Lost in Translation – Welcome to the Motherland

February 23, 2012

To think that I was in England last week is unbelievable. To even think that I lived in Austria this year feels like SUCH a distant memory. So much has happened in the last two weeks that my mind is just in such a daze, and after being in Saint Petersburg for nearly a week, I still can’t believe I’m here. I had such a brilliant time in England, and being home for such a short time actually gave me a big enough boost to get going on the next part of my adventure. And my, what an adventure I’m having.


I didn’t have high hopes for Saint Petersburg. I was even told by one friend “to go out with the mindset that you are going to be mugged, and if you don’t get mugged, that’s a bonus.” I had been to Russia once before, and being in Yaroslavl hadn’t painted a good picture of Russia in my head. When I got on the plane at Heathrow, I was incredibly nervous. I knew that I couldn’t leave once I arrived, I was leaving everything behind in England, and that my Russian is beyond crap. Being in Austria for 5 months has obviously been beneficial for my German, but heading to Russia knowing that you only knew the very basics was terrifying.  Once we landed, we waited for ages in what can only be described as a Soviet waiting room to get through Immigration. After they were convinced that I wasn’t a terrorist, I was met by my lovely host sister Anna, who took me to her flat. I sat in petrified silence in the car, just staring blankly into space. Leading up to her flat, all I could see was derelict buildings, and I started to panic. But when we pulled up to her flat, my jaw just dropped. Her flat, surrounded by other grotty apartment blocks, is gorgeous. Modern build, large rooms, I felt like I was in a hotel. I also walked straight into a birthday party, it was Anna’s little sister’s 4th birthday, and she was being showered with gifts left right and centre. I was launched straight into a long dinner, gorging on Caviar and Champagne, trying to settle the nerves. After not understanding a word, I quickly adjourned, preparing myself for what was yet to come.


After being given a brief tour of central Saint Petersburg on Sunday, it was time for my first day of School. Unfortunately because I hadn’t met the reps at the Airport (I had arranged my own accommodation), I didn’t know that the school was in a different location to what I thought. Cue mass panic on my side when I rocked up (late, thanks to trusting Russians with punctuality. Don’t,) to the wrong place. Apparently I had turned up at their offices, where NO-ONE spoke English. I was really overwhelmed and my poor poor Russian was failing to get through to the receptionist. I was just about to burst into tears when a big burly Russian man in the office told me he would take me to the right place. Lo and behold, he did, and I walked into a “WATCH OUT, YOU GUNNA GET KILLED” talk 40 minutes late. Good start. We then did a test to see how good our Russian was, and I seemed to surprise myself when the next day I found out that I was in group 4 out of 6, which has students who have been to Russia in 1st Semester and Post A-Level students in it, so I’ve given myself a bit of a challenge. I have only had one day of Uni so far, but I can’t wait to go back. I MISS STUDYING! (Geek. :|)

Another preconception I had about Russia was the food. I was subjected to Liver, Pasta and Carrots for Breakfast, and many other things that you just do not want to encounter at 8am.. But so far, I haven’t had that many problems. The only thing I’ve hated is Frankfurters, but I made the rookie error of “eating it to be polite” and now she keeps feeding me them. But otherwise I’ve had pasta, mash, meat, belinis (pancakes) and salad. Any horror stories involving food, and you’ll be first to know.


My main issue since getting here though has definitely been the language. You’d think after two years of University taught Russian that you would 1) Be able to have a conversation, 2) Be able to order anything anywhere and 3) Be able to make yourself understood. Apparently not. My host mum doesn’t speak English, and in the first few days Anna had to do a lot of pereviditing (translating). But yesterday, Anna went out. And I was alone in the flat with her mum. I decided that instead of shutting myself in my room, that I would try and improve Russian/English relations in the house. I sat at the dinner table, dictionary in hand, and everytime I didn’t understand her she would write down the Russian and I would look it up. In the end, I was there “talking” for about 30/40 minutes. If anyone had seen us, they would have laughed, but I think she really appreciated it at the end, and now she likes me a lot more. Woohoo. If I can completely get rid of the dictionary come June time, that will be a huge achievement for me.


What can I say? Saint Petersburg has surprised me. Beautiful, VERY westernised, (went to Galeria today, a shopping centre in the middle, and it had  ALL English clothes shop and even a COSTA COFFEE!) and exciting. Am I scared about being in Russia now? No. Am I excited to explore and get involved in Russian life? YES!


Next week may include: My first Frisbee session, whacking fellow students with sticks, and why Razgovor may be the bain of my life.

Here’s a pretty picture. With my ugly face ruining it.

For now, Poka. 🙂

An incredibly happy,

Sarah xo


4 Responses to “Lost in Translation – Welcome to the Motherland”

  1. Imogen said

    I love your blogs Sarah, they’re brilliant 🙂

  2. Anna( Аня) said

    Спасибо! Its very interesting to read what do you think about St-Petersburg and about living with us ! keep on writing!

    P.S. Sorry, if i had mistakes. 🙂

  3. Tony Harrison said

    Hi Sarah,

    Just tell your host mum that you are not keen on the Frankfurters but really like everything else, maybe through Anna for diplomacy.

    I hope you have a great time in St Petersburg, it certainly is an adventure! Very proud of you for what you are doing.

    With Best Wishes.


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