Read this interesting NYTimes article about a new , apparently popular, Russian book trying to explain american culture/life to Russians. Wasn’t sure where to discuss it, but thought I’d put it in Cafe Society, since that’s where we discuss books.
These things are usually chock full of generalisations. I just wanted to know how good or bad it was. Any chance one of our Russian dopers have read it? Which gives me pause. Do we even have any Russian dopers?
The guy exaggerates some American idiosyncrasies, obviously, but yes, there are a LOT of differences between Russian and American lifestyles. I find the United States’ culture’s concept of “personal space”, a relative lack of drunkards, the relative politeness (yes, EVEN in NYC), relative lack of corruption, relative adherence to laws etc. etc. much more comfortable. Some Russians don’t. Those that don’t should stay in Russia, I guess.
This sounds like it could be quite interesting. One of the recurring tropes in science fiction that I’m fond of is where the narrator, taking an alien viewpoint, explains something from our society that we consider perfectly mundane.
I haven’t read the book, but I used to live in Russia and was the administrator of a series of academic exchanges between Russia and the US. Here are a couple of things that often struck Russians as odd about the US:
People were given more personal space and it was common for a US host to say “make yourself at home,” instead of waiting on guests. To many Russians this seems very rude;
Life in the US can seem isolating and uncaring, many Russian youth are used to relatives and close friends being very familiar in the details of each others’ lives, in the US, many Russians reported feeling on their own;
The overt religiousity of the US. A lot of Russians were the target of overt attempts to convert them to some form of evangelical Christianity. Not surprisingly, many of them were offended by these attempts;
How igorant Americans often are about the outside world, this would vary depending on where the student was sent, but many, many participants were asked very ignorant (and often insulting) questions about Russia.
I have worked with a number of people from Russia who came to the US as adults. These are some of the same things they noted, particularly the Russians comfort with corruption in getting anything done, and fuzzy respect for law. Also, mostly commented on by the men, that Russians have a more “traditional” view of male/female relationships and roles.