Cake in the Ass. and Other Russian Tidbits

Reporters arriving at Sochi have been tweeting astonishing photos of the conditions in their hotel rooms.  View from the Wing linked to quite a few of them.

Russia ChurchBut there are a few things that I’ve seen on twitter that have made me go, “Ah, you haven’t been to Russia before!”  There are, well, quirks to being in Russia.

I’ll caveat this post with the statement that I lived in Russia seven nine (edit: holy crap!) years ago, so things will have changed from my experience.  But it at least explains some of the things people are seeing.  (But most things have no excuse, let me be clear.  Water that’s dangerous for your face?!)

Let’s start with Cake in the Ass.

There are some reports that Sochi’s menus are offering “Cake in the ass” and “Ice cream in the Ass” and “Juice in the ass”.  You could applaud their personalized service, but all you are seeing is an abbreviation.

There are other reports that these pictures aren’t really from Sochi and that people are just trying to pile on the initial reports.  Either way, Cake in the Ass isn’t really strange to see in Russia.

There are some words in Russia that are the same words in English.  We just don’t realize that because of the different Russian alphabet.

Take this example:

a woman standing in front of a restaurant
Maarten / CC BY (

This is a Pizza Hut. and it is written as “Pizza Hut” even though it does not look like that.

The first time I walked past one in Russia, I sounded out the letters slowly.  Once I realized it was a Pizza Hut (from direct, phonetic Cyrillic), I was elated to find some pizza after days of borscht.

The word for “assortment” in Russian is: аÑÑортимент.  Spoken, it is “assortment”.  The word for “ass” is жопа.  Spoken, it is “zhopa”.

Their word for assortment is an English word.  It is completely acceptable in Russian to abbreviate аÑÑортимент to аÑÑ, or “ass”.  Since this is an English word, it makes sense to do a direct translation from the Cyrillic to Latin alphabet.  Presto, you get “ass”, a word with a meaning in English that makes us giggle, but is still an abbreviation of the word assortment.

пирожные в аÑÑортим means cake in (a/the) assortment.

Now let’s talk toilets.

It’s crazy that they are installing toilets upside-down and backwards.  But this tweet struck me:


This was not at all unusual from my experience in Russia–wait, I take that back.  There’s a toilet!  That’s fantastic.

I was not prepared for the toilet situation in Russia. Here’s an article on Russian toilets.  It’s not the best explanation but I didn’t want to keep going through the search results.  Trust me, don’t google Russian toilets.

I found many signs warning me not to flush toilet paper in the toilet.  I also came across many public toilets without paper in them.  I also rarely found a “sit down” toilet.

The toilet in my apartment was a squat one.  My Chinese roommate and I couldn’t speak to each other.  (She spoke Chinese, French, and heavily accented Russian.  I spoke English, Spanish, and heavily accented Russian).  But we united over the toilet situation.  We ended up duct taping a toilet seat to our squat toilet.  It sort of worked.

Without getting into too much detail, pants were a difficult thing to manage as a woman in many public restrooms.  And going to the bathroom through a hole in the floor of my train onto the tracks below may be my life’s scariest accomplishment.

My point is, toilets are very different in Russia.  They shouldn’t be installing them upside down, but non-flushable toilet paper was pretty common in my experience.

And try the cake in the ass.  I think you’ll enjoy it.


About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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  1. Alex (@NoviceFlyer)

    When I was living in Greece, they were called Turkish toilets lol. Some places still have them. πŸ™‚

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      After my experience on the train, I stopped complaining about the Turkish toilets πŸ˜› I started becoming grateful for them!

  2. When my husband I visited Russia many years ago. I was very surprised at how many GAP stores there were. I thought , wow, a GAP store on every corner. After making this comment, I was informed that actually those GAP stores were BARs. This made much more sense.

  3. Great post! Yeah, I think people in the US just don’t appreciate the luxurious toilets we have here πŸ™‚ Toilets in other countries can definitely be a bonding experience for those of us who have experienced them. Maybe we can swap stories some day. My favorite was in Ghana – splintery boards placed over a deep concrete well that was impossible to empty, because it was a well. Saloon-style doors that didn’t lock and didn’t have coverage above or below waist-level – interesting when you are hovering over the boards. Of course no toilet paper. I opted out of this particular toilet.

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      Oh gosh! I think you may have all my experiences beat! There was one time I thought I was going to fall in, but I at least had locking doors.

  4. You saying there are “quirks” to being in Russia is like my saying there are “quirks” to flying on Spirit Airlines. πŸ˜‰

  5. I dont have the tolerance to go anywhere that I would be forced to use squat toilets on a regular basis. I went to Ghana and they had squat toilets were we were, but also western style. Japan was a toilet lovers dream

  6. Since encountering toilet issues overseas, my husband has now taken on the role of “advance scout” of available facilities when we’re out and about. He dutifully reports back as to whether we’ll be dealing to a “S & P” (Stoop and Poop) or a “S & S” (Sit and S**t). Decisions made accordingly.

  7. Alex (@NoviceFlyer)

    Start practicing your “Chair” yoga move πŸ™‚

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