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Never Offer a Russian a Cold Beverage: Russia’s Liquid Kryptonite Explained

The Russians defeated Nazi Germany, but they're terrified of drinking cold water

This article from our archives was first published on RI in February 2017

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

When you visit or live in a foreign country, it's always the little differences that stand out the most.

And if you spend more than one week in Russia, you will quickly discover that Russians are not keen on drinking cold beverages. It's not their cup of tea. Tea is their cup of tea. And it should be very hot tea. Ideally with lemon. Spasibo.

<figcaption>'If it's cold it kills'</figcaption>
'If it's cold it kills'

Sure, they'll have a cold beer, or a glass of chilled kvas (it's sort of like moldy bread water; it's delicious, just trust us on this one). But you will almost never see a Russian chugging an ice-filled 80oz Big Gulp. (As a result, diabetes is not nearly as prevalent over here.)

If you're at a Russian cafe and order water, your waiter will ask you two important questions: 1. Would you like carbonated water? and 2. Are you a freak who prefers cold water?

The moral of this story is that if your Russian language skills aren't that great, it's always easier to just order vodka with every meal.

Russians drink hot beverages. It doesn't matter what season it is. We have a Russian acquaintance who told us a pleasant anecdote about a recent business trip he took to the United States: Our Russian friend was flying from JFK to LAX. It was July. Hot, humid, extremely sticky. You get the idea.

When it was his turn to receive beverage service, our Russian comrade asked the flight attendant for a hot, steamy cup of tea (with lemon, of course). She immediately replied to him: "Oh — you must be Russian!"

In fact, there's even a traditional Russian method of drinking hot tea, "Пить из блюдца", which basically involves pouring your tea into a saucer and slurping it in order to decrease serious bodily harm. We know at least one Russian who is so fond of hot tea that she burnt her lips and didn't even know until her dentist asked why her lips had basically melted off her face.

What's the deal, Russia? We demand answers.

Luckily there are many patient Russians who are part of the RI family; Russia expert and long-time Russian Elizabeth Curry was kind enough to explain why Russians are so weird:

Yes, apparently Russians don't drink cold water because they're afraid of getting sick.

Seriously. These people will jump into freezing lakes, but won't drink a cup of ice water? Because they're afraid of catching cold?

And these are the same people who crushed a million (rough approximation) SS divisions? If Hitler had known about Stalin's Achilles' heel — an ice cold Fanta — the Axis Powers might have conquered the whole world.

Oh well. According to our Russian Russia expert, if you can't deal with Russia's many delightful quirks: too bad! (Elizabeth finds a much more poetic way of saying this.)

Of course, there's another way of looking at this strange phenomenon: Why are Americans so obsessed with cold drinks? We demand answers.

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