By JENNIFER EREMEEVA
Nowhere do the cultural gaps between Russians and Westerners yawn wider than in attitudes towards sickness and health. This country pioneered laser eye surgery, but still uses jam where you and I would use penicillin.
In Russia, the health care system is feast or famine. You can get a first-rate boob job in Moscow, but low blood pressure medication is usually sold out, and I’m still unclear where they sell vitamins.
“To your good health!” runs the popular toast, “Na zdaroviye!” The good wishes are not idly issued: Ill health lurks around every corner in Russia, and the causes are many and manifest.
I’ve given up trying to match the illnesses described to ones I know exist in the real world, like on Grey’s Anatomy.
“My heart hurts,” states Tatiana. (That’s right: “heart” not “head.”)
“It’s the weather,” responds Svetlana while Olga asserts it’s “the pressure…”
I still don’t understand the pressure thing. Sometimes I’m sure it is air pressure, but other times I think it must be blood pressure. Sometimes, I am assured it is neither. Blood pressure could be responsible for your heart hurting, but then how could the weather be connected? And should pressure be high or low?
“My head hurts!” cries Katya
“The pressure is very low,” explains Anya.
Galina nods sympathetically. “It’s the magnetic field.”
The magnetic field! It must exist on some level, because the weathermen in Russia refer to it nightly. “We don’t have this in America,” I try to explain, but Russians just laugh as if I’ve floated a hypothesis that we don’t have Coca-Cola.
Are there odd health superstitions where you are living? Conditions you’ve never heard of?
Jennifer Eremeeva is a Massachusetts-born historian, photographer and cook who blogs about the funnier side of life in Russia.