Differences In Culture Between America & Russia

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Published: 09th January 2007
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A Russian woman will indeed have a different world view than most of her American (or Western) friends. This has been shaped by many things, such as: 80+ years of Communist rule, Russian domination of the FSU, a very chauvinistic culture, etc...

One of the first things that struck me about Russian women (after their incredible beauty) is their seemingly inability to dream. I think this has been shaped by Communism as well as the poor economy. It is very difficult for many of these ladies to see anything beyond themselves...anything beyond tomorrow. The average income in the FSU is around $100 or so a month. It is difficult to afford the necessities, much less luxuries. Therefore, if you dream about a more successful future you will probably be disappointed. They have learned that life is difficult and dreaming only makes it more difficult when you see no hope of accomplishing any of these dreams. Very sad. I believe the men involved in this process can help in this area. Significantly help. By showing the ladies that it is possible to have goals and to achieve them. Unfortunately, the 80+ years of Soviet rule/Communism has severely hurt the initiative of the Russian people. But I do see signs that this initiative is coming back. Hopefully, there will be more Western development, investment and integration. This can only serve to help fund and drive business opportunities.

Another factor about the inability of Russian women to dream has to do with the Russian man. Many men do not think they will be able to care for a family, so they are not willing to get married. Or, they may marry, but then the marriage fails. There is approximately a 75% divorce rate in the FSU countries. How can a woman allow herself even a simple dream of having a good husband and nice family under these conditions? It is very difficult. Not dreaming is a way to avoid further disappointment.

It will not be easy for a man to help his girlfriend overcome this. Certainly at least not until you have met in person at the very earliest. Another aspect to this is that you are not considered anything more than a possibility until you show up in her city. I will say this another way: in order to protect themselves from being hurt and disappointed a Russian woman will not consider that you have a "real" relationship until you meet in person! I have always maintained to all of my male clients that you must be prepared to visit the FSU. If you are not at least open to this, then please do not even start the process. Once the two of you meet, things will begin to change. As things become more serious, your attitudes and opinions will have more of an influence on her. Then, her outlook will change. When I first met my wife, she did not even believe that she could ever have a better life. Of course, she was hoping in the back of her mind and heart, like all women. But, she would never give any conscious thought about this until I came and showed her that this was indeed possible. This is a very important point. You could even consider this to be a kind of litmus test for your relationship. In other words, once you see that you are able to influence her outlook, and maybe she is starting to dream of the future a bit more, you KNOW that she is very serious about you.

Russian culture is also built on jealousy. This served the ruling elite very well during the years of Communism. For example, it is my understanding that people were encouraged to spy on others and report things that were even slightly suspicious to authorities. Under these conditions it is no wonder that trust can be a very difficult thing to achieve. Obviously today there is no more reporting on friends and neighbors to authorities. However, I can assure you that jealousy is alive and well in the FSU! Another factor in this attitude is the poor economy. When someone is able to have something nice-whether this is a car or an apartment, or even a cell phone or nice clothes-it can be hard for a person to accept this. They are envious of this person's good fortune. Even if they are friends! Do not take this lightly-I have seen this aspect of jealousy first-hand, with my own eyes! It is even prevalent when a woman has been able to find a good man as a boyfriend or husband-especially if he is foreign. Her friends may develop severe jealousy. They may even try to "steal away" this man. I am not kidding, this has happened to me before! This also may be a reason why your girlfriend will only allow you to meet a select few of her friends!


Most of the women in the FSU are very well-educated. In fact, many women, if they find it difficult to obtain a job will continue their studies. It is not very unusual to find a woman in her late 20's or early 30's who is still a student.

Education is very highly valued. In the FSU you will see that a large percentage of the doctors, engineers, teachers and skilled professionals are women. I do not know what the exact statistics show, but there is a disproportionate number of women in these professions.

I think in the USA we tend to take education for granted. Not in Russia. At least not Russian women! Many of these ladies will have 2, 3 or more degrees. Many will continue their education even while they are working, having and raising children, etc... The level of "busy"ness I see among Russian ladies is simply incredible! This is one of the reasons they are so fit and beautiful-always running around to do something!

Guys, you should be aware that your FSU fiancée/wife/girlfriend may wish to continue her education or studies if you are married. The colleges and universities in the USA are being filled more and more with women originally from Russia, Ukraine and the FSU. She will probably be committed to self-improvement at the very least. Find out what she wants and what her goals are.

Ladies, be aware that your man may or may not have a university education. I understand that this is a sought after trait. However, I urge you to not let this be a deciding factor when considering who to correspond with. There is a very strong work ethic in the USA, much more so than in the FSU. Many men simply do not see the point of sitting in classes for another 4+ years when they could go out and be working. Many of the most successful businessmen in the USA do not have university degrees. Maybe he goes out and works for a few years, then decides to start a business. He can be very successful even without a degree. This is simply one of the results of an overabundance of opportunities available here in America.

Family Traditions
In addition to different family traditions I feel very strongly that the Russian culture has led to a fundamental difference in how families interact with each and see their various roles.

The basic difference between how an American views family and how a Russian views family is this: An American is more interested in pushing out while a Russian is more interested in keeping things in and close. Please allow me to explain. Russian and FSU families, for the most part, are very close knit. Much more so than a typical American family. The American outlook is to prepare their children to be successful in the world and then release them from the nest, just like a mother bird. That a time will come when the kids need to go out, experience life, make their own mistakes and be responsible for themselves, more or less. The typical Russian family (mother especially) wants to keep her family all together. A Russian mother would like nothing better than to have her son or daughter live with her well into her old age. One of the reasons for this may be the fact that most FSU families live in very close quarters, in just one- or two-room apartments. A much higher value is placed on togetherness and interior things and attitudes. In America things tend to be a bit more materialistic. The focus can be more on possessions and bank accounts than it is on things of the heart. A famous expression in America is "keeping up with the Jones'" This means that we want to keep pace with whatever are neighbors have. A new car, bigger house, better vacations, etc... I know, it is terribly shallow. But such is life.

A wife in America will feel very different from a wife in the FSU. Many women in America feel that a husband and wife should not be equal, but that they should dominate their husbands. Unfortunately, many American men allow this to happen to them. This is also a big reason why many men are looking for wives from Russia and the FSU: because they are tired of this attitude. Many American women only want to use a man as a provider. Or they do not want to have children. Or simply see marriage as a financial arrangement.

A wife in the FSU will be much more giving and caring. She will wish to have children and to be a wife, raising a family together. As long as her husband is there by her side and supporting her, she will never leave. A Russian wife, generally speaking, is the best there is. They are not looking for a man simply to pay the bills, they want someone with a good heart who will love them, treat them with respect. Someone who they can love! The simple things are what she cares about.

Other traditions are a bit different. Things such as holidays. The highlight of the calendar in every FSU country is New Year's (Jan. 1st). On this day (and the evening before) there will be much drinking, partying, and general revelry. Much like in the USA. However, the Christmas tree is called the New Year's tree, and this holiday time lasts about 2 weeks. There is very little work done in Russia and the FSU between Jan. 1 and January 14. Another big holiday is March 8th, International Woman's Day. This is like Mother's Day, Birthday and Valentine's Day all combined into 1! Every woman will receive flowers and small gifts, many women will be taken out to dinner and dancing. Much romance in the FSU on March 8th!

I think the difference between most holiday celebrations is that in the FSU these events are based primarily on alcohol. In the USA, these celebrations are mainly based on food. Sure, they will eat much food on holidays in Russia, but when the alcohol runs out, the party is over!

Certainly there are many more differences between Russian and American culture. I want to conclude this article by stressing the fact that there is very much about our two cultures that is similar. It is a very good fit between the two. So much so that there is a very high success rate between FSU-American marriages (80% success rate after 5 years). If the cultures were tremendously different, such high rates of success would simply not be possible.

One final comment to both my American and FSU friends and readers: Enjoy the differences in our two cultures, revel in our similarities and press on. You all deserve to be happy...and a Russian woman (or an American man), once you find the right one, can show you happiness and a life that you could not have ever imagined without each other. May you be as happy with each other as my Ukrainian wife has made me!

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