Russian Manners with Winnie the Pooh

If there’s one place you can make a cultural faux pas, it’s definitely at the dinner table. Today we’ll go over some of the crucial missteps to avoid at the Russian dinner table, with the help of none other but Winnie the Pooh! Just forget about that soft-spoken friendly yellow bear you may recognize from your childhood… Russian “Vinni Pukh” has a totally different attitude.

Winnie the Pooh in Russia

Russian culture is notoriously hard to pin down, but an “us vs them” mentality often prevails. It should come as no surprise then, that where Disney saw a lovable, cuddly, soft-spoken teddy bear, Soyuzmultfilm, the makers of the Soviet cartoon “Винни Пух (Vinni Pukh)” saw a psychologically complex character who constantly fills his head with plans that are too grand for the uncomplicated existence which he lives, causing him to face many comedic pitfalls when his imagination and reality collide.

Unlike his American counterpart, Vinni Pukh shows a streak of wild cleverness as he plots his grand schemes towards honey with the help of his best friend “Пятачок (P’atachok),” that is, Piglet. In the second part of the original Soyuzmultfilm trilogy, Vinni Pukh goes to visit his stereotypically nerdy (right down to the speech impediment), but exceedingly polite, philosophizing friend “Кролик (Krolik),” that is, Rabbit.

Russian Manners

So have you guessed from watching Vinni Pukh what are the biggest mistakes that you can make when visiting Russian friends?

Well, for starters, As Krolik pointedly mentions, you should always wipe your feet before entering someone’s house. You’ll also want to take your dirty, mucky, snow-covered shoes off at the door, and put on a warm pair of comfortable slippers for the house, which your host can almost always provide.

Obviously eating your host out of house and home is not very polite. Know when to take the cue to leave, or your host may feel obliged to entertain you longer than s/he can afford. As P’atachok mentions at the start, people don’t usually go visiting in the mornings, but prefer to come in the evening when there will be plenty of time to eat and relax with a glass of wine (or a few shots of vodka). Taking a moment to wash your hands before coming to the table is a must, and slurping your food is considered rude, as Vinni Pukh finds out when Krolik gives him a shocked look for his rude behaviour.

Of course, destroying your friend’s house during your visit is also not considered very polite!

More Vinni Pukh

Now that you’ve learned the basics of Russian table manners from Vinni Pukh, take a moment to explore the other portions of this charming trilogy from Soyuzmultfilm, which has been the favorite of Russian children since its inception in the late 1950s.

[Thumbnail image credited to 50 Watts]