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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Where Never is Better Than Fashionably Late

One of the places where Russians and foreigners seem to get along best is at parties. All sorts of people probably get along best at parties, I suppose. The resentments only surface the next morning when everyone wakes up with a headache. But there are several aspects of expat-Russian parties that do not need a morning after to become controversial. They are invariably one of the first things that these two demographic subdivisions notice about each other. "I went to a party the other night," a Russian will say. "All the foreigners there spent the whole night just standing around talking about their jobs. And there was nothing to eat. I couldn't believe it." The Party Snacks issue is a source of deep contention here. For many expats, the idea of throwing a party can be as simple as providing the space and a few bags of salty, often orange-colored things to counteract the zing of the alcohol that your guests will bring with them. And even if there is more substantial fare, it is always mobile, so that people can stroll, eat, talk about work and avoid people in other rooms all at their leisure. People are likely to get drunk and act regrettably, but it's often done in a slow, sipping kind of way that may not peak until two or three in the morning. This all runs counter to the Russian school of party etiquette, which dictates that guests will be well-fed and will be so while sitting in one place. No processed cheese balls. No wandering off with your plate, nibbling absent-mindedly. You will sit and eat an enormous meal that will give you the strength for the wild excesses you will indulge in for the rest of the evening. You will also adjust your drinking tempo. None of that silly cocktail sipping -- you've got to catch the metro before 1 A.M. This has to be dealt with in a disciplined manner. A shot of vodka, a forkful of food, a shot of vodka, etc. You will be happy and well-fed in no time, with a few good hours still ahead of you. "It was great," a foreigner will say. "I don't remember anything." And just as the plates are being cleared away and the music turned on, a group of foreigners will inevitably arrive, fashionably late. For Russians, the time a party is scheduled to begin is the time they will arrive, bottles and flowers in hand. For many expats, this is the time to begin thinking about what to wear. This is particularly tricky when there is a group heading out to a party together: At 7:30 the Russians are putting on their jackets and looking at the clock and the foreigners are sitting on the sofa, absolute studies in world-weariness. This often results in a two-phase party effect, with early-comers and late-comers, but there always manages to be one perfect moment somewhere in between when everyone is having fun, and no one is talking about their job.