5 expressions to help you think like a Russian

November 10, 2023

Have you ever wondered why people from different countries act the way they do? I definitely have! Well, we can tell a lot about a culture through language. This is because the way we think and act is reflected in our native language, like in a mirror.  Every culture has its own ‘linguistic picture of the world’. We can begin to understand this through a language’s proverbs and expressions. So, let’s take a peek at some Russian expressions to learn about the Russian way of thinking!

Один раз живём (Odin raz zhivyom.) – You only live once.

In Russia we are overly generous and tend to be over the top with our feelings. This is because we think it’s best to live in the present and seize the day.  We don’t plan too much either. So we say: “You only live once!”. Who knows, it might be the end of the world tomorrow!

Загад не бывает богат (Zagad ne byvayet bogat.) – The best-laid plans often go awry.

With harsh winters and so much open space, sometimes things don’t go to plan or might even go wrong. So we always have to think of clever ways to overcome tough situations. For example, we’ve had to invent new ways of surviving the long months of freezing cold weather. One way we’ve done this is by pickling food like cabbage to make sauerkraut so that we can preserve it for longer. Nifty, eh?

Голь на выдумку хитра (Gol’ na vydumku khitra.) – Necessity is the mother of invention.

Our challenging history has taught us to be resourceful. We’ll always find a solution no matter how difficult the situation might seem. For example, we can always come up with a way of fixing something that’s broken, even if it’s freezing cold and we don’t have the right tools. Giving up is definitely NOT an option!

Тише едешь, дальше будешь (Tishe yedesh, dal’she budesh.) – The slower you go, the further you get.

We often repeat this one twice when we say it. We believe that even if a situation might seem impossible to solve right now, it will always sort itself out in the end. All you need is patience and everything will work out!

Скупой платит дважды (Skupoy platit dvazhdy.) – A stingy person always pays twice. / Buy cheap, buy twice.

We say that a “stingy person pays twice” because sometimes it is better and more efficient to pay the full price for something good and long lasting, rather than wasting time running after a bargain or going for a cheap and temporary option.

We also say “семь шапок из овцы не выкроишь никак!” (sem’ shapok is ovtsy ne vykroish nikak! – You can’t make seven hats out of one sheep!) which means we must do things properly and not cut corners.

So, live in the present, be patient, and don’t be stingy! But most importantly, think like a Russian!

Of course, there’s a lot more to our controversial Russian character. If you are curious and want to understand more about our culture, learn the language with busuu!

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