In Russia in a flat where everyone has a nasty cough--should I be worried?

As I discussed in a thread a long time ago, I’ve wound up going to Russia to learn the Russian language–or at least to make a fair go at it. After two weeks, I’ve gotten past the initial panic and am at least kinda settling in, though it’s still lonely as hell and I have more than my fair share of “what the hell was I thinking” moments.

I’m staying in a flat with a host family, as it happens. (They’re friendly enough, though do sort of stay off and do their own thing. Still, perhaps better them than being in a dorm with all Chinese.) The only thing that really worries me about my current living arrangement, other than vague, hopefully ungrounded fears about crime, is the fact that as near as I can tell, everyone in this apartment has this really nasty cough. Not continual, I suppose, but persistent and deep/barking. This for the entire two weeks I’ve been here so far.

Now, to be fair, I’ve done a lot of worrying about pretty much everything since I’ve been here. This is a new experience for me, and it’s been much harder than I ever could’ve realized it would be. But sitting in an apartment for months on end with a bunch of people who are coughing all the time in a country known to have problems with tuberculosis is a little bit troubling. But then, I don’t really know what I’m talking about, of course.

I’m not at all sure how I’d bring it up with the school’s administration, much less the host family itself–there just doesn’t seem to be a polite way of going about it. But first I ought to figure out whether there’s even anything to bring up. So–is there really anything to worry about here?

(BTW: I don’t think this amounts to asking for medical advice; there’s no diagnosis or treatment going on, really. If it does, mods can feel free to deal with it appropriately, of course.)

Something makes them cough. It could be contagious. You should be concerned about your health.

Are they smokers? Do they seem otherwise ill?


Where in Russia? Air pollution can cause chronic coughing too, it seems to me.

In Russia, nasty cough has you! (Apologies. This is required in all discussions about Russia).

It seems to me that if you’ve been living in close quarters for two weeks and aren’t sick yourself, if they have something it isn’t very contagious. But smoking and/or pollution (such as diesel or coal particulates) also seem likely explanations.

Just don’t let any grannies try to put mustard plasters on you.

… just wondering when Ivan Astikov is going to show up …

yeah, 'cause people from Manchester know everything about coughs in Russia. :slight_smile:

Anyway, LawMonkey, I’m glad to hear you made it out to Russia - where in Russia did you end up? Having been there myself, I can understand some of the freaking out - it’s a decidedly overwhelming place. I also found that the host family I lived with stuck to themselves and left me to my own devices most of the time.

With regard to the health situation, I would personally be about as worried about sick flatmates in Russia as I would elsewhere. Which, in my case, would not be very worried. For the record, I think the TBC thing is overstated. Just make sure you get enough vitamin C, try and go to a banya and drink plenty of wodka :smiley: Also, I wouldn’t worry about bringing it up with anyone; there is nothing particularly rude or insulting about not wanting to get sick, and I have found the Russians to be particularly preoccupied with health and disease, so they will probably be able to connect, if not offer you a lot of folk wisdom on how you should drink rum grog and eat lots of dill to keep out the evil spirits. Other than that, I am not sure what they can do to help - but at least you’ll have shared your worries with them.

Russia is COLD. So, maybe they all have a cold (they could also likewise have running nose continually.

Russia also has a lot of prisons, a lot of people in prisons, and a lot of TB there. Then people get out of prison and to some extent it spreads through the population. I think under the late Soviets it was fully under control, but now, not so much.

In short, your mileage may vary when it comes to cough. It can be all sorts of things.

Which brings me to another point - WHY do you want to live in Russia to study Russian? Apartments may be cheap, but then they are cheap in many places. Just get yourself a cheap place to live wherever, with fast internet, and you can learn Russian all you want through Skype and some other teleconferencing software. I have done plenty of remote tutoring in programming and in English as Second Language, including a lot of it to Russians (I am fluent in Russian). Well, so likewise you can hire somebody to tutor you remotely in “Russian as Second Language”. Without the cough, the crime and the police whistleblowers on Youtube :slight_smile:

I really don’t see the point of questioning the decision to study Russian in Russia in a thread started by someone who already finds herself in Russia, and who did not ask for advice on whether she should have gone to Russia in the first place. Seems a bit odd. Furthermore, if you honestly don’t see the upside of actually traveling to a country to immerse yourself in that country’s language and society, so that you may actually learn something, you can hardly be much of ESL teacher. Finally, there’s crime and people coughing everywhere; people are succumbing to the swine flu all over the place, and crime’s rife in large parts of the US to an extent that is actually unknown in most of Russia. In sum, I think your advice is unsolicited, misplaced and highly unfounded, if not bordering on fear mongering.

St. Petersburg. I’m not terribly far out of the center–about a twenty-five minute walk to my school, and about a thirty minute walk to St. Isaacs and the bottom of Nevsky Prospect, I’d guess. I went the host family route because I felt like I needed to have somebody here for me when I got here. Good move–I really was a wreck for the first few days. Doesn’t help that my knowledge of Russian has turned out to be effectively nil–while I know a decent amount of grammar from studying on my own, I don’t have a lot of experience hearing it spoken, nor is my vocabulary that great. Another surprise has been that nearly every one in my school is from China. I went with the St. Petersburg State University one, and nearly everyone else is there so that they can take a year of Russian and sit for the TORFL before enrolling in the University proper. It’s making finding friends a bit trickier–I’m a 30 year old almost-lawyer who only speaks English and a little bit of bad Russian, after all. If I had it to do over again, I think I’d go with one of the private schools, which probably have an older clientele with more Europeans/Americans. (Not that the Chinese are unfriendly or anything–but they naturally tend to stick together, seeing as they all speak the same language and so on.)

When I got here, anyway, the host lady (Natasha) said something about bronchitis and asthma (and told me always to wear gloves and a scarf and hat when I went outside). If that’s all it is (and it’s not infectious, which it doesn’t seem to be), I don’t mind a bit. I’d actually hate to leave–while I don’t see them a lot, Natasha in particular is very kind and friendly, and not bad with the cooking either–I’m going to leave Russia with a soft spot for schi and kasha. Last weekend she came running into my room to show me that Wall-E was on. She was so excited–it was rather cute. :slight_smile:

ETA: By the way, Švejk, I’m a guy. :slight_smile: As to why study Russian in Russia, that’s a bit narrower than the usual “why Russian” question I hear. It’s also easier to answer: since I had the leisure to do so, it struck me as the best possible way to do it–and a worthwhile experience in its own right.

Svejk, St Bartholomew’s Eve of the “fearmongerers” has not yet arrived, so there is no need for you to get bent out of shape ahead of time. Save the righteous anger for latter.

“Culture” and especially the worship of it is for idiots. Russian culture is not that different from general American / European one. In some salient ways it is much nastier, especially the lower class culture (when compared to suburban culture in the West, not to the inner cities, banlieus and similar). In other ways, the intellectual culture is distinct and has both unique merits and unique problems - but you are not going to learn any of that living in a Petersburg flat and barely speaking the language.

As far as language, THAT is valuable. A useful language is a marketable skill. Of course, the key here is to actually master it. There has to be a serious investment / push for it, because a partially learned language is commercially useless. And needless to say, Russian is not exactly the easiest of the languages, e.g. I think the easier Japanese would make a better bang for the buck.

If your immuizations are up to snuff, then take normal cold/flu precautions (wash hands, etc) Keep warm, drink lots of Vodka, etc.

Have a donut at Пышечная for me.

In case you didn’t catch the reference, take another look at the name Ivan Astikov and wait for the “A-ha!” moment.

Yes, you should be concerned and tuberculosis is not an unreasonable thing to be concerned about. Overwhelmingly, tuberculosis is a highly treatable or even “curable” disease, but it also presents a serious health risk if you fail to seek treatment from a medical professional for it. Successfully treating TB can take several months and complicate your return to the US or travel to other nations, so it is important that you seek qualified medical help in the very near future.

I hope that others will be able to give you advice on where to go for appropriate medical care in your city, but its worth your while to research and follow through on this.

duly noted! Somehow misremembered this. Anyway, cool that you made it out to ‘Piter’ - PM if you want some good tips on where to hang out.



thanks for pointing this out to me … I feel stupid now.