By BRICS JOURNAL
10 questions with Gabisile Nkosi, who made Moscow, the capital of the Russian Federation, her home over three years ago. She’s been hard at work as First Secretary: Political at the South African Embassy
“Russia has managed to use and maintain public spaces, like parks, to preserve their history and also for the people to enjoy clean, safe environments.”
- How did your move to Russia come about?
I was fortunate enough to be selected by my country to serve the government and people of South Africa as a diplomat in the Russian Federation.
- What has been the most challenging adjustment for you?
Learning, or trying to learn, the language. But I’ve learnt that as I acquire the language, everything seems to fall into place. The next big adjustment for me has been the weather – and surviving the long winters. South Africa’s winter is a few months with temperatures well above -10 degrees, so mid-winter breaks to warm destinations are my saving grace, especially in January.
- Are South Africans very different from Russians?
My first impression of the Russian people was that they were very different to South Africans. Moscow is a big city and people seemed to be very busy and had no time to stop and help someone who’s lost, never mind chat to them. In South Africa people seem to have time to assist with absolutely anything everything. They often end up chatting to the point of being an instant friend, which could be too much for other people.
With time and learning the language I realised that there are plenty of similarities between South Africans and Russians. We are both family focused and characters within families remain the same. As an example, Russian babushkas (grandmothers) are just like South African gogos and will always ask: “When are you getting married or having children?” This was not rude to me because that’s what our grannies do. Another similarity is that they also always want to feed you.
The younger people speak English and they are always very happy to find someone they can practise with and very international with regards to music, movies and social media. There are many similarities among the youth in terms of challenges and experiences.
We are different in that at first sight South Africans are super warm and friendly, but Russians seem cold and scary. Expats all notice that Russians don’t smile on their first arrival in Russia. But with time they warm up, and relationships are built and nurtured over time – and you end up having friends for life.