“Dobro pozhalovat” means “welcome” in Russian.
But get a good grip on what you can or cannot do while having fun in Russia, because that welcome mat will be whipped out from under you if you misbehave.
Football fans from over 30 countries have been travelling to the country for the World Cup that kicked off on June 14 with an opening ceremony in Moscow.
An estimated one million fans are expected to visit the country during the month-long tournament, reported Straits Times’ man in Russia, correspondent David Lee. Read his reports on our microsite.
If you think you can go to the country and do things your way instead of the respectful way, the tough and proud Russian aunties or babushkas might make you think twice.
We hope you have read up on warnings and tips on how to stay out of trouble offered by various governments.
But it’s not just about watching out for usual things like making sure your documents are in order.
Oddly enough, you might want to steer clear of rubber duckies, or not use green face paint.
Read on so you can have a good trip instead of tripping up.
DUCK AWAY FROM TOY DUCKS
If you clutch a rubber ducky as a sort of talisman for your football team to score more goals, or as an inanimate “support animal” for when your side crashes out of the World Cup, be careful.
Waving a toy duck in public could bring you bad luck in the form of a stint in prison.
A St Petersburg activist was in jail for displaying an inflated toy duck during a protest, reported the BBC. Next to the duck he displayed the slogan, “The police are waiting for us”.
His fowl protest coincided with opposition rallies in January 2018. They were organised by anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny, who was arrested along with others at a rally this year.
The duck symbolised corruption in Russia as Navalny had accused Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of collecting luxury properties - and that one even had an exclusive house for ducks.
If you’re thinking of showing your support for your team by going for a fun face-paint look, keep the brush away from the pot of green paint. Never mind if it’s your favourite team’s kit or flag colour.
During protest rallies in March 2018, some Russian painted their faces green in solidarity with Navalny, after unidentified attackers threw green liquid at him.
The substance took days to wash off and Navalny had been sporting a green face for some time.
The Russian opposition leader said that a doctor has told him he had lost 80 per cent of the sight in his right eye, adding that “there was clearly a mix of disinfectant and another, caustic chemical”.
According to The National Post, the attack had at first appeared less serious. Dousing opposition figures with a green dye is a common occurrence and often attributed to pro-Kremlin activists. Typically, a harmless type of disinfectant, is used.
WHITE RUSSIAN VISIONS
If you’ve enjoyed one too many White Russians - a drink made from Kahlua, vodka and cream, sober yourself up. Drink actual coffee, not more Kahlua, a coffee-flavoured liqueur.
Get a grip and don’t start saying provocative things about a certain white Russian cat within earshot of Russians at the bar.
Achilles, a deaf cat that lives at the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg, is said to have “psychic powers”.
Offered two bowls of food, the feline hesitated before finally choosing the one with the Russian flag, dismissing Saudi Arabia’s chances of a win in Moscow on June 14. It came then as a relief to the host nation, considered one of the weakest sides in the tournament despite the home advantage.
As it turned out, Russia beat Saudi Arabia 5 to 0. Ura (Russian for hurray)!
Watch the “psychic” cat in action here.
According to a write-up on footballcitymediacenter.com, Achilles had predicted the results of the 2017 Confederations Cup matches that took place at the St Petersburg Stadium, in particular, the match between Russia and New Zealand. He picked the food bowl with the Russian flag, and Russia won 2-0.
He’s the latest in a succession of such animals used to predict the outcomes of World Cup matches over the years.
During the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, an octopus named Paul was shown on national German television predicting the results of matches. BBC reported that the last World Cup in Brazil had several “psychic” animals in attendance too, including kangaroos, guinea pigs and camels.
We have a Stirr hamster trying its paw at making predictions too.
Put other currencies away.
It is illegal to pay directly for general transactions with dollars or euros.
Spend in style with credit cards and Russian roubles.
If you see cash on the ground - roubles, dollars or euros - don’t pick it up.
According to a travel advisory, a common street scam in Russia is the “turkey drop”: An individual “accidentally” drops money on the ground in front of an intended victim, while an accomplice either waits for the money to be picked up, or picks up the money himself or herself, and offers to split it with the visitor.
“The individual who dropped the currency then returns, aggressively accusing both of stealing the money. This confrontation generally results in the pedestrian’s money being stolen. Avoidance is the best defence... Walk quickly away from the scene.”
If you’re already there, have fun in Russia. If you’re not, catch up on what’s happening there with our coverage of the World Cup.
The Straits Times on the ground there says that despite concerns about racism and hooliganism raised in the build-up to the World Cup, things seem to be operating smoothly.
According to a June 13 report, clearing immigration at the Domodedovo Airport for ST journalist David Lee was an exercise in efficiency, there was a visible police presence at major metro stations.
The report also said the locals had been determined to roll out the welcome mat to visitors too.
As long as you behave well?