The Moscow government will allocate 700 million rubles for “making a positive image” of Moscow at the international scene. The city hall approved an image improvement program on Tuesday. The Moscow authorities had to cough up the funds following the recent surveys released by the rating agencies, which rank the Russian capital as one of the most expensive, dangerous and uncomfortable cities of the world.
The bureaucrats were particularly offended by the fact that Moscow had been included into the Top Ten of the world’s most boorish cities. Now the city hall intends to launch a large-scale PR campaign abroad to prove that Muscovites are well-mannered and nice. On the other hand, the bureaucrats did nothing to find out the reasons why the experts believe that the Moscow residents are goops. The Russian daily Novyie Izvestia stood in for the Moscow authorities and looked into the issue of loutishness in the capital of Russia.
The list of the world’s most polite/impolite cities was commissioned by the well-known American magazine Reader’s Digest. The magazine dispatched a dozen agents to the main megalopolises around the globe to gauge the politeness level of local residents. The agents used a number of tests during their field research. They paid attention to the routines of the city life e.g. taking note of city dwellers who kindly hold the door for other people to move past or lend a hand in picking sheets of paper scattered around the pavement. They also pricked up their ears while in stores to check whether the salesclerks say “thank you” to their patrons.
According to the Reader’s Digest list, New York City has the most courteous residents while those who live in Bombay, Bucharest, Kuala Lumpur are the incorrigible louts. “Our surveys show that the people give lip more frequently these days,” says the sociologist Yuri Levada. “Nowadays our fellow citizens live in the conditions of unstable social and financial contexts, and therefore they are subject to increased stress and anxiety due to a lack of confidence in the future. Loutish behavior is a way of making oneself invisible in this crippled world, and become a person of some social standing,” adds Levada.
The newspaper singles out the groups of population known for their loutish behavior: teenagers, salespersons, drivers, bureaucrats, doctors, and pensioners.
The widespread loutishness in this country stems from the past. Several generations of Soviet children were told to hold back the tears because “pioneers (members of Communist Youth organization in the USSR ) don’t cry,” according to a popular saying of the era. Repressed emotions give rise to tension and evolve into aggressiveness. “By and large, the ethics of education and communication in Russia are extremely power-centered,” says Yana Dubeikovskaya, a psychologist. “The adults put continuous pressure on the kids. The Soviet-era educators used intimidation and punishment as their methods of choice. The majority of post-Soviet educators rely on these methods too. Only in five or seven generations Russia will be able to get rid of these residual Soviet-era stereotypes,”says Dubeikovskaya.
“A grown-up person tends to view a teenager as a potential lout. In other words, a hostile attitude towards a teenager is prefabricated, so to speak,” says Tatyana Mukha, a neuropsychologist at the research center Education in Development. “Besides, boys and girls get a clearer picture of the limits of permissiveness while in their teens. So the origins of their rudeness can be experimental,” adds she. For example, an adult asks a teenager to make room during a ride in a streetcar. The tone of a request is of paramount importance. If it’s peremptory, a teenager will automatically stand up for his territory and resist the intrusion into his personality.
Shop owners estimate that rude salesclerks discourage 69% of their customers from shopping. Still, the management cannot get their staff to behave in a proper manner. Even in the top-class supermarkets you can hear some rude comments sometimes.
“The salespersons in the past were rude because everything was in short supply, and they behaved like arrogant higher-ups with a lot of clout. Nowadays we have a wild uncontrollable market with salesclerks playing the role of a pushy peddler,” says the economist Mikhail Delyagin.
“During my trial period I was trained to treat customers nicely and refrain from being rude to them. You won’t get a bonus on top of the salary if you say something rude while serving your customer. In theory, the management can even deduct a part of your salary or even fire you for this crime. In actuality, the bosses will in all probability deprive you of a bonus if you’re rude to a customer. You still get your salary in full. I’ve learned it from my own experience,” says Maria, a salesclerk in a shoe store.
Male drivers are more inclined to loutish behavior on the city’s highways. Men seem to program themselves to being aggressive drivers. Sometimes they confuse a highway with a battleground. Some men park their cars on the road and block the traffic for miles, others never slow down at the crosswalk. Some male drivers seem to enjoy riding with lightning speed over the puddles. As a result, the pedestrians get splashed with muddy water. And most drivers seem to get pleasure out of cutting in one another. The traffic police arrested a driver who was seen firing his air gun at the windows of a bus in the city of Krasnoyarsk several months ago. The 33-year driver of Toyota was taken into custody. He admitted to shooting at the bus because the latter cut in his vehicle at a traffic light.
“We can’t call a driver to account for his loutish behavior, provided that his actions are in line with the traffic rules. It all boils down to a person’s upbringing,” says Andrei Perov, a Moscow traffic policeman. But the traffic policemen can be rude themselves, according to a legal expert with the Commission for Legal Protection of Car Owners. He believes some cops can pick on the drivers on purpose to trigger a rude response. “And they will surely give you a ticket if you talk back,” says Akutov.
Translated by Guerman Grachev
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