Friday, February 11, 2011

Moscow through rose tinted glasses?

Of course, before I arrived back in Moscow, I was anticipating it. I romanticized the city. I recalled memories of imposing architecture and good times with friends. I imagined a Moscow covered in fresh, clean snow, magical in its quiet embrace. I put on my rose-tinted glasses and prepared to protect them from the brisk, unfriendliness that I knew Moscow to be.

I walked out of customs and into the airport prepared to fight off ten taxi drivers at once. To my surprise, there were only a handful of taxi drivers and only two asked me if I needed a taxi. The storm I had anticipated, was merely two drops. I’m sure the security measures put in place after January’s airport atrocity probably hampered the plans of many freelance taxis. Completely underwhelmed, I navigated my way through the Sheremetovo airport to the train station.

My second encounter, buying a train ticket. While I stood behind an arguing couple, obviously unfit to travel together, I prepared to not even get a “Hello” or any eye contact. Instead, the woman greeted me quite warmly. She even smiled at my obvious American accent. I assumed it was a fluke, an anomaly, that soon, I would be back in harsh Moscow with pushing Babushkas and dissatisfied service people.

Previously I had the impression that Russians tended to be like me, a bit cold on the surface but once you get to know us, warm and inviting. I also had the impression that this attitude in a city the size of Moscow leads to a harsh reality. Yet this visit proved me wrong.

Rather than having my rose-tinted glasses smashed to a thousand pieces while being jostled in the crowded metro, I ventured to take them off, only to find that Moscow looked the same without them. Actually, Moscow looked better without them. My romanticism of Moscow did not include fairly good customer service, which happened the whole second day I was there and surprisingly continued. I had several waiters stop by to ask how the meal was. Waiters who smiled and said my friend and I were beautiful (in a city like Moscow I will take this as a very high compliment) …

Things in Moscow are changing, customer service is getting better, or perhaps, Moscow, in February, as an informed, bright-eyed “tourist,” is different than as a disenchanted English teacher waiting for vacation and spring.

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