This is not my story, but I am allowed to tell it...
One of the refreshing things about Russians is that - probably as a result of such a long time being a communist society - just about everybody feels equal to everyone else. I don't mean in terms of income, obviously; the disparities here are huge, far greater than I've seen in most European cities. No, more that we all on an equal footing. People speak their mind.
This can, however, be a double-edged sword, as a friend of mine found out this week. Like me, she has recently arrived in Moscow from a western city. With 3 children spanning the years from primary school to 3 months old and no local family support structure, she hired a nanny to help her through the tricky school / nursery pick-up / witching / bath-hour time of day. All was going well with the Russian nanny she had found, until Olga (not her real name) expressed shock that my friend's 2 1/2 year-old son - Alex - was not yet out of nappies.
"In Russia, all children are potty-trained at two" she said.
My friend didn't really want to start with this; the nanny only works from mid-afternoon to early evening, leaving her to deal with the resultant accidents and a practically newborn baby for the rest of the time. She thought, however, that perhaps she might give a shot and see how it worked out.
Of course, with the nanny watching him like a hawk Alex had no accidents that first afternoon. But one evening trying to deal with breast-feeding her baby and wipe up wee changed my friend's mind. She decided that potty-training could wait until the summer when things were a little more settled, the weather was warmer, and the laundry would dry more quickly.
She informed Olga of her decision next day. The nanny was not impressed.
And the next time Alex filled his nappy, she found my friend and said: "He had a poo. You change him."