Russia is all set to host the biggest show on Earth, the football world Cup that returns every four years to captivate the world sport fraternity. And how well the country of Karl Marx and Lenin have prepared to greet the travelling world audience is quite a puzzle. With two days to go before the Luzhniki Stadium hosts the opening game between the hosts and Saudi Arabia on June 14, Russians is in a festive mood with their citizens enjoying a two-day public holiday.
Its imposing capital Moscow witnessed a damp evening yesterday with rain placing the holidaymakers and travelling fans from all over the world in a spot of bother. And if this unpredictable weather persists for the next couple of days, it will considerably limit the outdoor festivity.
Interestingly, this fickle weather amidst spells of brilliant sunshine can best be described as Russia's way of showering the travelling fans with a welcoming embrace. For the last two days, since arriving in Moscow, we received first-class treatment when it came to getting professional support. Internet facilities here are one of the best in the world; a sim card with unlimited mobile data for a month is cheaper even than in Bangladesh. The transport system in Moscow is also very attractive and if you are from Dhaka, you will find it a ride to the heavens.
But then you are destined to hit a brick wall when you try to communicate with the natives. Go to a shop and ask for a common product in English and the store-keeper will give you a blank look. Then he will start talking to you as if you are Russian and the communication grinds to a halt at that point.
If you want to order food or ask a taxi driver about a destination, you run the risk of getting a different item being served or you end up in another destination altogether. The taxi drivers are however smarter. They will just Google Translate communication regarding the destination to English and at times even turn to English voice readouts on their smartphones.
Unfortunately, the two drivers who were trying to convince a couple of Nigerian fans at the Domodedovo airport to take a trip failed to lure the prospective client due to the language barrier.
Most Russians simply cannot understand English. A Venezuelan fan, who identified himself as Johnny, was made to sweat at one of the few makeshift tents built for issuing fan ID passes inside the Luzhniki Stadium facility. He wanted the pass, but much to his surprise the attendant in the tent said he had come to the wrong place. The volunteer was a Russian but spoke English fluently. He admitted that he had had to divert a lot of misguided fans to the proper destination, which is a 20-minute walk from that spot. The result was a very annoyed Johnny walking along with us.
As we were walking towards the destination a Russian family requested a selfie with us and we happily complied.
Johnny was curious and inquired if they were our friends. When we said they were Russians and we did not know them, he was again surprised and quipped: “They know English, but they don't want to speak it.”
But as far as festivity and bonding with international fans are concerned, this language barrier is something destined to hurt Russians more than travelling fans.