Largely because of their tumultuous past, the Russians are a strong people, prepared to face hardships, yet optimistic about the future. They tend to be well educated and proud of their cultural heritage. They are friendly, though if they don't understand English they might appear to be impolite. But on the whole, they are open and welcome visitors to their country.

Russian is the official language of the country, though you will also hear English, French, Spanish and German.

The majority of Russians are Christians, and most of these belong to the Russian Orthodox Church. Different worldwide religions are also represented.

Russians are proud of their heritage in the arts, and hold native writers, playwrights, composers, choreographers and film-makers in great respect. The traditions of exceptional art, music and literary contributions to the world continues today. When greeting someone, Russians typically shake hands, though this is never done across a threshold. Note that it is prohibited to photograph military installations or establishments and sites of strategic importance.

Russia's cuisine is as diverse as the country is large. Growing from its roots in simple peasant fare, it generally includes fish, poultry, bread and vegetables such as beets, cabbage, mushrooms, potatoes, carrots and turnips. Soup, both hot and cold, is a staple of most meals. Some items you might see on a menu and may want to try are kasha, porridge made from oats, buckwheat or semolina; blini, like crepes, small pancakes filled with savory or sweet ingredients; pirozhky, fried rolls with a savory filling; borscht, beet soup; and pelmeni, meat dumplings. Favorite drinks include vodka, of course! It is often favored with herbs and spices. There is also Nastoika, a fortified wine made from herbs, flowers and fruit; Nalivka, a sweet liqueur from fruit of berries; and Krushon, a punch made with champagne, brandy and fruit. A non-alcoholic favorite is chai tea.

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