We all have heard the saying that clothes make people. That the better you dress, the better you will be perceived by the people around you.
As an east European born woman with some of my Belarusian genes left in my system, this is one of the things that still give me a little ‘culture shock’ like feeling upon going out in Berlin, even after so many years of living here and even despite the fact that in the meantime I have German family members.
Belarusians and east Europeans in general, really like to dress up whenever there is an occassion to do so. Especially the women. For us east Europeans, going to the theater, the opera, a concert or a restaurant or even a date is a very big deal, you know? But the people in Germany don’t really care too much about how they look like when they are sitting in the Berlin State Opera, listening to Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. They have their seats and enjoy the show and that is all that matters.
Two weeks ago I have been to the Friedrichstadt Palast, which is a show palace in Germany’s capital. Something like the German response to the Broadway or shows in Las Vegas.
Just as I have been taught since I was a little girl, I put on one of my nicest dresses, forced myself into nylon tights and heeled shoes and blow dried my hair with special carefulness. While I was standing in front of the mirror and looking at myself doing all of this, I tried to remember whether this is actually the way I was supposed to approach the situation. Something told me that what I was doing for a two hour show that cost not a too little amount of money, was not worth the effort.
The minute I found my seat in the theater and started to watch all of the people around me coming in, I realized that the feeling in my guts, yet again, did not betray me. While I was sitting there all dresses up, most of the people just showed up in their regular clothes. There was pretty much everything from shorts to blue jeans to polo shirts and Adidas jackets.
So, dear Russian people who plan to come here for long or short, there is no socially triggered need to put in so much effort in your appearance for events as such. That is unless this is the only way you would feel comfortable in expensive locations.
The main difference between the cultures here is that east European people associate expensive or prestigious events with a very sophisticated appearance. I guess that a Russian woman would never bear to come to a restaurant or the opera in jeans and T-shirt, while for Germans that seems to be a totally fine thing to do.
So, dear newcomers, if you ever feel shocked by the way other people around you dress, just remember: other countries, other customs and some birds don’t need fine feathers to feel fine. There is nothing wrong with you doing the same, even though for the first few months or years that may feel totally strange.