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A Guide for Parking, Swearing and Weeing

???????µ???? ?????????????‡?°: Muscovite’s code

Just when I thought I had mastered the complexities of being a longtime foreign resident of the Russian capital, the Moscow City Duma has decided to produce ???????µ???? ?????????????‡?° (Muscovite’s Code) to help us foreigners assimilate.

Although it’s still being discussed, a few suggestions for proper behavior were given as examples. Some are easy to follow: ???µ ?€?µ?·?°?‚?? ?±?°?€?°???° ???? ???????€?µ (Don’t slit the throat of a sheep in the courtyard). No argument from me on that one, and besides, I think it’s against the law. ???µ ?¶?°?€???‚?? ???°???»?‹?? ???° ?±?°?»???????µ (Don’t grill shashlik on the balcony). I don’t have a balcony and besides, I think that’s also against the law. ? ?°?·???????°?€?????°?‚?? ????-?€?????????? (Speak Russian). Potential problem. Does that mean I can’t speak English with a friend in public? And finally: ???µ ?…???????‚?? ???? ?????€?????? ?? ???°?†???????°?»???????? ?????µ?¶???µ (Don’t walk around the city in national dress). Big problem. Do I have to throw out my jeans, sneakers and down parka?

I appreciate that a large influx of foreign workers into a city may create tension and misunderstanding. Since the code’s compilers plan to consult with members of the various diasporas, as a responsible member of a diaspora I’d like to offer some suggestions on how to fit in with Moscow life based on the behavior of some of the native Muscovites I see and engage with on a daily basis.

1. ?“?€???????? ?€?????°???‚?µ???? ???°?‚???? ???° ???»???†?µ (Swear loudly on the street). This is an ancient tradition, testified to in the earliest descriptions of the city. Although swearing on the street waned during the Soviet period, it seems to be making a spectacular comeback in our days. For example, I am awakened every morning at 7 a.m. by a foreman swearing loudly, creatively and expansively at the construction site next door. Why, just this morning I learned a fascinating new use of prefixes.

2. ???°?€???????‚?µ ???°???????? ?‚?°??, ?????µ ???????° ???????????°?¶?µ?‚ — ???° ?‚?€???‚???°?€?µ, ???° ???µ?‚???????? ???»???‰?°?????µ — ?? ?¶?µ?»?°?‚?µ?»?????? ?‚?°??, ?‡?‚???±?‹ ?????° ?‚???€?‡?°?»?° ???° ???€???µ?·?¶?µ?? ?‡?°???‚?? ???»?? ?±?»???????€?????°?»?° ???€???????µ ???°???????‹ (Park your car wherever and however you feel like — on the sidewalk, on a playground — and preferably so it sticks out onto the roadway or blocks other cars). In fact, if you can figure out how to park it in a tree, go for it.

3. ?????????° ???‹ ???‹???????°?µ?‚?µ ?? ???°?€???µ, ?????€?°???»?????‚?µ ???°?»???? ?????¶???? ?·?° ???????‚???? (When you are drinking in a park, relieve yourself behind a bush). Walls are also acceptable, as are entryways and even — disgustingly — elevators.

4. ???° ???µ???? ?€???¶???µ?????? ?¶?µ???‹ ?????‚?€?°?????°???‚?µ ?„?µ???µ?€???µ?€???? ???? ???????€?µ ?? ?‡?°?? ?????‡?? (On your wife’s birthday, set off fireworks in the courtyard at 1 a.m.) Make sure that you have 37 of your closest personal friends with you — preferably drunk and loud — as well as a pack of howling dogs.

5. ?•???»?? ???‹ ?€?°?±???‚?°?µ?‚?µ ?? ???°???°?·?????µ ???»?? ?€?µ???‚???€?°???µ, ???????????‚?µ: ???????????°?‚?µ?»?? ?????µ?????° ???µ???€?°?? (If you work in a store or restaurant, remember: The customer is always wrong). And if you work in a bank, learn how to snap your window down on the hands of a client who has been waiting for 45 minutes as you say: ???µ?€?µ?€?‹??! (It’s my break!)

Unfair? Absolutely. But honestly, have you ever seen someone killing sheep in your courtyard? Are you upset by the sight of colorful native garb? Do you care if street cleaners chat among themselves in Tajik?

The code may be a good idea, but only if it’s distributed to everyone.

Michele A. Berdy is a Moscow-based translator and interpreter.

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