There is a big difference between the Russian tradition of hospitality and a friendly attitude towards guests in other countries of the world. The legends about the breadth of the Russian soul have a very good reason to exist. Russians love to accept guests and make great hosts. When in Russia, you don't need to wait for a special occasion like a birthday or a holiday to visit a friend or a neighbor. Russians like visiting each other, meeting in friendly companies for dinner, or just stopping by to catch up on what's going on. The latter is called "to drop in for a cup of coffee" (забежать на чашечку кофе).
Russians often visit each other's homes without a special invitation. Just let the hosts know about your plans in advance and they'll be very happy to accept you. It is considered rude to leave guests without a treat. A host may offer the guest a cup of tea with cookies or set the table with snacks and serve cocktails—everything depends on the company, the time of the day, and the financial well-being of the host. In the least, you will always be offered something to eat or drink when visiting Russians at their homes.
Just like it would be rude to leave a guest without a treat, it is considered rude to make a visit without a gift for the hosts. Russians even have an expression "придти с пустыми руками" that literally means "to come with empty hands". It is used to describe guests who didn't bring any gifts to the hosts. You don't have to buy expensive souvenirs when being a guest. A box of chocolates or a bottle of fine wine will make a good gift. If you are visiting a family with children make sure to bring a treat for the kids—a candy, a chocolate bar or fruits.
A good way to get together with friends is to organize a "theme" party. Theme parties are quickly gaining popularity among young Russians. For example, the increasing number of Russians are becoming interested in Japanese cuisine. A company of friends may choose to organize a sushi night at someone's house and order sushi delivery or make their own sushi rolls. Other Russians like to meet up for beers ("на пиво") which usually involves boiling shrimp or crawfish and tasting different types of beer while watching a movie or a soccer game in a company of friends.
Russians like to serve a festive dinner for the guests on occasion of such holidays as birthdays, New Year and Easter. The necessary attributes of a holiday dinner include meat and cold appetizers (jellied minced meat known as "kholodets" is very common), one or more hot dishes, and cake for dessert. Russian housewives prefer to cook everything themselves and it is expected that a real Russian woman should be a good cook. Alcohol is another important attribute of a holiday dinner. Russians do not usually follow the habits of serving wine with meat dishes or hard liquor with dessert. Instead, all types of alcoholic beverages are served on the table and guests may pick their favorites themselves.
Russians display special generosity and goodwill to guests from other cities and countries. A real Russian is more than happy to accommodate a new guest in his or her house instead of reserving a hotel room for the guest. Many Russians who live in small apartments and don't have an opportunity to accommodate a guest will feel very upset about that. If you are visiting Russia and staying with a Russian friend, they will be very pleased to show you around, accompany you during sightseeing, and guide you to the most interesting places in their city.
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