It’s surprisingly easy to make friends when traveling in Russia, just say “Kak tebya zovut?” (what is your name?), and you’ll be met with both enthusiasm and curiosity from the locals. After all, for good or for bad, Russians are known for simultaneously mastering their poker face, whilst still being ridiculously honest and holding nothing back. So, once you overcome this slight culture shock (and actual shock from the cold), prepare to make some friends with these key phrases that'll let you sight-see, eat and drink (vodka, obv) to your heart's content.
BTW, take the phonetic pronunciation with a grain of salt...
I'm cold. How much is this fur hat?
Russian: Мне холодно. Сколько стоит эта шапка?
Phonetic pronunciation: Mne holo-dno. Skol-ko sto-it eh-ta sha-pka?
If you're gonna travel to Russia, you might as well do it properly. And by that we mean donning a ushanka (Russian hat) and all. So, successfully buy the finest one in all the country with this nifty phrase.
What is your name?
Russian: Как тебя зовут?
Phonetic pronunciation: Kak te-bia zo-vut?
Once you've asked this and made friends, you'll soon be invited into the group with not-so-subtle nudging to drink a shot or two or three.
I can't drink anymore.
Russian: Я больше не могу пить.
Phonetic pronunciation: Ya bolshe ne mogu peet.
Following on from the above point, if your hosts or new friends are getting a little pushy, make sure to know how to get away from the booze and back to the hotel.
Do you have wifi here?
Russian: У вас здесь есть вайфай ?
Phonetic pronunciation: ou vas zdes yest wifi?
This one's a classic, albeit not the easiest to pronounce. But don't worry, provided whoever you ask understands what you mean, you'll soon be corrected and properly schooled on all things Russian (even though you just wanted to mindlessly scroll through Facebook).
Excuse me, I'm trying to find my Airbnb. Can you help me find it?
Russian: Извините, я ищу свой airbnb. Пожалуйста, помогите мне найти его.
Phonetic pronunciation: Iz-ve-nee-te, ya i-shu svoy airbnb. Po-zha-luy-sta, po-mo-gi-te mne nay-ti ye-go.
In Russia, sometimes it's all about survival. We don't want you to freeze in the crazily severe Russian winter, so learn this phrase to find your stay.
Where is the Red Square?
Russian: Где Красная Площадь?
Phonetic pronounciation: Gde kra-sna-ya plo-shah-d?
The most Instagrammable place in Moscow is the Red Square, and seeing it is a must. Wow passersby with your pronunciation, then your new fur hat.
I suck at Russian, can you speak English?
Russian: Я плохо говорю по-русски. Ты говоришь по-английски?
Phonetic pronounciation: Ya ploho go-vo-ryu po-rus-ski. Ti go-vo-rish po-an-glee-ski?
Don't count on English speakers when exploring off the beaten track, but these days, citizens of cities like Moscow have pretty decent English vocab (just don’t laugh at their accent!). If you want to try your luck, use this phrase to check if the Ruski in front of you knows any English.
Where can I try some traditional Russian cuisine?
Russian: Где я могу попробовать традиционную русскую кухню?
Phonetic pronunciation: Gde ya mo-gu po-pro-bo-vat tra-dee-tze-on-nu-yu rus-sku-yu koo-hnu?
When in Russia, it's all about unique experiences that you can't get anywhere else, so be sure to seek out some traditional Russian eats. Get ready for the classics: red caviar, crepes (aka blini), pelmeni (dumplings) and salted herring (seledka).
Shot of vodka, please.
Russian: Стопку водки, пожалуйста.
Phonetic pronounciation: Stop-ku vod-kee po-zha-luy-sta.
Back to drinking, because yolo. Don't stop at one, though... why not go for two, three or four?
Sorry, but I'm not interested. I have a boy/ girlfriend.
Russian: Прости, но я не заинтересован(а). У меня есть парень/девушка.
Phonetic pronounciation: Pro-sti no ya ne za-in-te-re-so-va-n(a). U me-nya yest pa-ren (boyfriend)/de-vu-shka (girlfriend).
If you're not feeling his or her advances, you gotta be firm. It's nice they tried, but sometimes it's Tinder to the rescue.
I'm too drunk, I need a taxi.
Russian: Я слишком много выпил(а). Мне нужно такси.
Phonetic pronounciation: Ya slishkom mnogo vypil(a). Mne nuzhno taxi.
Inevitably, it's time to talk about alcohol again. There’s no avoiding drinking with strangers “to health” and “to love” when you’re in Russia, so brace yourself (and your liver) for some intense liquor intake. It's unlikely you'll get an English-speaking driver, so make sure to memorize this one.
Hey, you're beautiful ;)
Russian: Ты красивый/красивая.
Phonetic pronounciation: Ti kra-see-viy (for a boy)/kra-see-va-ya (for a girl).
We'll end this list with a cute one. If someone compliments you saying this, you have two ways to respond: either “spasibo” which means “thank you”, or “ti tozhe” which means “you too”. This second option is a sure-fire way to kick off a travel flirtation...