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Babushkas in Russia are all different, but still have something in common

Article’s author Tatiana Klimova, Russian Podcast creator

Before the Revolution, Russia had its own polite titles: gospodin and gospozha, but also sudar and sudarynia. Soviet people used the word tovarishch and today we simply say man, woman, young woman and young man. In Russia, elderly women are often addressed as babushkas. Personally, I don’t really like this word, because it’s usually used when talking about an old woman with a scarf on her head, dressed in poor clothes, looking old, always working at her dacha or chatting with other old ladies next to the building entrance. Russia has more and more women looking great at 60 and at 70, so the word babushka can’t be applied to them. But what common traits unite Russian elderly people? What do you have to know when talking to Russian babushkas? They are all different, but still here are some general recommendations.

1. Babushkas don’t speak very good English. Back in USSR, German was the most popular foreign language. It was studied at school without any opportunity to practice it afterwards. So, if you want to practice your Russian, meet a Russian babushka! To improve your speaking skills, listen to Podcasts or come to a language stay in Russia.

2. Russian babushkas have very little experience talking to foreigners. When my boyfriend said a few words in Russian, my granny imagined that he was fluent and made an exposé about the art of horse taming in Caucasus. The poor foreigner didn’t understand anything, just nodded politely. When abroad, Russian babushkas often speak Russian and look surprised if waiters don’t understand them. Very important point: always address babushkas with a polite вы, never ты.

3. Babushkas are patriotic. Don’t forget that many of them haven’t experienced better life than in today’s Russia. Plus, they are spending all day in front of the TV. That’s why Russian babushkas adore their president and sometimes even have his portrait at home. At the same time, Russia also counts many retired people in the opposition.

4. Babushkas are always sure that you are hungry. If you are invited to a babushka’s place, be ready to eat a lot. But please, don’t eat everything. She might cook lots of food, but her pension can be quite modest.

5. Babushkas are very kind even if they don’t smile a lot. If you meet a babushka on the street, you might be a bit intimidated by her serious looks. Nevertheless, they like chatting, especially about their health.

6. One last point, if you are dating a Russian girl, you have to understand that her grandmother is a strategically crucial person. Parents tend to be diplomatic, but the granny is going to keep repeating her opinion about you every day, so it’s better be positive!