Why don’t Russians Say “Hello” on the Street?

Why don’t Russians Say “Hello” on the Street

It may seem that the fact that Russians never say hello to strangers on the street is just incivility. However, the reality is somewhat different.

Russians do not say “hello” on the street and do not respond to greetings of strangers. Of course, a greeting and a smile from a Russian on the street is a rare phenomenon. Let’s try to understand why that is.

Do Russians Really Never Greet Strangers on the Streets?

If we are talking about big cities, then no, almost never.

In small towns and villages the situation is quite the opposite. It is considered absolutely normal to greet every passerby on the streets, at the same time younger people will try to be the first to greet a senior as a sign of respect, and local people will be the first to greet visitors to help them feel comfortable in a new setting.

Interestingly, this is characteristic not only for the Russians, but definitely for the Americans, Swedes, Germans and others national. If they say hello, that means they come from small towns.

In what Circumstances will Russians Greet a Stranger on the Street?

In large cities a greeting from a stranger on the street most likely means that he needs some assistance or favor from a passerby. It could be an innocent question about how to get somewhere. Or it may be an attempt to steel your wallet under some pretext. It might even be an invitation for a religious gathering. And, of course, it could be an attempt to hit on a member of the opposite sex. That is why Russians are wary of such greetings.

Russians are Very Soulful People

Many foreigners have noted that under the Russian visible inapproachability hides real sincerity and genuine hospitality. Indeed, if you are invited to a Russian home, you will notice how courtesy, kindness and generosity towards guests will sharply contrast with the usual cold and reserved demeanor of the people you see on the streets.

Often right after the first couple minutes you will find that Russian people are very open and always willing to help, which is one of the national characters of Russians.


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3 responses to “Why don’t Russians Say “Hello” on the Street?”

  1. Ric says:

    Yes it’s true. Your site acknowledges a real problem. I have encountered many Russians in different parts of the world and they constantly fail in the simple task of returning a stranger’s friendly greeting.
    This makes many people write Russians off as hopeless cases. Or damaged goods.

    Sometimes you feel like saying ‘lighten up sourpuss, I am not the KGB, even though your leader is’.

    The reasons people say hello when encountering a stranger in normal daytime conditions on the street are the same the world over. It’s a simple courtesy. And a signal of goodwill.

    Yes Russians endured a nightmare scenario for the 20th Century but are no longer the North Koreans of the West. Time to be happier surely!

    I wish All Russians well and hope a new century will mend the paranoia and brighten the unhappy faces.

  2. Christina says:

    I think it’s weird to greet somebody on the street of big city anywhere. Never heard of such tradition in any part of the world.

    I have a related question (or even kind request:). Where can I find aarticle about small talk tradition? I’m pretty tired to explain every foreigner that their “how are you” sounds too personal to a stranger Russian. It feels awkward and Russians don’t ask the same in return, because they don’t feel like they can interfere personal life of a stranger they never met before.

    Maybe you can help, thanks:)

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