10 Russia Observations

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St Petersburg at night from the rooftop after a long walk

For this post, I’ve just compiled a list of cultural or material differences I’ve noticed between Russia and the USA. One of the things that really helped me deal with culture shock was to have a flexible mindset and not expect things to be like the USA. The more open I was to adventure and possibility, the more interesting things I found!


  • There is still a concept of being a gentleman. Men will vacate their seat for a woman on public transport, hold the door open for a woman, and are expected to pay for everything on dates. There’s also an idea of standards of behavior for women to not drink too much and also to look really nice…which brings me to point #2


  • Russian women are so beautiful. My friend and I were actually just talking about how Russian women are sometimes almost “fetishized” as an ideal in America like as “the most beautiful in the world.” I think perhaps part of the intimidating beauty of all the Russian women is just how incredibly put together everyone is. People’s clothes don’t have wrinkles in them, that tasteful piece of jewelry, that hint of a red lip, the perfect bag that just makes someone look amazing. Coming from my school where most people wear plaid, baggy jeans, and Chacos this was definitely a change for my wardrobe.


  • Where are the public trash cans? Ok there are public trash cans near public transit stops but in general the amount of public trash cans is much, much less than in America and you have to genuinely go on a hunt sometimes to throw away your sandwich wrappers. I think people also have less trash here. Like my host mom has one tiny trash can in the kitchen and that’s it. Definitely makes me think about my waste impact.


  • People clap in unison at the end of concerts. The first time this happened it took me by complete surprise when I realized everyone was clapping as one. Wild. But I love it, and my friend is very proud that he actually was one of the initiators of this unison clapping at the end of a concert.


  • Public restrooms are terrible. Old plumbing, sketchy water, and often no toilet paper. Oh and you usually have to pay. My advice? Only use if desperate.


  • Finish your plate. It’s incredibly rude to leave leftover food on your plate. Does this mean sometimes you’re slowly dying as you slowly make your way through a giant plate of salads, sausage, and potato? Yes. (And chances are once you finish one plate you’ll get heaped up with more before you get a chance to blink)


  • You can order alcohol from unusual places. I was so surprised to see you can buy beer at an amusement park or at KFC or the sketchy but delicious neighborhood corner schawerma stand.


  • You can sweeten your tea with jelly. This is actually surprisingly delicious. Also, speaking of tea, it’s really hard to find herbal tea non caffeinated tea in Russia.


  • History is ever present. This is actually one of the coolest things about Russia is that you really feel the history. Russia is such an old country compared to America, and it’s crazy to see architecture from the Soviet Union, the 1800s, and present day all in one. I also think history is a much more tangible thing here than for me in the USA. Growing up in America, I always felt a sense of stability in borders and the government but here in Russia, there have been so many radical changes from the time of tsars to the Soviet Union to now and I think each Russian family has been impacted personally by each of these major changes and historical events in a much more immediate way than I’ve experienced so far in America.


  • Walking is a thing. Gone are the days when I thought thirty minutes was a long time to walk to the grocery store. People here walk a lot (& the women sometimes very admirably in teetering heels).

 And thus here it is, my little sampling of interesting observations from my time here in Russia.