The traffic lights in Russia are a wannabe racecar driver’s dream. There’s no guessing when they’re going to change—they go from red to yellow to green, giving drivers time to rev their engines and start edging forward as pedestrians scurry for safety. And once they’ve turned green, timers count down to the next red light, so drivers know exactly how quickly they need to speed to make it through.
The life of the Russian pedestrian is less fun. There’s no requirement in St. Petersburg, as far as I can tell, that cars yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Sure, sometimes they’ll slow down for you, but just as often, they’ll speed up—get out of the way or face the consequences.
What’s really fun, though, is crossing the street at a place without a stoplight—it’s sort of like human Frogger. St. Petersburg’s residents apparently have an excellent sense of timing.
But crossing the street isn’t the only place where the state won’t give you much of a helping hand.
When you’re getting on the metro, and the chime sounds signaling that the doors are about to close, you’d best be on the train. These aren’t nice American doors that open if you hurriedly shove a hand in. They close with a sharp thud, and you’re either in or you’re out.
I got “closed on” yesterday—it’s more surprising than painful, since the doors are at least padded with rubber. But whereas in America, one learns to shove an arm into the door to get on the train, here such stupidity doesn’t pay off.
It’s kind of nice, actually.
You have to take more responsibility for yourself—but you won’t be surprised if the striped paint on the street doesn’t make cars magically stop or if your rush to get on the train is rewarded with a bruise.