Driving in Russia is, by all accounts, a nerve-racking experience. So basic road vocabulary is this column’s theme – because rare are those who have been able to avoid communicating with the notoriously corrupt Russian road police (ГAИ: Государственная автоинспекция) or with fellow drivers. Of course “fellow” is probably too nice a word, since every second “fellow” will attempt to подрезать (cut you off), thus creating what they call in GAI parlance an аварийная ситуация (accident-prone situation).
Indeed, courteous behavior is hard to come by on Russian roads strewn with ямы (potholes). Novices are advised to stick a picture of a teapot (чайник) in the back window of their car, as a warning for other drivers. But also note that чайник is slang for a “poor driver.” Women, whether they put up a sign or not, should be ready to hear more than their fair share of criticisms, since men do most of the driving here. A common sexist proverb is: женщина за рулём – что фашист на танке (a woman at the wheel is like a fascist driving a tank).
Another category of drivers commonly derided by other drivers are the подснежники (“snowdrops” – spring flower). These are автолюбители (“car lovers,” or amateurs, as opposed to professional drivers) who prefer to store their cars in a garage during the winter, only venturing out on the roads again in spring – showing up like snowdrops.
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Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.
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