Does anybody know how to turn to a stranger in Russia?
It is a hard question, in Russia people don’t know the answer. In England, America, France, Spain, German or Italy there aren’t any problems. Even Russian in America can say: “Excuse me, Sir (or Mister, or Miss, or Madam, or Lady, or, maybe, ma’am.)”. But in Russia… In old time, when the Emperor was still alive, they used to say: “Господин, Госпожа, Барин, Барыня, Барышня''. In Soviet time all these words were taken out of circulation. People might call each other only “товарищ”. To a man, or to a woman: “Sorry, товарищ, can I ask you?”. Товарищ Вера/ Петр, какое сегодня число?
But now there aren't any “товарищей” and people have to think what to say. Мужчина/Женщина/Гражданин/Гражданка/Дочка/Сынок/Мать/Отец/ Бабуля - each of them sounds strange or funny. As to me, I am used to cough loudly – Kaff! Kaff! (Two times are enough.) A scared person turns to me, and I ask him/her what I want to ask. And that’s all.
So, before going to Russia one should invent his/her own method to address to people.
If you now address to a person “товарищ”, you could get an offensive respond: “Гусь свинье не товарищ”. (A pig isn’t a goose’s friend. The English analogue is – Oil and water don’t mix.)
There is no point in making your life unnecessarily complicated. I would just go with "Извините пожалуйста" and then ask for information/directions in an impersonal way.
I support this, normally we do not use any forms for adressing at all. In the street just say something like "Простите пожалуйста, как проехать на вокзал". They will think you are funny if you use any special words for adressing like товарищ and so on. You may smile if you want to be more polite.
@ 1 Pozin2
This is actually is a very interesting post!
I totally agree with 2 comments that already have been made here by @dreamloomer and @Yaroslav..
I only lived in Russia as a very young person but long enough..There literally were no specific formal ways to address anyone except casually invented going by circumstances or the nature of the communication.
The only thing was that at school or university or a workplace you would address the teacher, professor or a person in charge/superior/ collegue with their full name including the "otchestvo" (patronimic)
e.g. "Valentina Vasil'evna, could I please ask you to look at this..?"
"Viktor Sergeevich, can I come in, sorry that I am late"..etc..
You never ever addressed them by their first name only without their "otchestvo" (as you would in the family/friends circle), that would be extremely rude.
However we never used any Russian equivalents of "sir" or "madam" with authorities or strangers.. If you did not know their name you just started with "Zdravstvuite, Izvinite, pozhaluista, .." “Здравствуйте, извините , пожалуйста..“(Hello, good day, Excuse me , please..(your question then followed)
The only thing is that you always addressed them using "Вы" polite "You" and never "ты"( informal "you")
Russian culture of today is somewhat unique that way..as others correctly stated..they do not have pre-revolutionary "sir" ,"madam" , "lady" equivalents and the famous Soviet time "tovarisch" already have been outdated and discarded..
The forms that people may use in my own experience are approximately related to English "Friend " , "Father" , Grandfather/grandmother, " Sister/Brother.., Son/Daughter..
Examples: Друг, Отец, Папаша, Дедуля , Бабуля , Дедушка, Брат, Братан, Сынок, Доченька
All these are quite informal actually and in my experience were used mostly by older or "simpler " people in casual situations..(asking help etc)
But that means a bit level of familiarity using something by "сынок" - usually by old ladies. The neutral expression will be no using any adressing at all, if you do not know the name of a person. If you know the name, it may be used, for example: "Сергей, не подскажешь который час?"
I agree with this, however as I stated this was in my own personal experience..many years ago..I heard older people and even middle aged people of certain type using those expressions even when they were not familiar with the person..Ahhh those old ladies..(and older "grandfathers..":-)))
I am a native Russian speaker. Whenever I need to address to a stranger, I use «Прошу прощения, ...» or «Извините, ...». There is no actual need of personal addressing. No misters or tovarisches.
However, in some cases it is appropriate to use an addressing. For example, «Девушка, вы уронили шапку», which literally stands for «Lady, you dropped your hat».
I would say, the neutral form of addressing today is вы, without specifying type of relationship, "master", "citizen", "comrade" or "pal":
"Извините, пожалуйста, вы не знаете..."
"Простите, пожалуйста, как мне найти..."
"Скажите, пожалуйста, я правильно иду..."
For me personally it is okay is someone omits long excuses:
"Э-э, вы не подскажете..."
"А вы не знаете..."
To a young lady, I would intentionally say "сударыня" and to an evident foreigner, "землячок".
"землячок"..that is cute..addressing an evident foreigner..:-)) .."сударыня" to a young lady-sounds nice..:-)
That is not a joke. I started doing this after I saw a weatherman on Novosibirsk TV some 30 years ago. He normally began his report with "Дорогие земляки!". The guy was a black student from Brazil.
This is an awesome story..never thought that could happen in Novosibirsk that long ago when foreigners definitely were a rarity in Russian speaking roles..Bravo!
Frankly, foreign students were quite common in Novosibirsk technical institutes - mostly from Africa, Latin America and Asia. As fas as I remember, that young man studied in Telecom.
From your lips to the ears of the gods. (Вашими бы устами да мёд пить.) Извините, простите, пожалуйста - sound great. Unfortunately, when I’m in Russia (mostly in St. Petersburg) I often hear “Мужчина, вы уронили газету”, “Женщина, возьмите сдачу”, “Ну-ка, батя, посторонись”, “Девушка, проходите же”. And it is in the cultural capital of Russia.
So what? I live in a small Russian town in the South, so sometimes I hear on streets "мужик, да пошел ты нахуй", but this is not a neutral expression definitely:)
"Мужик" is a familiarity but not rude, and it is used mainly by non-educated people like workers, peasants and so on.
Ben, it is stylistically (approximately) same difference as in English speaking world addressing someone with:
"Yo, man, you've got a lighter(or any object)..) I could borrow off you ?" (at least in Canada I hear that a lot)
as compared to :
"Sorry, could I ask if you have a lighter(or any object..) I could borrow by any chance.."
Мужчина, женщина, девушка, молодой человек - all these sound neutral but still awkward.
“Мужчина,..." or "Женщина" - will be less polite than "Простите", often used by angry women.
До 12-14 лет — "мальчик/девочка"
От 12-14 до 16-18 лет — "парень/девушка".
От 16-18 до 40-45 лет — "молодой человек/девушка"
Старше 45 лет — "мужчина/женщина".
Многие употребляют слова "дедушка/бабушка" к людям старше 70 лет, но я считаю это может оскорбить некоторых кто не чувствует свой возраст в душе́.
Чаще всего такие обращения я использую в том случае когда что-то важно для этого человека, например он обронил какую-то вещь, но если нужно что-то мне, то обычно я говорю: "простите, не подскажете?.."
К детям можно обращаться менее официально и всегда использовать прямое обращение: "мальчик/девочка, подскажи пожалуйста..."