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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Everyone has a right to parmesan

I am not particularly fond of Parmesan cheese myself but nevertheless I feel that I must say a word in defence of my colleague, Lindy Sinclair. A number of readers have written to The Moscow Times accusing her of being "narrow-minded" simply because she wrote about the small but growing number of gourmet shops in Moscow. They suggested that instead of complaining about the lack of delicacies in the city she should, as an "adjusted Westerner," be queuing to buy a bottle of cheap vodka. Now I happen to know that you cannot accuse Lindy of being ignorant of the realities of life in Russia. If there is one person who knows her way round Moscow's markets like the back of her hand and who has travelled this huge country from coast to coast, Lindy's the one. But that's not the point. The fact is that some foreigners, including some of the letter writers mentioned above, have a rather romantic idea of Russia. With a course of basic Russian under their belt and the collected works of Chekhov in their suitcase, they come to this country dreaming of balalaika music round a samovar. These newcomers have taken the adage "When in Rome do as the Romans do" one step further: they want to be more Russian than the Russians. They are oblivious to the fact that in the last two years Moscow has become very Westernized. Television broadcasts Western soaps, there are increasing numbers of Western cars on the streets and every corner kiosk sells Western products. And those Western products are not sold to foreigners but to Russians themselves. I am willing to lay odds that more Russians buy Parmesan than Westerners. Of course, only the more affluent Russians can afford Western products. But to declare your solidarity with the more down-at-heel Russians by joining them in the queue seems to me rather counterproductive -- you tend to make the queue even longer. At his nursery school my son is taught Pushkin rhymes by his teacher but he would much rather sing the songs about the Ninji Cherepashki, or Ninja Turtles, that he learns from his Russian friends. I am inclined to disapprove but it happens to be the reality of the times. In fact the world is becoming more and more of a global village. In the four-and-a-half years we've lived in Russia, we've always had Russian neighbors. When we first arrived it was nearly impossible as a foreigner to rent a flat other than one specially reserved for foreigners. We found it much more interesting to have Russians as neighbors and we sent our children to a Russian school. All the same I can understand why some foreigners choose to live in Park Place and drive to Stockmann in a chauffeur-driven Mercedes, and I find it rather arrogant when some people think they can advise other foreigners in this town how to behave. It is a delusion to think that foreigners, whether or not they travel by metro, can bring about what one letter writer calls "permanent change."