Noticeable cultural differences between Russian and Americans
Submitted 2 weeks 5 days ago by Iskender.
Both America and Russia are countries with very old and rich histories and traditions, so it’s safe to say that they have developed some very different cultural practices. Actually, there is no such thing as common "Russian" or "America" culture
In this article, we will explore some differences between Russian and American culture.
Russians are very communal, they work and think in collectives and hate being alone. In Russia, private space is not an option, in other words, «your space» is «their space too». Russians are comfortable talking to each other within 1 - 2 feet, but for Americans, this distance can be too close and might even be considered an invasion of their personal space. Americans usually stand 3 - 4 feet away from each other when they are having discussions.
Russians are generally friendlier people when it comes to strangers because of their communal past- even long before Communism. They are used to including strange people into their group. Anglos on the other hand don't mind being alone, do not like people they don't know, and prefer being in cliques. If you want to know why Anglo-Americans behave a certain way look at their ancestors- go to London and any other English town. See how cliqueish the people are and how difficult it is to make friends. There is no eye contact, the people just seem to be absorbed into their own world and their own clique.
However, when it comes to meeting people and making friends American people are more likely to start a conversation with strangers. While Russians do not like to converse with strangers, especially foreigners. In America you assume someone is basically good unless the prove otherwise, in Russia it’s often the opposite. Russia is somewhat divided along the lines of ethnic Russians vs. non-Russians and foreigners. Russia has more than 185 ethnic groups and they all have different looks. You can find people with Asian features (mostly from Central Asia), people from Chechenya, Ingushetia, Dagestan have darker features and one can write till tomorrow how many different looks ethnic groups have in Russia, but the point is, it is a multicultural and multiethnic country with a wide range of people of different ethnicities, origins and so there are a lot of differences between them.
Russia has not been a land of plenty. People there are not cloyed with benefits of life. Things are hard to find. Good people are also hard to find. So, you are appreciated more within that market. People's lives there can be quite drab so you seem to be like a breath of fresh air to them. There are not that many foreigners there, either. So, when they see you, it means a new experience, something better and more exciting.
On the other hand, Americans being descendants of foreigners who left bad conditions in their homeland have been conditioned not to look back or be interested in bad countries that their ancestors came from. So, a foreigner evokes a yawn in the US and is seen as a dorky and clumsy person. Someone who has not yet learned to behave and act as a normal, American person.
Time and punctuality
Time is money to most Americans. Personal and business meetings are expected to start on time, and work under stress is a challenge that is routinely accepted in corporate America. But for Russians, due to their agricultural background, time is like the seasons – a time to plant and time to harvest, and a time for doing little in between. Communism might have influenced this kind of attitude too, since no matter how good or bad you were as a worker you would not be fired and employers didn’t offer many incentives to the workers to do things on time. Although Russians often be late, they do not certainly consider themselves to be late. However, once the Russian(s) arrive for the meeting they prefer to have small talk and have something to eat before discussing the business of the day.
Law and corruption
Russians are generally more cynical, especially about government then Americans generally who tend to trust their government and its agencies (police, public education, healthcare, etc), Russians, on the other hand, have a huge distrust in the government. The belief that “Everyone steals” has eliminated the nation’s sense of right and wrong. Many politicians who are involved in bribery schemes see it as the only way to survive and their justification is that “everyone else is doing it”.
Americans prefer to put more emphasizes on positive points, while Russians – on negatives. In assessments of the surrounding world and its future, Americans expect plans to go well and become upset when they don’t. Russians expect things to go poorly and have learned to live with failures. Despite Russian pessimism, there is an admirable durability and resiliency about Russians. Russians often say, “Generally, it can be done” but in reality, it may be a totally different matter. Moreover, in trying to please and show yourself as good hosts, Russians tend to promise much more than they can actually deliver.
Russians are very upfront and direct as opposed to Americans. If they are curious about something they will ask you directly. if they are upset about something they won’t beat around the bush.
Russians don’t like rotation of power, independent courts and freedom of speech that Americans value as the foundation of their societies. They also think that people who have power, do not need to subject themselves to the rules that they enforce on their subjects. Most they think that an individual must take a back seat to State, not the other way around. When given the choice between the Chinese and European political model, Russian choose the Chinese. They find it more logical and promising.
On the other hand, they like the stability and prosperity that the European system has provided in the long run for most of people. They also like the protection they provide for common people and their property.
Russians usually date to find a significant other and to get married. In Russia you have a lot less casual relationships than in the US, especially in rural parts of Russia where community and religious value are strong like Kavkaz.
During the date, its expected that the man will act as a gentleman and among other responsibilities will pay all the bills. If the man doesn’t take the tab, his female partner might take it as offensive and just leave.
Women in Russia have much less power than in America. Once the woman marries a man she is expected to resign from her work and become a housewife. In result, Russian men in some regions have to take second jobs in order to feed the family.
The "Russian mentality" is often speculated about, but in fact it's the result of being torn apart between Europe and Asia. Europe always called for contract-oriented societies, liberal politics and democratic governments. Asia always called for despots, empires, and strict social codes. They both always influenced Russia by invading it, trading with it, making pacts.
The western part of Russian business culture today inherited most of its characteristics from the Soviet ear, with autocratic management style being one of them. Therefore Russian companies follow a stricter, more clearly defined hierarchy than do American businesses. This causes the employees to follow management’s orders with little to no discussion.
Making a compromise during business negotiations is considered normal as both parties usually try to achieve «win-win» situation. However, in Russia making a compromise during business dealings is most often considered as failure and achieving a decision that satisfies both parties is harder than in the US. This might be the reason why businesses dealing are easier and faster than in Russia.
In business Russian communication style is different from the American. In US people tend to pay more attention to the body language, while Russian businessmen demonstrate less body language.
Russians prefer to listen silently without even nodding in agreement, which might confuse Americans who rely on visual clues such as eye contact and posture.
Repeating phrases like «I am sorry» and «thank you» too often will be negatively considered by Russians as this makes the person saying it look unreliable or flunky, while in America it can be considered normal.
Russia has a lunch break between 1 and 2PM. Most government places will be closed for a lunch break so employees can eat. This is common for banks, post offices and other government related agencies. Sometimes private businesses close as well.
It's both. It's helpful to remember that Russia's official name is the Russian Federation. As a federation, it's an association of smaller political units with varying levels of autonomy. These can be called "Republics" in their own right - there's Chechnya, for instance, which is known as the Chechen Republic, there's the Kalmyk Republic, and so on. Republics typically correspond to one of the many, many different ethnic groups in the Federation. And each have their own practices.
Outside of advance AP classes in America, Russian primary and secondary schools teach more advanced material than in the US. Even in the roughest proletarian 'spal'ny rayon' (housing estate), chances are that the local school will have more advanced maths, physics, chemistry, biology, you name it, than the American equivalent. Russian primary and secondary schooling is intense. At university level, however, the situation reverses.
In Russia there is still a massive chasm between urban and rural. The cities will have mostly what cities have everywhere, albeit often at entry level. A Russian village, on the other side, looks bucolic in summer, but that is until the first rain comes and the dirt roads near and in it turn into impassable swamps. (You will likely not get far without a 4X4 and even then you might have to be pulled by a tractor. There is hardly ever such a thing as a tarred rural road.) There could be central electricity and gas, but not water. That could easily come from a well or a borehole. If you do venture though, you will find the 'banya' (bathhouse) a cross-cultural experience. It is like a sauna, but hotter (often above 100 °C, because Russia is not for sissies), where you get whipped with a 'venik' (a bundle of branches, typically birch, but can be anything that is believed to have medicinal properties). The leaves on the brunch get stuck onto your body, thereby absorbing any impurities that have melted from your skin. Once you overheat, you will go outside and jump into an ice cold pool or (if in winter) rub yourself with snow.
Russia has changed a lot since the fall of the Soviet Union, however, some characteristics of the past time are still present in «today’s Russia» which might be good or bad depending on the situation. The decades of socialism and forced collectivism has cased a lot of people to lost their individuality. But I hope that this article has given you some insight into cultures of these amazing countries.
If you feel that I have missed something or disagree with some point please make sure to leave your opinion in the comment box and as a person with some Russian roots, I will be happy to have with you a healthy debate.