Lottie Millington in London -
Moscow has been voted the unfriendliest city in the world by readers of the US magazine Travel and Leisure. The third unfriendliest was Russia’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg, with cities in America, Western Europe and China also appearing in the list of 15 cities. Even so, another recent survey found Moscow to be the fastest growing tourist destination in the world.
The survey did not provide reasons for respondents' choices, though through a Western lens Russian culture can often seem harsh. An old Russian proverb reads: “Only fools smile all the time”, which symbolises many tourist experiences across Russia and much of Eastern Europe.
Natalia Antonova of the Guardian newspaper once wrote of Moscow: “I’ll never get why they need to have dramatic arguments in public (the most recent one I witnessed involved a shouting match over whether Sergei Yesenin was a great poet or a buffoon)”.
Recent developments haven't helped. An oversupply of security can tend to make people feel more uneasy than safe, and the presence of security is prevalent in Russia following periodic bouts of terrorism coming out the instable North Caucasus. And Russia’s tense relationship with Western powers has been exacerbated by EU- and US-led sanctions on the country. Many Russians find it hard to believe that their government could be involved in destabilising Ukraine and think the sanctions are unfair, and might let you know about it.
Russia's views on minorities also seem like throwbacks to the 1970s. Running counter to recent legal developments in the West's same-sex marriage laws, the United Russian Party, led by Vladimir Putin, has passed a series of anti-gay laws and unveiled a ‘straight pride’ flag to counter the widespread adoption of the rainbow logo for pride month. Elton John apparently wants to talk to the president about this.
This begs the question of whether Moscow is really ready for wide-scale international tourism. The cutting of 70 international routes by Russia’s airlines says no, but Moscow’s attempts to improve accessibility of the city in terms of both transport and signage tells a different story. The Mastercard Global Cities Destination Index 2015 also cites Moscow as the fastest growing tourist destination in the world.
The world’s most unfriendly cities (Travel and Leisure):
1) Moscow, Russia
2) Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA
3) St Petersburg, Russia
4) Marseille, France
5) Los Angeles, California, USA
6) New York, New York, USA
7) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
8) Baltimore, Maryland, USA
9) Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
10) Cannes, France
11) Beijing, China
12) Miami, Florida, USA
13) Washington, D.C., USA
14) Frankfurt, Germany
15) Boston, Massachusetts, USA
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