Saturday, 6 February 2010

Culture shock

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."


  1. Brilliant. What did your friend say? Did she do as she was told?

    The Bosnians are the same. Potty trained children before they are born. But when you look a bit closer they are not potty trained at all, just got mothers who are very good at spotting the signals.

  2. I would're fired lady. Wow. That is a little different to say the least! Kids can't just start potty training at a certain age..they need to be ready....there is a lot of pain and discomfort involved in trying to do it too early! But you are the potty expert! :-)

  3. Blimey. I kind of wish I had a Russian nanny to do the potty training for me - all my efforts with Littleboy 2 have failed. He is now three, and totally un-trained. Meanwhile Littleboy 1 is STILL in night nappies despite trials every other week without. Will it never end?

  4. I suppose the Russians have it easy then! She should have tried potty training Amy, she was 5 before she stopped wearing a nappy at night, and she still wet the bed occasionally when she was 9.

    CJ xx

  5. You just can't get the staff these days, PM!

  6. Mind you, we can have the same thing here. An English friend of mine had a cleaner when she lived here, who promptly informed her that "no one in the States irons sheets" (they don't iron much at all but that's beside the point) - and refused to iron them. She lasted about two weeks.

  7. Olga needs firing. End of.

    In the whole toilet training debate (younger sibling trained before older sibling, which lent interesting dynamics to the family) I was ever conscious of the fact that whatever I decided, it was the nanny who would bear the brunt of it.

  8. As a matter of fact Brit, she did - but only because she was SO shocked. I think her plan was to have 'a talk' with the nanny very soon after...

    Lisa, I wouldn't say expert - bearing in mind both my boys were over 3 when they finally got the loo habit!

    NVG, it will. When they leave home, at the very least!

    CJ, I suspect it's more not being able to afford such a long term supply of disposable nappies; I have to say that if the incentive had been to stop having to wash terry ones I would probably have got round to it too. (And I know your situation is different, by the way)

    Too true, FK, too true!

    More Than, she probably does. Especially since, with her only working part time, it was the mum who would have to do most of the work. Having said that, being in a different country and culture does rather put one on the back foot - it's not such a simple decision to make when you're in a country where you don't speak the language and have no support structure. Not sure I would have reacted any differently.

  9. Olga, or Ogre, would that be?

  10. Perhaps Olga should be reminded of where her income comes from?

  11. And that's when your friend should have done her best Alan Sugar impression: "You're fired!"

  12. Rather interesting site you've got here. Thank you for it. I like such topics and anything connected to this matter. I definitely want to read a bit more soon.

    Kate Benedict


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