News that Moscow has been voted the world’s unfriendliest city by Travel + Leisure readers didn’t surprise me.
After living in Moscow for a year, I understand why travellers don’t rate it.
I remember being infuriated by the lady at the kiosk of the Kremlin who refused to give me change even though I could see a pile of small notes and coins through her window. The Kremlin is one of Russia’s biggest tourist attractions a little customer service (and some coppers) wouldn’t go amiss.
I was thoroughly pissed off when I had to lug my suitcase down a flight of stairs to reach the toilets at the airport. Who decided to put the toilets at the bottom of stairs in a place where everyone has luggage?
And the final insult? The apparent law that every meal must come with a generous sprinkling of dill. Practically criminal.
But these complaints don’t mean that Moscow is unfriendly. They mean that it is not tourist-friendly.
I could harp on in a faux-intellectual way about how travelling and living abroad are very different experiences, but I wouldn’t do a good job.
Instead, I want to share 3 instances (among many) of real friendliness I encountered in Russia:
- The student who bought me scar cream after I took a tumble on an icy street and split my eyebrow open.
- The taxi driver who gave me a wet wipes and Milky Way chocolate bar when I was sick out the window of his car. Not my finest hour.
- My Pilates teacher who translated all the positions into English to include me in the class. I never mastered ‘heel prawn stretch’ but I still remember Irina.
So the moral of the story is, don’t be put off by Moscow. And don’t complain that the signs are all in funny letters.
Not convinced? Simon Calder agrees with me.