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Video: Why the Englishman fell in love with Russia and does not want to leave
2023 Author: Seth Attwood | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-26 22:42
After the first year of his life in Russia, he realized that he wanted to stay here forever.
Craig Ashton has been living in St. Petersburg for over 15 years. He fell in love with Russia and the city on the Neva, brilliantly learned the language, worked as an English teacher at school, translated computer games, and now maintains a popular blog about his life in Russia and even wrote a book in Russian. We read it and talked to Craig about Russia and Russians.
First acquaintance with Russia
Onion domes of cathedrals, tanks on Red Square, cabbage and potato soup, and a smile only on special occasions - this is practically all that the guy from near Manchester knew about Russia before 1999. Oh yes! He, of course, watched Hollywood films, where all Russians are villains.
Later, Craig entered the University of Exeter, chose to study Russian, and realized "how beautiful he is, though incredibly difficult." In 2002, he first came to Russia with a group of English students for a whole year - they were studying the language. He fondly recalls the first impression when a woman named Lyubov Serdechnaya met them at the St. Petersburg airport. He was amazed that in English it literally translates as Love Heartly. Quite true to her name, she took care of the students like a mother, however, she could show an iron fist.
“She probably became for me the archetype of a Russian woman who grew up in the USSR. Very similar to the heroines from Soviet posters - a proud face with a serious expression, with a raised hand, directing everyone to the right place for a great cause,”Craig writes in his book“Sorry, I'm a Foreigner”(AST Publishing House, 2021).
It was difficult for him then to communicate with Russians - his vocabulary was too small. Today, he already freely discusses his love for smelt, herring under a fur coat, dacha and many other Russian realities. And then he still did not know anything about himself: “I did not know who I was and what I needed. But after the first year in Russia, I knew that I wanted to live there."
“In my opinion, all my Russian friends and acquaintances once asked me this question. Sometimes with the tone of “Well, why-um ??”, and it makes me sad. As if the Russian language is not beautiful or important. It’s as if it’s not spoken by hundreds of millions. As if he is not the most beautiful in this world! " - writes Craig. "You may not be aware that Russian is very pleasant for English ears."
At school, Craig had problems with mathematics, but in German he was making progress, so he decided that he was a linguist and had to choose some rare language. And it would be good if the English were held in high esteem in the country where it is spoken. And of course, Hollywood films with villains and beautiful women did their job.
“In general, I immediately liked Russian wildly, and I fell deeply (literally) in love with its sounds, quirks and grandeur,” writes Craig.
Initially, the marks in Russian were low, but then Craig discovered the songs of the Tatu, Verka Serduchka, Valeria, Propaganda and Dolphin … He began listening to Russian music and became the best in the group. He also read Anton Chekhov and children's books, but it was music, he believes, that helped to learn Russian.
Difficulties in translation
“There are several traumatic moments in my life that I will never forget. My first sunburn, my first fight, my first refusal to go on a date and … my first “Y” class.” But the letter Ж, "like a crushed bug," came to the Englishman's taste.
The second difficult moment in language learning was the “You / You” division in addressing a person. A complicated rule has brought new colors to life - now Craig is looking forward to a question from his interlocutor: "are we on you or …?". “Then I have the opportunity to wave my hand grandiosely and generously declare:“for you, for you, of course, what are you?”- writes Craig.
“Well, how can you refuse a person who offers to switch to“you”… He offers intimacy, friendship, maybe love, and then marriage!” However, Craig himself never proposes to be the first to "go to you", fearing to make a mistake and not feel the moment when it is time. Therefore, even to children, Craig addresses respectfully "you".
By the way, he maintains a blog - he has more than 30 thousand subscribers, and he says that the most popular are the posts where he tells how he suffered - be it the difficulties of the Russian language or paperwork with visas and documents.
Notes about Russians
At first, Craig thought the Russians were rude, but then he realized that they were not. “Russians are usually more straightforward and openly talk about things that the British would rather remain silent about. Here everyone calls a spade a spade. It surprised me a lot when I first came to Russia, because for the first 20 years of my life I was forced to follow various rules of social behavior,”Craig told us.
For the first 10 years in Russia, Craig lived like an Englishman and did not want to change himself. But years later, he began to live “in Russian” and tried to speak openly that “the king was naked” and to enter into discussions that he would have abstained from earlier. "Of course, this does not mean that I now say whatever I think, but it definitely made my life better."
Craig also liked the way the Russians do business. For example, when he worked as a school teacher, through acquaintances he was called to be a translator of computer games. In England this would have been impossible, he would have had to submit a resume, go through an interview, and then he was taken immediately. "Russian friends and businessmen said that in Russia the main thing is not what you know, but who you know."
Craig loves St. Petersburg and its architecture - Photo from personal archive
He fell in love with Craig and Russian women, or rather one - the one he married. We asked him a tricky question - how Russian women differ from English women. And Craig replied that, according to his observations, traditional gender distribution of roles in a couple is still strong in Russia. Women expect men to pay on dates, hold back their coats, open a car door, hammer a nail into a wall, but they themselves are ready to play their "gender role" in return.
In general, Craig says that the Russians are a strong people who live by the principle of "do what you must and be what will be."
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