Appears this is one of the most-visited pages. I will be re-writing it soon and doing a periodic update once in a while.

Other "ugly" pages:

See also: Black List and Ugly Disclaimers

Negative feedback about my dacha tends to accumulate on ........

Yes I'm prejudiced / my pet peeves 

Please note that the this list in not carved in stone. People sometimes do change for the better. The human quality of my American clients went up considerably after I aired my beefs. I've learned working with others, such as Italians, whose request I politely disregard till I hear they are on their way, and even then I will send someone else to the airport because chances are high these descendants of Rome will just walk past my little sign with their name.

This page is part of my philosophy of business transparency. Given the highly personalized nature of my services, a welcomed smile for everyone may not be the best approach.

The British are presently at the top of my "we reserve the right to deny service" list. Not only they are irritatingly polite. I could I suppoose live with their annoying habit of sending 500+ mb pictures of themselves, their bikes, cats, kids, and favourite cactuses. Without being asked. Without the slightest need. Not a good thing at all anywhere but here, in the world of 9.6bps and 10 cents/min connections, this amounts to nothing less than sabotage. But no, that's just an excuse on my part. There is something more subtle that make them uncomfortable to me. A certain superiority just oozes out of every pore of good many of them, absurdly mixed with confusion and fear. Ironically, expressed with little regard to even formal grammar. OK, being uncouth in itself is not enough to get me annoyed. I could mention their ingrained need to fit in, eg. showing up at the airport in felt boots and floppy-eared hats to driving around like maniacs in jeeps with shaded windows, the "New Russian" style. Still, this is not **really** it. Some of the Brits suggested that my rates, especially for horse riding, are way out of proportion compared with costs - evidence of an attitude that's beyond me to put into words. I also observe reactions of different people to this little document. Polite Europeans just don't seem to notice this. Americans, by and large, take it in good humour. The Brits, however, get offended, no exception. [Examples of typically British behavious pattern] are coming up.

Americans rejoice. You lost your number one place on my ugly list.. It's been a while since my last 5am "Do you speak English" call. Still happens 2-3 times a year, still from Americans only, but somehow this calling patterns doesn't seem to represent the group. At the same time contributions beyond the call of duty nearly always come from Americans. Not just Americans, but Americans from the southern and desert states and/or the Bible Belt.. Americans are a highly diverse group that generates both the best, the worst, and the silliest, thus defying generalizations. So Americans relax, most of you are welcomed. I especially value your ability to communicate. You write proper, informative, yet concise inquiries. You make you needs clear. If you are not happy, you say so and often suggest an easy solution.

ESL teachers & wannabes are not welcomed even if they are from Arizona. A typical scenario: I get a enquiry. Point to errors. Get a response from which I learn a word or two. See more about then below.

The French. These I try to avoid. A typical French inquiry is "what can you offer?" or "what's your best deal?" or "please propose an itinerary". Lots of correspondence. An awful habit of making multiple reservations. Complaints, especially(!) from the backpacker crowd. Yes, $25/night/pair backpackers have been known to leave ugly noticed on travel boards when offered a room of equal value one mile away from the one they were expecting. Requests like "hold the apartment for me for a week, and then I'll make my final decision" is 100% French. No problem with most of the above. Even complaints don't bother me because I believe most travellers know what a French word is worth. BTW my first encounter with French travellers was in Dublin. At that time I thought of them as the carriers of European culture so seeing a drunken fight using a telephone torn from the wall as a weapon was kind of shocking. No problem with their multiple reservation because I from the French I require a deposit. No exception. But I still don't know how to react to "Tell me more on travelling from Moscow to St. Petersburg by car. Period." 

Belgians are considered "French".


From: "Nicolaas Luijten" <nicolaas [dot ] luijten [ at ] de [dot] calyon  [dot] com>
Sent: Monday, September 19, 2005 6:17 PM
Subject: Prejudice

Hello Paul.
As a potential Moscow resident, I searched the net and discovered your site with a lot of useful
information.  I would like to rectify your Prejudice page and state that Belgians should be
classified in two categories, the Flemish and the Walloons, whereby the latter can be easily lumped
with the French but not the Flemish, they are a lot like the Dutch (and not only in language).  Just
my two cents....

Yes, you guessed it I am Flemish :o)  (my wife is Dutch btw).

Best regards


Russian bride seekers. Many of these are problem cases by definition, so one who undertakes to serve this crowd should not complain too much or too seriously when some of their crap rubs off on you. As a group they are moved by often intense emotions, and my problems with them (a couple ended up in my Black List) inevitably arose out of my following their desperate "act right away or the world will end" plea. The key to successfully working with Russian bride seekers is ability to do nothing, no matter how desperate the plea, till a pre-payment is made or some demonstration of their commitment is received. I think I've sort of learned working with them. OK for the dead season but I look forward to cutting them off at the first opportunity.

North Europeans, I confess, get on my nerves with their "boiled fish" manners but there is nothing specifically wrong with them. Same applies to Canadians. Still, with them, and the Brits especially, I am left with the feeling that I'm hearing pre-recorded polite phrases, or communicating through two inches of glass. The British are discouraged from being my homestay guests or visiting my dacha. Inhabitants of the British or European north are welcomed however.

ESL teacher hopefuls. I regularly receive inquiries about teaching English in Russia. In 3/4 of cases these are in substandard English.  I usually reply by humbly suggesting that letters from ESL teaching candidates should be written at least as well as those from the seekers of cheap lodging. In 2/3 of cases I receive something to the effect that I'm an asshole, and learn a new word or two once in a while. As my mean-hearted little revenge I may even make a dedicated page with e-mails I get from these characters. Don't worry, I'll withhold your names. But not your essence. But yes, once in a while I need people able to do intense conversation practice and if you think you can do that, and if you are already in Moscow, please do manifest your existence.

...Recently received a couple of enquiries was written in absurdly correct English. Here is the beginning of one:

Dear Mr. Voytinsky,

I hereby respectfully inquire if your esteemed company may have an opening for a person of my qualifications and experience to fill the vacancy of.....

In the address part of the letter the author even called me "president". Was amusing for a while.

As to preferred clients, these are now, in addition to Americans, are now the Dutch, Greeks, Israelis and Indians. The Dutch are admirably clear about their needs. Israelis are good communicators on the "vibes" level but that may have something to do with my own DNA. Indians seem to come in two distinct breeds, one of which is easy to disregard while another is the professional analytical type with a touch of style and enlightenment. As I continue living and working in Russia, my interest in developing connections in Israel, Greece, or India is growing. More on that elsewhere. 


On Indians. As representatives of a culture that came up with doctrines of karma and ahimsa you deserve respect. But as clients you truly suck. Sorry. You are still on my Welcomed list but don't expect me to take a reservation or run any errands for you till you learn to issue and follow instructions. Truly worse once are those caught between cultures. Don't try to tell me of mutual enrichment etc. I'm a product of at least three incompatible influences and I know how these things work. From the fringes where I live and make a living I have a chance to see and contemplate all sort of people and situations, and will repeat that uncontrolled inter-breeding is bad. [Add something on good and bad inter-breeding; use my horses as an example: Romashka + Synok = absurdity of a horse; Romashka + Sur = good product; something along the lines that you can mix clear opposites but ... use an example of two neighbouring piano keys not fitting together while more distant sounds match...]

Russians.  My compatriots tend to be colleagues/competitors than clients. As clients they are often exemplary. As colleagues/competitors they are are kind of weird. I got a few angry calls from service providers to who I had links from my sites: "But who gave you permission to link to my resource?!". A comment on that would be appreciated. Again, as clients the Russians as a group are almost as easy to work with as the Americans except that, as house guests or renters they tend to leave more of a pigsty behind..

Why am I documenting my beefs? Trying to be understood? Looking for kindred spirits? A filter? Yes, and more. Pages like this one, that are likely to chase away some potential clients, are, I suppose, part of my business and personal philosophy of openness and transparency and thinking out loud.


Last update September 19, 2005


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