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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Differences of Russia and the USA

Russian culture is something that fascinates me. I love the music, the food, its people and even the language(though I am a horrible student at some of the pronunciations). Learning its culture is something that I am enraptured with. There is something about my husband's roots that just boggles my mind when I find out new things here or there, like their crazy superstitions or how differently they do things. I have found so many different things by either experiencing them, hearing stories or reading about how different the Russian culture is vs. the USA.

Want to know how different we really are? Read on.

Russian Superstitions

  • Drinking cold drinks, especially with ice can make you sick. Russians will ask you twice if you really want your soda, juice or water chilled. (My mother in law never wants ice in her drinks, but I always ask to kid with her.)
  • Sitting on a cold floor could ruin your reproductive organs. If a child sits down, a Russian adult will pick that child up to keep them from becoming unhealthy. And lord help you if Russian grandmothers (babushki) catch you letting your kids sit down on a cold floor. (I laughed when I heard that one). American Girls in Moscow even wrote of a famous incident relating to this superstition also arose in 1985 as Ted Turner was preparing for the Moscow Goodwill Games. The stadium he constructed that was to host a majority of the events had concrete seats--and he was accused of secretly plotting to make Russian women infertile.

^These Babushki would surely yell at you
  • Whistling in the house is bad luck, it means you'll throw away money.
  • If you sneeze it is a sign from your guardian angel. At the moment when you sneeze, you must pay attention to your last thought, as the sign will indicate that this is the truth.
  • Before leaving on a vacation or journey, you must sit down for a moment in silence before leaving your house.
  • Tea will keep you healthy and cure illnesses. (I certainly agree that tea does provide lots of relief especially when I am having a sore throat, but curing illnesses?)
  • Almost every dacha (country house) has some sort of decorative cross in front; if you don't have one, your home will be plagued by sorrow and bad luck.
  • Avoid being cold at all cost. Russians believe wearing tights for girls is a must in most weather to keep them from getting sick. I think there are a lot of over dressed kids from time to time. I thought this was amusing since we mostly think Russia is cold...even though they have warmer climates and how much this is a daily mission.
  • Do not buy anything for the baby until it is born. Could you imagine going out and getting a crib, clothes, etc., especially during Soviet times at the last minute? Even worse, expect your husband to know what to get?
  • A rainy wedding day is good luck and means you'll be wealthy.
  • It is bad luck to greet anyone or say goodbye over a threshold.
Differences in Russia vs. USA

  • In Russia the flu vaccine is called something completely different. They call them "flu jabs". They must think we're nuts when we say things like "I'm going to get shots today."
  • During Soviet times many professions were celebrated. While the US has them, they are often overlooked as being "Hallmark" inspired holidays. One such holiday is Teacher's Day. On this holiday in Russia students will bring their teachers apples, flowers, candy, etc., and recite sincere poems that tells the teacher how they are thankful for them.
  • Did you know the "got your thumb" thing where you put your thumb between your index and middle finger to tease young kids that you "got their nose" is the equivalent of sticking your middle finger at someone in America?
  • It is VERY taboo (and should be in the US more so as well) for Russian men to curse as a woman. You'll look highly uneducated.
  • Dress is very different from Russia vs. the US. Russians no matter the profession tend to dress up. It is very common to see even nannies wearing stockings, heels and have their make up and hair done.
  • Birthdays are a much bigger deal in Russia then in the US. Instead of the insincere "Happy Birthday" from Americans alike because they feel compelled to say something when its your birthday, Russians REALLY celebrate it. You'll get cards of "Wishing you much happiness". If the local markets you frequent know its your birthday, you could also get a nice praise or a small token like a flower if you happen to pass by his/her shop on the way home.
  • Following the birthday theme, it is very common for small children to toast the birthday girl or boy and wish nice things such as happiness, they grow tall or have great success in life. Could you ever imagine as a small child doing this to your peers?
  • Children's independence in stories is an American thing. Harriet the Spy, Ramona, Tom Sawyer, Finding Nemo are all American inspired individualistic characters. There is no Russian equivalent. Russian stories emphasize family or groups of friends.
  • Parents will widely think that team sports such as soccer is not appropriate for their girls. It is find to learn them, but you will not find an after school sport such as a girls softball team too often.
  • Russians call World War II, The Great Patriotic War and are also astounded to hear that Americans believe they won World War II. I can see why they are a bit shocked as they lost 23 million vs. the US lost 418,500. While our lost was obviously great (I had a Grandfather and an Uncle that fought in that war and survived), every family in Russia lost someone in that war. While on the home front citizens faced rations and women going to work, Russians lived in bombed out basement shelters and stories of boiling leather bound books just to eat something isn't unheard of. Russians were told by Stalin that if Nazi's were to come to burn/destroy/kill everything so nothing is left in case they ended losing the war. Imagine burning your house, your city down to make sure you are of no aide to Nazi's? However, instead of saying who won what, that perhaps it was a collaboration of countries getting together?
  • Most Russians will have a country house/cabin or otherwise known as a Dacha. There they will plant enormous gardens to essentially help feed their families throughout winter. These types of gardens became commonly popular in the soviet era. Think of the US and our victory gardens, except lasting even until present time after a world war.
  • Russian children have learned to regard the police as corrupt and dishonest, certainly not here to help us, and definitely not heroes.
  • Russians celebrate Victory Day (end of World War II). 20% of the population of Russia died during this war. During this holiday, huge celebrations honoring all the veterans occurs throughout Russia. Youtube will blow your mind. I have never seen anything like it in the US.
  • The first day of school is a national holiday, called "Day of Knowledge". Posters and signs all over Russia is congratulating everyone one their first day of school.On the first day of school (Sept 1), Russian children will typically have first of the year celebrations. Typically 11th grader (seniors)will escort new 1st graders coming into school. The first graders will be announced one by one and then at the end the 11th graders will give their designated 1st grader a bell and the children will ring them announcing the start of the new school year. Can you imagine seniors here doing such things for a first grader?
  • Russian seniors will have a "Last Day Ceremony" with the entire school involved, even first year students. They will then have their exams following graduation. Once they have their exam results THEN they apply to the universities. Not before.
  • Russians also must choose their major and stick with it when applying to a university. Unlike American universities where you can switch majors easily or use some general credits to a different major, a university student in Russia is very concentrated in whatever specialty they choose.
  • In Russia it is common to see vending machines selling alcohol. Could you imagine
    the scandal if there were vending machines like that in the US?
  • On March 8th Russia celebrates International Woman's Day. All women are celebrated young and old with small gifts like flowers or chocolates. It is common for men to take our their ladies to eat. It is sort of like Mother's Day in the US but all women partake in it. (I personally love this holiday).
  • Children in Russian orphanages "age out" at age 16.
  • Russians really don't celebrate December 25th as most of the faithful are Orthodox and Christmas for them lands some time usually in January. New Years is the BIGGEST holiday for them and they will put up trees just for New Years. From what I learned/read they usually work December 25th to gear up for the several day holiday after New Years. The Orthodox are truly appreciative because there is not a big commercial hoopla. Instead the Orthodox Christmas is truly a religious holiday.
  • Russians do celebrate Easter much more then Americans, but more suitably right for religious reasons, the Easter bunny does not exist there. Before Lent they will celebrate Maslenitsa, "Pancake Week." Essentially they eat lots of blini the week before Lent starts. Russians during Lent also tend to give up more then most Americans. They will not only shun meat or chocolates sweets but also dairy, and any fats entirely.
  • Depending on the household you live in America it could be house to house rule, but in Russia general rule of thumb is to leave your nasty outside shoes by the door or coat closet and have a separate set of indoor shoes. This prevents tracking in the winter cold's dirt, grime and salt into homes, schools, hospitals, etc.,
  • Teenagers do not hold jobs in Russia.
  • Wearing fur is not taboo in Russia as it is in America. Russians don't get the big deal of wearing them.
  • Even though getting a prescription for antibiotics is law, it is very easy to get antibiotics in any pharmacy in Russia just by asking it. Draw back, you have to add water to the powdery prescription yourself and hopefully you put the right in because if you don't you either water it down or don't add enough.
  • Russia does not push media pop culture like the US does. (Think of how much Toy Story there is out there right now? Although I love the story and so does my son, we have toys, sheets, blankets, juice boxes and even mac and cheese! However, they do have Hannah Montana in Russian.)
  • For most Russian kids, the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny does not exist.
  • A salad in Russia does not mean it has anything to do with lettuce. It could be a mixture of thing from meat to veggies. (My husband's favorite "salad" could be either Winter Salad or Herring Salad...neither contains lettuce.)
  • Russians do not celebrate Halloween. No scary decorations or fun costumes as the Russian government considers Halloween to be Satanic.
  • Maple syrup, Worcestershire, zip loc bags, Peanut Butter,Ginger Ale and corn on the cob (this type of corn is used to feed farm animals) is not readily available in Russia. It can be found, but its rare and/or pricy.
  • Healthcare.
  • Speaking of healthcare, it is not uncommon to have vets come to your house and perform surgery on your pets.
  • Not 100% sure if its an Orthodox church thing, but if you want to visit churches in Russia, ladies must wear a head scarf.
  • Russians are encouraged to have children, their maternity care is wonderful. (I remember my mother in law telling me the first year she was paid to stay home, and that there was also a 24/7 day care where you could drop off your kid for FREE. So if you had to work or wanted to go out, there was a place they could go and had their own bed. American Girls in Moscow writer blogged "one region of the country, Ulanovsk, went as far as to give everyone the day off from work on September 12th--so that they can stay home and procreate, aiming for a big batch of babies born around "Victory Day" in May--the main national holiday. People whose babies are actually born on the holiday receive all kinds of prizes.")
  • Unfortunately adoption is not big in Russians. There is a stigma that Russian children that aren't "yours" or that there may be something wrong with them. They don't want children that have special needs, which is why Russian orphanages are spilling with beautiful children looking for homes.
  • Phone bills in Russia are not like US phone bills. If you make international calls, it requires two separate bills. The international phone bill usually require you to pay the bill in person at a phone office. Plus average citizens of Russia don't have land phones capable of calling overseas! Therefore there is a phone area you can go to to make international calls, but you have to stand in long lines and hope the person you are trying to reach is home when you call. Most Russians opt to use internet connections to make international calls because of the enormous hassle.
  • The US is made up of immigrants. Russians (although do have immigrants) are amazed by this.
  • Russian children do not find it endearing to be called "pumpkin" and find it rather insulting being called an orange vegetable with slimy insides. While American kids may think its embarrassing if their parents call them that out in public or in front of their friends, they aren't insulted.
  • Can I dare say that Moscow traffic may be worse then Northern Virginia traffic?
  • It is very common in Russia to see signs in public restrooms asking for people to throw their toilet paper into the trashcan instead of the toilet. (Not sure the reason on this...maybe bad sewer systems? In any case I now know why my husband's stepbrother used to do this. Thankfully I never saw it, but I remember my husband reaming him out for it.)
  • You can tell a Russian vs. an American by what shoes they are wearing. Russians will buy the latest style and sacrifice style over comfort while Americans generally go for efficiency and comfort. (I remember my Mom telling me this one about how she easily noticed foreigners by their shoes but I am sure it wasn't by style or brand.)
  • Various medications that are legal in the US are illegal in Russia. For example A.D.D. is a recognized disorder in Russia, but it is not treated. Ritalin is illegal in Russia.
  • Muscovites (residences that live in Moscow) will plan their holiday time around when the hot water is shut off, not by just warmer weather. The water is generally cut off for a week or two to check the pipes around the city. (Could you imagine if you didn't know about this?
  • Russians (as well as most of the world) follows the metric system. (My husband still thinks its stupid that America did not and has not yet adapted to this.)
  • D.C. Metro system vs. Moscow metro system...Moscow is far better and so beautiful!
  • Children in Russia have their Father's first name as their middle name. If the child is a boy, the middle name will end in either -evich, or -ovich. If the child is a girl, the ending will be -ovna, or -evna. For example if the Father was named Boris the sons middle name would be Borisovich and if he had a daughter her middle name would be Borisovna.
  • Russian adults are called by their first and middle names when talking to them. A simple greeting would be "Hello Sasha (nickname for Alexander) Borisovich."
  • Russians always try to bribe or bargain with you when purchasing things. (Now I know why my husband is the way he is, but we've gotten a lot of discounts that way. Doesn't hurt to ask or try right?)
  • Bedtime is different for children in Russia vs. the United States. Children tend to get home later and nap more in Russia. My husband's favorite show when he was little was Spokoynoy Nochi, Malyshi! (Good Night, Children), which is still one of the most popular children television shows and it airs around 9 PM.
  • Very common for Russians to cut their yard with a sickle. Could you imagine trimming your yard with one?

  • Russian families tend to space their children further then American families.
  • The term "pioneer" in the U.S. means something completely different in Russia. Americans associated a "pioneer" as those that traveled and settled in the West. The term "pioneer" in Russia is a member of the communist youth organization.
  • In Russian movie theaters don't have you choose a seat where you'd like once you're in the theater, you buy a seat like if you were you going to a play in a theater or see a game in the arenas.
  • It is very common in Russian cities to still hitchhike.
What Russians or Newly Immigrated Russians Think of the USA
  • When my husband' mother immigrated here, she was told by another Russian that clothes were so cheap here, that Americans never clean their clothes. Americans will throw out their clothes and buy new ones. I guess when you compare to Moscow prices to the average US prices...its partially true.
  • Russians are amazed that pay phones (if you can find one now days) have phone books and are surprised the phone books aren't stolen.
  • My husband and his Mom both remember when they got to the US about how rich this country was because they had lights on the roads (aka reflectors).
  • Store like Target, Walmart and K-Mart are AMAZING to most Russians. My husband's Mom remembered how "

1 comment:

Heather said...

Fascinating, thanks for sharing!