FIFA

So I arrived in Russia just as the World Cup was beginning. As St Petersburg is one of the host cities, it is constantly crowded with fans adorned in their team colors, swarming the streets, metro stations, and bars. It has definitely been a unique atmosphere to experience, and it has given the beginning of my study abroad experience a different flavor. It is a bit of a paradox, but the sheer amount of foreigners on the streets here has almost made the world seem smaller. When you put so many people that do not speak the same language in one space, you would expect to experience divisions and strife. But that has not been my experience at all. I have both experienced and witnessed many examples of beautiful cross-cultural communication. It is not uncommon to see groups of people sporting the same flag excitedly point at each other and share enthusiasm for their team, even though they are complete strangers who do not speak the same language. After the games people will be out on the streets late into the night, as St Petersburg is experiencing its legendary white nights, where the sun only sets for a few short hours. They congratulate each other and revel in the excitement of the atmosphere. I have yet to witness any instances of antagonism, even from fans whose teams have lost. Because I speak some Russian, I have found myself in the rather unique position of being someone caught between being a native and a foreigner. If the world cup were not going on, I would most definitely be a foreigner here. I would clearly stand out because of my accent. But because there are so many other people here visiting, my foreignness fades into the background. Other tourists constantly ask me for directions. A few times visitors have overheard me speaking English and enlisted my help as an unofficial interpreter at shops. All of this has given Petersburg a sense of togetherness that I do not think would otherwise be present. I have so enjoyed witnessing how soccer (or football, as they call it here) can bring people together in such a powerful way. After all, everyone knows the rules of the game and you don’t need to speak the same language in order to enjoy watching a game with new friends.


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