The “F” Words: More from the Expat Lexicon



That’s the thing about blogging, isn’t it?  You get on the roll with something….

Here are some “F” words for the expat’s guide to Russia:


Nikolai Gogol said it best:  “The problem with Russia is fools and roads,” This sounds a lot better in Russian “Duraki ee Dorogee.”  (Дураки и дороги).  Playing the fool works well in Russia, because you can operate under the radar screen.  Good examples of this include arch-conservative/nutcase head of the LDPR Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who just keeps on ticking, no matter how many insulting things he says about Russia’s near neighbors, and Grigory Rasputin, the Holy Fool, though of course with him, things ended rather badly.


Russia often tries to come up with its own version of something that other countries already have, which by rights, have no place in Russia.  For example:  Medvedev is building a Silicon Valley, the Scary Crowd who run Moscow are attempting to build a Financial Center.  Fandorin is Russia’s attempt to have a Top of the Line Fictitious Detective like Hercule Poirot.  He’s the detective hero of best-selling novelist Boris Akunin’s series.  Fandorin:  I’ve known Poirot a long time, and you are no Poirot.


Do not underestimate the importance of flowers in Russia.  Flowers are always always always a good idea.  The larger the better.  Half of the GDP of the Netherlands comes from International Women’s Day in Russia.   They come swathed in ugly colored plastic wrap, strangled by chicken wire.  Hell to de-construct.  The problem is that you get deluged with them on your birthday or International Women’s Day/23rd of February and then you don’t see them for the rest of the year.   


One of Russia’s national pastimes.  Particularly since they (somehow, for reasons which still baffle the rest of the civilized world) managed to swing hosting the world cup in 2018 in three or four cities, which no one had ever, heard of (admit it – you could sooner find Fanghorn Forest or King’s Landing on a map than you could Saransk.)


Not a word that is possible to translate into Russian, though anyone who wants to give it a go is welcome to hit the comment button below and weigh in.  I always find this interesting; since frustrating is exactly what Russia is most of the time.  For example, when you finally get your act together to go and register your visa, and you battle through the snow or the pukh or whatever and get to the post office and discover that the warped individuals who run the Federal Migration Service have changed the rules again.  Or, when you are trying to sleep off the previous night’s excesses and your landlady arrives.  At 8 am.  That’s frustrating.


Opposite of male, and therefore incapable of a.) Playing football, b.) Making more money than the male, c.) Taking out the garbage, and d.) Running the country.  Pity.

Face Control:

What mandatory military service qualifies every male Russian to do.


A synonym for “strange” or “no longer welcome at this particular time in our nation’s history,” or just plain “wrong.”  Is the etymological root of the word “German” which doesn’t come as a surprise given recent history?   If you are reading this blog, chances are, you are a foreigner, despite the fact, as one visitor to Russia once told me, “I’m not foreign…I’m American.”  Think again.


Still considered a luxury although it is available year round.    Source of “vitaminiy” together with intense sunlight.  Which is good, since I have yet to be able to find where they sell the actual supplements.  

Forest Fires:

The highlight of last summer.   Mixed with the peat bogs fumes, they gave us an exact sense of what fire and brimstone will be like when we get to hell.   Tough cookie Medvedev told the Cabinet Ministers that if things this summer were as bad as last summer, he’d send them out to fight the fires.  Problem is, he tweeted it.  And, as every devotee of Vladimir Putin knows, Real Men Don’t Tweet.


Hey There Readers!

Can you think of some “F” words to describe Russia or help shed light on Life In Russia?  Mindful, that is, that this is sort of a Family Type blog, so you have to refrain from outright obscenities.  That should keep you busy!

Coming up next…. the “B” words!  Stay tuned!



, , , , , , , , , , , ,

30 Responses to The “F” Words: More from the Expat Lexicon

  1. Ella 02/06/2011 at 5:14 pm #

    Love your blog! I would roughly translate “frustrating” as “идиотский”(idiotskyi). Also, isn’t International Woman’s Day on March 8, not Feb. 23 (some Military day or smth). Oh, how I remember those holidays-frustrating.
    Waiting for B-words.

  2. Jennifer Eremeeva 02/06/2011 at 5:19 pm #

    Hey Ella! Thanks for your comment! IWD is indeed on 8th of March, but I meant either 3/8 OR 2/23, which as yo correctly note is Defenders of the Fatherland Day! If you like Russian holidays, do come back again for a trawl through The Stunt. Love idiotsky as a good translation of frustrating, because that is what people say when they shake their heads in frustration!

  3. Ella 02/06/2011 at 5:49 pm #

    Jennifer, I have read all your entries and loved them. And I must say that though I was born and raised in USSR and lived there for almost 30 years , I do not know half of the holidays you write about in your posts. May be they did not exist then or I didn’t pay attention because I really hated everything there since I was like 15-16. You certainly know though we do have here Secretary day and such and I still think it is stupid though I love my new country. I recently realized that I have lived here a couple years more than in Russia.

  4. Liza 02/06/2011 at 8:29 pm #

    What about “fabulous?” Russians just don’t have a proper equivalent.
    And what about the real F-word? Russians just seem to hate it when women curse. Why is that?

  5. Jennifer Eremeeva 03/06/2011 at 12:00 am #

    shakarniy I think is the closest equivalent…or zamichatelniy to fabulous.
    Russian curse words are seventeen million times worse than their English equivalents so sound much worse in the mouths of the women of Russia. My HRH insists I don’t even learn those words, so I’m left cursing with fake “F” words….

    • Nicola 27/07/2012 at 11:51 pm #

      Gosh, I have just the same dilemma. I haven’t been allowed to learn even one little expletive in Russian. And despite my efforts to cheat at Rosetta Stone Russian and fast forward to the naughty bits, I haven’t found any there, either. So, I’m left to wonder what that muffled ‘m’ sounding word is that my husband spits every time some buggering asshole cuts him off while driving or his computer crashes. Oh, how I ponder such slavic freedoms of speech…

  6. Ian W-M 03/06/2011 at 2:05 am #

    The not being foreign comment reminds me of the Bill Bryson tale of an American who could not understand that his language – English – came from England.

  7. Melissa 03/06/2011 at 8:44 am #

    Love this! What a great way to start the morning — with your writing and a cup of coffee. (and I admit, I said, “Ooo! I know where Kings Landing is!” when I read that bit …)

  8. Jennifer Eremeeva 03/06/2011 at 9:12 am #

    And that, in turn, reminds me of Henry Higgins commenting in “Why Can’t the English Teach Their Children How to Speak?” when he remarks that “In America, they haven’t used it for years.” hoping to see something more of you this summer since I need some fresh material for your alter ego/avatar…

  9. Jennifer Eremeeva 03/06/2011 at 9:13 am #

    Of course you do, darling! You even know where the Eyrie is!!

  10. rebecca 03/06/2011 at 4:57 pm #

    fun blog enjoy expat blogs, I am a Brit expat in the US, my neighbor is Russian but very shy her mum made me pierogis once so good

  11. Adam 04/06/2011 at 1:38 am #

    Ah….flowers….those pesky flowers. My rather beautiful Russian girlfriend used to argue that, as she lived in Russia and I lived in Switzerland, flowers were due on both February 14 and March 8. I just about accepted that. Then there was her birthday….also March, and so I became the local flower shop’s best customer. And then…………Adamchick (her name for me. Sorry…….she was a romantic)….Adamchick…you sent me yellow roses. Yes sweetheart….happy birthday. No Adamchick…in Russia…yellow means betrayal. Checkmate. She had me. Ironically, I am the one now living in Russia, not her.

  12. Maureen 04/06/2011 at 4:06 pm #

    Foliage – months after spring has sprung throughout the rest of Europe the trees in Moscow remain stubbornly bare. Then in one remarkable week buds turn into abundant leaves, after which comes summer.

  13. Elizabeth 05/06/2011 at 1:02 am #

    Jennifer – you could add Furniture to the list. As in “I’d like something more than Ikea but I don’t want to pay the Italian / French / German / Danish store full price 4 months before anticipated delivery!”.
    Great idea for a blog!

  14. Katherine 06/06/2011 at 10:15 am #

    This is too funny, love it! Where I live in Israel (Be’er Sheva) there is a very large Russian population, and so it was that I recently learned the term Face Control. Amazing. Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier, I’m so glad to have found you as well! The expat experience is similar in so many ways no matter where you are. I often look for the comedy of the situation as well :-)

  15. Miss Footloose 07/06/2011 at 7:01 am #

    In Armenia, where I lived for a number of years, I was told the girls stayed skinny because the secret was hot water. They just drank hot water all day. So there you have it. It works!
    Having just moved to Moldova, another Former Soviet Republic, I haven’t figured out the secret here yet. My own diet is supposed to include lots of green leafy vegetables, but they have not discovered them here yet. Occasionally I see some spinach and arugula, and apart from a couple of kinds of lettuce, that is it for leafy things. My diet in ruins. Wish I had something more interesting to report, but sometimes, there just isn’t any, sigh.

  16. Miss Footloose 07/06/2011 at 7:03 am #

    PS. I loved your story! Tweeted and FB’d it. Losing weight, a universal theme, now even in Mauritania where fat is beautiful.

  17. Miriam 07/06/2011 at 3:21 pm #

    Very entertaining (and accurate) list of f-words. May I submit ‘faulty’, as in, my internet connection, every bit of equipment in my workplace, my curtain rail…etc.
    I’ve learned the naughty words in Russian, as profanity is a hobby of mine. True that it is far less acceptible for women here, but I’ll stubbornly use them until someone can give a me a reason not to.
    ‘Because men will not like to hear you say these things’, as I was recently informed, is not a reason.

  18. Vanessa 09/06/2011 at 5:31 am #

    My ex-boyfriend did not feel that way, which is why my mat is probably the strongest part of my Russian vocabulary. Frustrate — еб*ть мозг.
    Yes, they are stronger, and most Russian girls will get the vapors in front of guys they like if someone curses… but it is all for show.

  19. Ruth 10/06/2011 at 8:14 am #

    Would you happen to have some advice on another important F Word for expats-Female Fashion? Living in Singapore I have learned to branch out from the baseball caps, t shirts, and running shoes. And I still plan to visit Eileen Fisher. From our two last visits to Moscow in the winter time, I did see lots of furs and stillettos. What is the summer attire like? Any advice is greatly appreciated!

  20. Jennifer Eremeeva 10/06/2011 at 2:14 pm #

    Hey Ruth!
    Summer attire is pretty much as it is everywhere else: smart casual. It’s HOT so lots of lovely cool linen and cotton are good. As for the high heels, I haven’t worn them for a while, and I don’t know many expat women who get up every morning and try to emulate the natives, but they are, indeed, the fashion. Moscow really is very cosmopolitan, so many different styles make up the eclectic look.
    Is that at all helpful!??! When are you coming over?

  21. Jennifer Eremeeva 10/06/2011 at 2:15 pm #

    Faulty is a superb addition!!! I’m impressed you are collecting naughty words. I’m not allowed to by HRH, but my shapka is off to anyone who is. Loving your blog as well!

  22. Jennifer Eremeeva 10/06/2011 at 2:18 pm #

    Miss F — thank you so much for your nice comment! I do think that dieting strikes a chord in us all, expat or no. How are you enjoying EE??? I’d love to get you guest blog your initial impressions, though of course you’ve been in the FSU before.

  23. Jennifer Eremeeva 10/06/2011 at 2:19 pm #

    Elizabeth -
    I want a new bed that has a mattress which is more than 5 inches thick. Any thoughts?

  24. Jennifer Eremeeva 10/06/2011 at 2:20 pm #

    As ever, you capture a wonderful snapshot of life in Russia…the intensity of the shoulder seasons is something that always takes me by surprise.

  25. Jennifer Eremeeva 10/06/2011 at 2:22 pm #

    Heavens…what a story. Are you perhaps the same guy who took the beautiful Russian girl to Paris, gave her 50 EUROS spending money for the Metro and some coffee, went to his meetings, then got a call four hours later from the Rue St. Honore where she had amassed a 6,000 EURO bill for clothing and accessories? I notice you use the past tense so maybe it is. Could I ask what her name was? I am working on a piece on Russian names and how they can tell you a lot about someone’s character. It isn’t based on actual science, but it is dead accurate. I would love to know!!

  26. Jennifer Eremeeva 10/06/2011 at 2:24 pm #

    Congratulations! You have the very best frustration equivalent. You also sound like you are living a very interesting life. We’d love to know more! A kommunalk’ka? Are you in SPB perhaps? What are your neighbors like?

  27. Jennifer Eremeeva 10/06/2011 at 2:24 pm #

    Up to a point, Lord Cropper, up to a point!!

  28. Jennifer Eremeeva 10/06/2011 at 2:25 pm #

    Dear Ella:
    Thanks so much for your vote of confidence! I’m delighted you enjoy the Stunt! I still have some more to do, and I’m looking forward to having a full deck as it were. My Russian friends are always dead impressed when I tell them which holiday it is. Thanks for continuing to read DMT!

  29. Vanessa 11/06/2011 at 2:04 pm #

    Yes, I am in SPb.
    Hmm… my neighbors are all just ordinary people, I suppose? One babushka I think is kind of always drunk or something, but she likes me because I have a cat. I used to rent apartments, but I had trouble keeping roommates because my Russian friends couldn’t afford to live with me and other foreigners didn’t want to live with me. As the only one with an apartment in the center instead of just a room, everyone congregated at my house. Too much “v gosti” for most foreigners to handle, if you will. But now I just have a room, it’s much cheaper, and I only have to clean the apartment once every two months. I am sure there are people with nightmarish kommunalka stories, but basically everyone just keeps to themselves, which is fine with me.
    I actually read an article the other day that said that the city wants to get rid of kommunalkas by 2020, but a) I don’t see that happening and b) while I wouldn’t want to live my whole life in one, it’s a good option for students and young people. I wish that we had that option in the US, actually, because it seems preferable to me to sharing an apartment with some random person you found on craigslist.

Leave a Reply