A cultural difference I enjoy:
Yesterday in the foreign languages department:
One teacher: Girls, today is the twentieth day of the lunar cycle, so be careful! Evil spirits are especially likely to surround your house. Best to bake some bread - or something with flour, maybe some pancakes - to keep them away.
All other teachers (completely without irony): Oh, ok, thanks for the warning! We'll be sure to do that!
I love my department, by the way. The teachers are all really sweet, and since it's all foreign languages and not just English, I get to speak Russian with a lot of them.
Also, a certain Alert Reader sent me the link to this article on an interesting new holiday. I have a few comments about this:
1. Russian society is obsessed with the so-called "demographic crisis," that is, the country's plummeting population and/or influx of immigrants. Besides the fact that I think the country has bigger fish to fry, the government's policy of trying to fix the situation by raising the birthrate isn't the first step that needs to be taken. (For example, trying to raise the standard of living so the average male life expectancy climbs above 55 might be a start; or fixing the social problems that lead to the high divorce rate, and in turn the abysmal birth rate.) Another weird example of this policy: billboards in the Moscow metro with a picture of a woman holding triplets (no dad, which is more accurate than one would expect from the state) that say "The country needs your records!"
2. A Russian-made ATV doesn't seem like much of a prize to me, especially if they're trying to keep people alive.
And a certain Alert Friend (also a reader?) directed me to this article that sheds light on the puzzling phenomenon of Russian copies of American sitcoms. I had wondered about the legality of it for a long time (there are at least four sitcoms here that are exact duplicates of old American shows - Married with Children, Who's the Boss?, The Nanny, and Home Improvement), and now I know. And you can, too.