Noticeable Cultural Differences Between Russians and Americans

Submitted 6 months 3 weeks ago by Iskender.

The Russian Federation and the United States of America are two countries that are proud of their rich and storied histories. These histories make for some very distinct social and cultural differences. While cultural differences in each nation tend to change depending on the region, this article will highlight some of the general differences.

Personal Space

Russians are a very communal people. They think and work in collectives and they don’t like being alone. This is probably a result of their communal past from communism. Americans on the other hand, with a history of independence and individuality, praise a person for being able to work alone and get things done.

When having conversations in Russia, it is common for people to stand close to each other, maybe 1-2 feet apart. This would be considered an invasion of personal space in America and make people feel uncomfortable. 3-4 feet of separation is normal when having a conversation in the US.

When it comes to meeting people, Americans are more likely to strike up a conversation with a stranger, however the interactions are usually shallow and they end there. Americans are skeptical about accepting newcomers into their social circles, regardless of if the person is also an American or foreign born. Russians can appear more reserved in their reluctance to start conversations with foreigners, however they are more accepting of outsiders into their social circles.

Time and Punctuality and Business

For most Americans time is money. In the corporate world, being punctual is very important in making a good impression to business clients and partners. Depending on the region, meetings can range from no small talk and just business, to mostly small talk and only essential business.

In Russia, time is more fluid and it is normal to begin business meetings with small talk and a meal. Again, probably influenced by their communal past, Russians have a more laid back approach to business meetings, where getting the know the person is just as important as the business. This is similar to the business culture in the American South.

Compromise is seen as failure in Russian business deals, whereas compromise is expected and accepted in most American business deals. Saying phrases like “I’m sorry” or “thank you” is commonplace and expected in American business meetings. This generally helps your image as a person who knows and follows social norms. Russians on the other hand tend to view these phrases negatively. Using them too often is seen as a weakness.

Russian companies tend to have a more clearly defined hierarchy than American companies. This creates a more militant atmosphere in Russian businesses where directions are usually taken without question. American companies have more fluid boundaries in business roles, and it is okay to question superiors within reason.

Education

Russian primary and secondary education is more rigorous than the American equivalent. It is normal to have advanced science, math, chemistry, biology etc. in these Russian schools. The “hard sciences” as they are called in America, are not emphasized until university where the difficulty switches. Overall, American University is more rigorous than Russian university.

Life

There are noticeable differences between rural and urban areas of Russia and America. Russian urban areas reflect what you might see in most cities: paved roads, electricity, lights, stores, restaurants, etc. There is a big difference between urban and rural areas. Rural areas are bucolic in the summer time, but when the rains come the unpaved roads become impassible. It is not uncommon to get water from wells or boreholes. One thing that is a truly cross cultural phenomenon in Russia are “banya.” The word translates into “bathhouse” and these are similar to saunas but they are usually hotter (because Russians are no sissies).

In America, there are not so many differences between rural and urban areas. During most of the 1900s, most people moved away from rural areas to urban ones, so now most of the American population lives in or near a city. Rural areas in America often have many city things like stores, paved roads, restaurants, and running water.

Conclusion

It is important to remember that Russia is a federation, made up of many different republics and 185 different ethnic groups. America is also a republic made up of 50 states each with different cultural nuances. This article is only meant to highlight some of the general and more noticeable differences between these countries. There is diverse culture in both of these countries, with similarities and differences between them, and only by spending time in these two countries can you truly appreciate what each has to offer.

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.

Russia, Russian