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Appropriate Attire

Anything goes in today's Russian cities: full-length furs, baseball caps, pierced navels, or see-through gowns from Versace's spring show. Generally, Russian women dress up rather than down, with heels and lipstick de rigueur. Athletic shoes are reserved for the gym for both genders unless they're from a famous designer, and baggy sweatshirts on anyone over 14 are a sure sign of a tourist. In Orthodox churches, men should bare their heads and women should cover theirs; keeping a small kerchief in your purse or backpack is a good idea. Women are supposed to cover knees and shoulders, though this rule is often ignored in the more touristed sites. The main thing to remember is weather: Boots or snow-appropriate shoes are a must October through April, as are a hat, scarf, and gloves. Layers are essential year-round.

Gestures

Russians greet acquaintances with kisses on both cheeks, though upon meeting someone the first time, a handshake (btw. men) or a simple nod is standard. Russians may at first be reserved, but upon later meetings they can be physically friendly, and their sense of personal space is smaller than what Anglo-Saxons are used to. Common gestures include spitting over the left shoulder (to ward off bad luck), and flicking the middle finger onto the chin (meaning anything having to do with getting drunk).

Avoiding Offense

Russian superstitions run deep, and even a "Westernized" Russian teenager will probably cringe if you whistle indoors or greet someone across a threshold, both believed to bring bad tidings. Touching or even getting too close to a newborn baby is unwelcome. Never give a Russian an even number of flowers; this is reserved for funerals. The KGB's successors won't report -- or deport -- you if you criticize Russian leaders, but you might be in for some heated debate if you want to discuss Chechnya, Stalin, or the Putin administration.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.