I’ve been in Yerevan, Armenia for about three weeks. Through conversations with Armenians, or my own observations, I’ve learned a few things…
- “Welcome to Armenia. It is a beautiful, nice place and I hope you love my country.” –something (or a variation) that almost every Armenian has said to me. So much pride in the country, which I understand. It’s a wonderful country that’s been good to me so far!
- Almost everyone’s surname ends with the suffix -yan or -ian. Think Kim Kardashian…
- The hospitality is unreal. I have been served so many cups of coffee and tea, and have been given so many candies/pastries/fruits.
- Pomegranates are a symbol of Armenia. They symbolize unity and fertility, because their seeds are individual units that come together to comprise a whole fruit. Grapes are another symbol.
- Storks are a symbol of good luck.
- In some cases, license plates can cost more than the car itself. If the license plate has five of the same numbers, it is probably expensive. From my understanding, it’s a status symbol… But I’m not completely sure so don’t take my word for it.
- Many ‘traditional’ Armenian churches are not elaborately decorated on the inside so as to not distract people from praying.
- State hospitals that are funded by the government must have five mandatory clinics: surgery, general medicine, pediatrics, a maternity ward, and an infectious disease clinic that is separate from the rest of the hospital. The hospital may have more than these five clinics, but in order to get funding, these five are the minimum.
- Almost everyone, including the younger generations, speaks Russian. It’s pretty common to hear people switching languages in the same conversation, and to see labels/signs in Armenian and Russian.
- I’ve heard a lot of music from the U.S. and Latin American countries (aside from Armenian and Russian music).
- Coffee is served in small cups; tea in big cups. It is also common for people to be drinking coffee later at night. Also, Armenian coffee is different than American coffee in that it’s stronger, and the beans are ground more finely. The grounds are kept in the coffee (not filtered out), making the coffee thicker, too. It’s also served and consumed at very hot temperatures that are turning my mouth into leather. Super tasty, though, so it’s worth it.
- Fresh fruit and flowers are everywhere. Literally sold on every street corner.
- There’s an active night life here that is also relatively kid-friendly. It’s not uncommon to see families walking around at 10 pm.
- There are several underground crosswalks and malls with shops, clothing stores, cafes, flower stands, etc. It’s another life underground.
- Many of the universities in Yerevan are within walking distance. In the U.S., we have a university with several colleges within (for example, the University of Iowa has the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, College of Engineering, College of Medicine, etc.), but the universities are their own entities here. For example, Yerevan State Medical University, where we are working, is home to the medical students and public health students. It is separate from other universities that focus on music, art, journalism, etc.
- Everyone uses their phones a lot. Several of the people I’ve met have two or more cell phones. It’s not uncommon for people to answer phone calls during meetings, dinner, etc.
- Purple Forget-Me-Not flowers are symbols of the Armenian Genocide, which is still a crucial, painful aspect of the country’s historical memory. Images of these flowers can be found everywhere, from paintings, to stickers on the windows of stores, to decals on cars. The genocide is something that our Armenian language instructor spent a great time telling us about, and it’s a topic that’s come up from time to time during our time here. It’s a heartbreaking, atrocious, important part of history that needs to be more acknowledged by the global community.