As I meet new people here in the Netherlands I keep hearing questions about Belarus. Luckily, it’s happening less often that I have to explain that Belarus is not Russia and not White Russia, but an independent country which is actually quite big and strategically located in the geographical center of the European continent.
What really sparkles curiosity is who we are, what we do, what we eat (and drink) and how we live. I recently joined a new team at Tapfiliate and got more questions from my new colleagues (👋 if you’re reading this guys).
So I made this list of fun facts, just to give an idea of how we live in Belarus. Some of these facts aren’t that well known and may even surprise my fellow Belarusians, some may be slightly exaggerated for the sake of narration. Please don’t take it too seriously, though.
We’re famous (especially in Russia and Ukraine) for eating lots of potatoes. There is a special word for a Belarusian person: Бульбаш (Bulbash, derived from the word “Bulba” — potato in Belarusian).
Easy to remember: it’s somewhat similar to a Pokemon’s name.
On a side note, the Ukrainians are known for their love of SALO — which is basically pork fat.
… and Russians are known for Vodka
So we’re lucky that our distinctive feature is just potatoes
Speaking of which…
We have more than 60 potato dishes (and we actually cook them!)
And we eat more potatoes per capita than any other country in the world.
83% of Belarusian potatoes are grown on personal plots
Which leads us to the next fun fact:
We all have DACHA’s! Dacha is a plot of land with a little house that we own but it’s not like a garden or backyard, more like a summer house where you need to drive to or go by train.
The only difference from the summer houses is that we actually use Dachas for growing food (vegetables, fruit and of course, potatoes!). People love their dachas and spend all their free time there, digging, seeding, planting, weeding, watering, fighting plant diseases and getting burned under the sun. It’s hard work that everyone complains about.
But you know what? Everyone is still doing it. So it can probably be considered to be our national sport.
Speaking about sports…
In 2002, Team Belarus took 4th place in the Ice Hockey discipline at the Olympics.
Ever since, ice hockey has been considered our national sport (although we’ve never had such good results in international championships ever since).
Everyone loves hockey, kids play it, and we love going to see ice hockey games (and there are many!)
We do other sports too, but compared to the Netherlands we’re not very sporty. You would never see a person working out on a Friday night. We’d all be eating and drinking in restaurants and bars.
And on Satudray, we’d go to dacha.
Besides our national food (aka potatoes), we have almost any cuisine (probably except Suriname and the Netherlands).
Our restaurants look perfect! They are spotless-clean, the food is delicious and the service is exceptional.
The bars are spacious, noisy and feature live music in the evenings. It is an obligation that at least 30% of a bar menu should be national drinks made in Belarus. However we don’t drink them. But they have it, because they have to. On a good note though, any foreign tourist can taste national drinks in any bar.
The most widely known drink is КРАМБАМБУЛЯ ([krum-bum-boolia]) — a special sort of vodka made with honey.
It’s a new thing that’s on the rise. You can see more and more new murals especially in big cities. Belarusian artists and world’s most famous street artists are contributing to the colorful and meaningful modern look of the city.
Science and culture
We’re proud to be a smart nation of talented engineers, scientists, but also artists, writers and poets. To name but a few, Marc Chagall (artist), Zhores Alferov (2000 Nobel prize in Physics), Svetlana Aleksievich (2015 Nobel prize in Literature). In fact, Belarus gave birth to 4 Nobel prize winners and 3,5 presidents of Israel.
We’re also the land of software engineers. And as I’ve been working in the tech niche my entire life, these software (and hardware) people are probably 80% of my social bubble. So if you need to find someone for your new groundbreaking project, it’s probably worth asking about my network ;)
What we produce (besides potatoes)
The biggest automobile in the world
Tractors are used a lot. Even our militia drives them.
Besides, they are popular in the world. On the image below, there’s an old Belarus tractor featured on the national currency of Vietnam.
Plastic toys that you buy in any country of the world, including the Netherlands. If you’re buying a set of sandbox toys for your kid, most likely they were made in Belarus. The brand is Polesie or Wader.
Belarusian teams have been consistently successful at Dakar rally, driving MAZ trucks
Euro banknotes are made from Belarusian linen.
We have two official languages: Russian and Belarusian. Most of us speak Russian at home, but there’s a tendency to speak more Belarusian, too.
Belarusian is a beautiful, old language which was influenced by many languages and cultures. Contrary to what many people think, Belarusian language is more similar to Polish, Ukrainian and German. It was definitely influenced by the Old German language and even has resemblance to Dutch.
For example, the phrase Eet smakelijk (“Eat well” IPA: /ˌeːt ˈsmaː.kə.lək/) sounds very much like Есцi смачна in Belarusian, which has the same meaning.
And the last:
None of Belarusian city names starts with A. This useless fact has been on my mind for a while, so I just felt like sharing. You’re welcome!