When I said they didn't all give me the stinkeye, he said "you see? You are very popular with Armenian women!"
The Russians I've met are extraordinarily warm and friendly... unless they're talking about other Russians.
It made me wonder a lot, as a kid, why would people do kind things to one another but not smile at them at the same time. It made sense to me even at 11 that a smile is a natural indication of good will and friendliness, and if you're helping someone, you're being friendly, so it should follow that you would smile to express so.
The guy who held the bus for me as I was running towards the doors? Almost sour, though without disdain.
The guy who helped me figure out what's wrong with the bike as I was meddling with it in the middle of the street? All business.
It's common politeness in Russia to say "thank you", but the thing that I can't figure out is – one does not have to smile while doing so; it's just not the norm here.
Whenever I hold the door for women of all ages, most of them say "thank you", and most of those who do so, smile.
These unwritten social rules are confusing to me.
My groupmate once noted that Russian people "like to suffer". She's Tatar, which legally makes her Russian still, but she comes from a different culture nevertheless. I think she has a point. Most of the Russians I know hold something called the crab mentality – a tall poppy syndrome is a similar cultural phenomenon.
I think it's been abused by the state to encourage people to not stand out, because such a crowd is easier to control. Overall, I think it's the Russian way of dealing with the harsh geographical conditions. While understandable, it also makes it difficult to pursue higher goals in such a company. My older sister was wary to tell even me about her ambitions, so conditioned she was to criticism about it. She has aspirations that she fears will be belittled or crushed if she dares share them with those she considers friends – benevolent, high-minded aspirations that would be praised as a concept but inevitably struck down in a person.
Her saying that made me notice the same obnoxious patterns in myself. My first response, in many a conversation I've had with different people, was to discourage them from A or G or XYZ by pointing out the negative aspects of it.
One thing I've learned recently is a theory of the correlation between the language and the mentality of a people. I find the theory itself dubious because of the little proof presented in a definitely-worded work, but it did point out a few interesting things about the Russian culture. It said that, while the American social theory is broad, meant to include into one's zone as many people as possible – which is why Americans call any recent acquaintance of any merit a friend – the Russian social theory is much more intimate – which is why Russians are uncharitable on the "friend" status with anyone other than their closest people.
My theory is that, while Russians enjoy each others' company, they unconsciously resent anyone other than their friends – and act appropriately. The resentment signal got mixed into the general social theory, since you still have to maintain a healthy level of connections. It's not a solid theory, but it's the one I have.