Editor’s Note: Jeff is a sports and whiskey enthusiast with the humor of an adolescent boy. Follow him on Instagram @jspringmeier for stereotypical millennial photos. This is his second offering.
By JEFF SPRINGMEIER
Reports in the mainstream media portray the Russian government to be a manipulating world power. They portray Trump as Putin’s hand puppet and give Russian’s a bad name. As I sit here, preparing for my fourth trip to Russia, I figure Houstonians might want to hear some differing opinions on the Motherland. So, I’m here to give you a little insight on one of Houston’s fine sister-cities; Tyumen, Russia.
I first lived in Tyumen, a hub for the Russian oil and gas industry, back in August of 2014, for work in the oilfield. I was 22-years old and had many preconceived stereotypes of Russians (most of them turned out to be true). I met a beautiful Russian woman named Olga, and fell in love. We are currently married and living in Houston. Contrary to popular belief, she did not come via FedEx. But enough with the gushy romance novel. Tyumen was booze-soaked culture shock that changed my view of Russians and their portrayal in the media.
Let me start off with the women. Holy sh*t! Whatever is in the vodka there is working. The cultural rumor is that the ratio of women to men in Tyumen is 4:1. Between my drunken nights and hungover days, this ratio seemed like an understatement. Blonde, brunette, tall, short, skinny, curvy, what have you; Tyumen has it. Now I don’t condone ranking women, but a Texas 9 is about a Russian 6. If you don’t believe me, check out Miss World 2008, Tyumen native, Ksenia Sukhinova. You might be thinking “Yeah she’s great, but how does an average dude like me pick up a smoke show like that.” Well lucky for you, in Russian, there is a saying that translates to, “A man has to look slightly better than an ape.” In the words of Lloyd Christmas, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance!”
Next, the night-life. Americans, think they can party hard, but not like the Russians. A typical weekend schedule was the following:
- 8:00 pm – Dinner with vodka
- 11:00 pm – Pub with vodka
- 02:00 am – Club with vodka
- 06:00 am – Breakfast at an “after-hours” club with vodka
- 10:00 am – Head back to hotel
- Rinse and Repeat
The music was a mix popular songs from the 70s to today (queue radio voice). They even knew the “bah, bah, bah” to Sweet Caroline. More specifically, the Russian’s had an infatuation with Bon Jovi and even the ones that didn’t speak a lick of English could belt out the lyrics to “Livin’ on a Prayer.” Needless to say, I had many “bro-nections” despite not being able to hold a conversation with anyone.
Historically, Tyumen played a minor yet interesting role in WWII. In 1941, the Russian government sent Lenin’s tomb to Tyumen, from Moscow, in fear that the Germans may destroy it. Also, due to the Nazi’s destruction of St. Petersburg, famine was rampant. This caused a surge in the St. Petersburg rat population due to the increased amount of diseased and decaying bodies. Tyumen shipped thousands of stray cats to the city of St. Petersburg to help control the rat population, helping to prevent the spread of disease and saving artifacts in the world’s largest museum, the Hermitage. Also, Tyumen was known as the “hospital city”, as it was far enough into Siberia, that soldiers could be treated safely without fear of occupation.
Lastly, the people are generally warm and friendly. Only once were we tailed by the KGB (or the modern-day equivalent) and I did get spit on by an old, homeless lady when she found out I was American, but that’s no different than walking through Edo. We were welcomed into the homes and lives of the people we’ve been taught to hate. Yes, the stereotypes are true: the vodka, the Adidas track suits, the gold chains, the bears, and the hate for some Americans (only the older generations). But the truth is that the younger generation listens to the same music, watches the same movies, and has the same interests. The Russians are a loving, family-oriented, nationalistic people. Despite the negative media portrayal, the Russian people have showed me nothing but acceptance, and I’m glad to be an adopted comrade.