Is it generally easy to differentiate a local from a city guest or recent resident? Can not speak for Russia as a whole, but can definitely share with you some insights on the population of Saint Petersburg. Actually, it is quite a popular question among travellers: “What is a typical Petersburgian like?”. Thus, I hope this article will be interesting for you to read.
Let’s start by defining a typical original resident of Saint Petersburg by mentioning several stereotypes, especially popular elsewhere rather than in the city itself. Will be interesting to check whether those are really true or not by the end of this discussion, or better by actually visiting the city and getting to know its culture, sights and people right on spot.
Quite often a Peterburgian is defined as an intelligent, educated, and well-mannered person. Some mention that people there are a bit mysterious, unpredictable or have some unclear anguish in the look. The last one is probably explained by a very limited amount of sunshine over a year. Most likely, Petersburg weather is another cognitive topic to discuss another time.
Anyway, in order to build a reasonable and valid article, I went through several informative conversations with a couple of native-born Petersburgians of different ages. And here’s what we came up with!
Feature #1 – Cold friendliness
A bit contradictory, right? What is meant by this is generally the population of the city is friendly and open-minded, hospitable and ready to assist when somebody needs help.
For instance, a friend of mine travelled to Saint Petersburg for the first time, and it was back in the days when people used paper maps instead of the Internet. On the way to the city, she met a man (not a romantic story, so keep reading) on a train who appeared to be a native-born Peterburgian. The train arrived early in the morning and nothing was really open, but the friend had to find a hotel she booked. Saying goodbye to the man and other compartment neighbors, she went outside the train and started wondering around the station and actually already left it. Can you imagine that over 15 minutes earlier that man ran after her and had a fresh bought map in his hands with an already marked route to the hotel. Basically here the story of these two ends, as their ways split. But you definitely can see now that these Petersburgians sometimes are really eager to help.
But why friendliness is cold, if returning back to the character? Well, the thing is that at first sight locals as well as, for instance, Finns can look a bit cold and restrained. Again, let’s blame it on the weather 🙂 And also on the education, since from an early age people are usually taught to keep emotions inside and look presentable, as well as be courteous.
Feature #2 – City lovers
True residents of Saint Petersburg love their city. They have a special tremulous feeling towards its history, culture, sights and the unique spirit.
There is a nice citation from Maxim Gorky’s novel “Life of Klim Samgin”:
– Petersburg has many faces. Look: today it has a mysterious and frightening face. During white nights it’s charmingly airy. It is a lively and deeply feeling city.
– Yesterday I thought that you do not love it.
– Yesterday I had an argument with Him; arguing does not mean not loving.
Saint Petersburg is definitely hard not to like, or at least get interested and enchanted about as a tourist. But native-borns keep this feeling through the years. Some can move to other cities, for instance, to Moscow for work. But no matter what, they will associate themselves with everything that happens back at home. Saint Petersburg is not just an environment, it is a living organism, a friend or even family.
Feature #3 – Value of the history
The city went through very hard times, and people keep this value of the present, remembering the past. In every original family of Saint Petersburg, there are stories to share from times of the Siege and the Great Patriotic War. Grand grandchildren of those, who saw all the terror, hunger and overcame all the difficulties, deeply value their history.
These people are in their 30s now. And neither they forgot the past, nor they still stopped valuing it. People are ready to keep and share the stories further. Even the fact that many buildings and sights of Saint Petersburg keep some inquiries from the past, such as bombing or shelling marks, speaks for the fact that nothing is omitted. The feat is not forgotten. Around the whole country and Saint Petersburg, in particular.
Okay, hope your positive mood is still there. Guess the last couple of paragraphs were a bit too much. But that’s what makes people there who they are.
Overall, when getting to know Petersburgians closer, you will notice that they are pretty optimistic, have nice sense of humor. They tend to spend more time walking around the city than spending time inside during their days-off. They do really visit museums, and do not leave them only to tourists. City residents live at a slower pace than Moscowians, for example, and look like they know something that you do not. But who knows maybe you learn their secrets and mysteries during your visit. See you in the Northern capital of Russia (after this pandemic ends)!