role as usual is played by Grannies. After they retire it’s really common when they take care of their grandkids. It’s even some kind of a tradition. Actually despite of quite quick developing in the last centuries, Russia has really strong historical roots and customs, that exist a long time.
This concerns social roles in a family. The man is still a head of it, even though the woman also works and from year to year it becomes some kind of equal. As for household duties — most of them are still made by women, but men are getting more involved in it from year to year as well.
Traditions and ‘warm Russian soul’
Carrying out all the family holidays such as New Year, Christmas, Easter and Victory Day is a part of usual russian life. People gather together for a big festive dinner, congratulate each other, present small pleasant gifts and discuss the latest news. They also invite their closest friends to join them these days to share mood and holiday treat. Famous Russian hospitality is so well-known round the world. It’s a really ancient tradition to welcome the guest offering all the best that family has. And nothing actually has changed since that time.
Concerning leisure time, it’s easy to say that russians are quite active and like spending their weekends in different ways.
On the one hand, they are really keen on nature, having traditional barbecues in the forest, near the river or in a famous “dacha”. It’s a small country house not far from the city, where natives carry out their holidays in summer time. There is always a garden with fruit trees, some vegetables growing, and a place where they can gather and to cook some meat, sausages and drink a hot tea with pastries.
On the other hand, most of the citizens spend their weekdays evening in the cafes, having short meeting with friend for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Also they are fancy for going to the theatres, cinemas, museum exhibitions and other cultural events that are always held in all the cities.
Why being a host?
It may seem a good question — why do russians want to welcome a volunteer at their house? Actually there might be several reasons for it:
- First of all, they are really open-minded and always eager to meet new people from different cultures, learn more about it and about the whole world.
- Secondly, language is another and maybe the main reason. From year to year more and more natives study other languages, and the chance to have a native speaker living with you several weeks or even months and practice it every day is a wonderful opportunity that shouldn’t be missed for sure.
Why being a volunteer?
Another question — what pros as a volunteer you may get from staying for such a long period with a russian family?
A lot of, trust us!
- Discovering this mysterious, so different and unbelievably beautiful country with breathtaking views and really long history
- Meeting new people, who will show you around, going with you to the museums, exhibitions, shops and any other attractions, will teach you russian traditions, and customs. Living with locals is a great chance to see the real Russia, to visit unforgettable places, know their everyday life from inside. And the most importantly that during all that time you will definitely feel like a member of their family, joining their big dinners, tasting local cuisine and knowing all their relatives.
How to choose a Host Family?
If you wish your stay would be really pleasant and comfortable, you need to understand what people you are willing to live with and to describe it in your application form and to your coordinator. Choose a family that has the same interests as you — whether it’s an active social life in the city or the desire to spend all the time doing extreme sport (snowboarding, wakeboarding, parachuting, etc.) or simply going hiking for long distances. Everything is possible, just be clear and more concrete in your thoughts.
Also consider the cities preferable for you. Russia is a really big country and apart from Moscow and Saint-Petersburg there are a lot of other places not worse at all. They may be even more ancient and authentic, picturesque and green. Also the cost of living and the charge for tourist attractions’ entry tickets is much cheaper there as a rule.
And, what is more important, in common people in smaller towns have more free time as their life there is not as hectic as in capital cities. It will let you spend more time together!