Anne Simkin on Croissants, Samovars, Morocco, and Dreams
— Why did you decide to stay in Russia and teach at the university?
— Because I love Russia and want to learn more about it. By being in the country and teaching Russian students, I’ll be able to learn about Russia inside and out.
— Was this your first time in Russia?
— This was my first ‘real’ trip to Russia. The first time I was in Russia, I was just four years old. But I’ve been in Russia for nearly a year already. I taught in a master’s programme at HSE last year.
— And how do you like our students?
— They’re very serious. In France, students oftentimes have no idea whether they’ll go to class today or not. Also, Russian students have a great love for France, but they sometimes have strange ideas about the country. They think, for example, that French women are always elegant and that all French people eat croissants every day. (Actually, if we eat anything every day, then it’s baguettes.)
— Speaking of stereotypes, what stereotypes did you have about Russia? Did they turn out to be true?
— I thought that in the winter, there was not just a lot of snow, but an insane amount of it. So much that it would be hard to get around the city. But this wasn’t true. They clean Bolshaya Pokrovskaya so well that there’s practically no snow left. I also thought that all Russian women were blonde, and I thought that all Russians still use samovars. I was extremely disappointed that this isn’t the case. There are even electric tea kettles in the countryside now.
— What about Russian drivers? A lot of foreigners are shocked by our driving.
— I wasn’t shocked. Actually, it’s really dangerous in Benin and Morocco! And in Georgia, drivers drink Chacha before driving and this is normal. I thought I’d die when I saw this for the first time.
— What plans do you have for the last month of summer?
— I’m going to Tbilisi by bus. I have family and friends there. I’ve been there many times, and I like it better than France.
— Is there a place in Russia you dream of going to?
— Baikal and Kamchatka. I love lakes and volcanoes. When I was still in school I had a map of Baikal hanging in my room that I studied every day. I always dreamed of going there.