What Distinguishes the Russian Lifestyle?

These are a few of really many specific features of Russian lifestyle, which make it so unusual for the eyes of a westerner. We will discuss more in the future articles. The illustrations you’ll see here are scenes of Russian authentic life from V.Vasnetsov’s artwork.

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1. Russians consider themselves a well-educated nation. They will be very surprised if you tell them you have not read Pushkin or Tolstoy, though, like everywhere in the world, the young generation tends to read less and devote more time to watching movies and killing time at computer screens.

2. The basic primary and secondary education programs in Russian public schools are unified by the Ministry of Education all over the country, so all kids of secondary and high school ages seem to have pretty similar knowledge about every subject they study at schools.

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3. Every Russian (Ukrainian) city has at least one theater and a concert hall. Russians are very fond of live performances. In many cases, tickets are affordable (the prices in cinemas and theaters are comparable), so, once in Russia, you should certainly try attending an opera, or a symphony concert, or a musical, a ballet, a drama, etc. If you are lucky, you can see an amazing ballet or an opera with live orchestra music for as little as $5-$10. It will certainly be worth the time and expense.

4. Since the Soviet times, Russians have an unwavering community spirit, which sometimes goes a bit beyond the limits acceptable by the westerners, but if you would like to experience it, ask your Russian friends to take you to a big party, a picnic, or a celebration.

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5. Russian culture is non-individualistic. The power of an individual in Russia is much less than in the west and most deals are pushed through family, friends and acquaintances. A famous Russian saying is, “One is not a soldier in the battlefield.”

6. To make things work in Russia, one needs to be acquainted with some people in power. This is why Russians tend to maintain more friendships than an average westerner. If you know the right people, you can arrange to have the most difficult tasks/situations resolved.

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7. The majority of Russians belong to the Russian Orthodox Church. Religion, however, is not a real part of their life; many attend church once in a while just to “light a candle”, which is a way to ask God for something to happen (a business deal, an exam) or to remember a deceased person, but in fact, many Russians would rather pay attention to horoscopes than to the Bible.

8. A church marriage is not official in Russia. A couple has to register their marriage with local government authorities before they are allowed to have a church ceremony performed.

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9. Health care and secondary education are free in Russia, though Russians joke that education becomes less and less free with every year. It is still possible to get a university education for free by passing the entrance exams, but the universities are decreasing the number of students who study on a free basis because of poor state financing.

10. The majority of Russians don’t have what the westerners call “good manners.” Most of the people in the streets and in offices look gloomy, and it is not common to smile to everyone who makes eye contact with you. In conversation, Russians do not hesitate to say what they think in a way that doesn’t leave room for any misunderstandings. Quite often , they do not mean to be rude, it’s just their way of doing things.

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11. Russians are used to situations where everything is unpredictable and unstable. They have to adapt to new rules and laws quickly. So do not be surprised if you plan a dozen of meetings throughout a week, and only one or two of them will really happen. It is quite common for Russians to cancel a meeting in the very last moment under the pressure of some unexpected circumstances.

12. Nowadays, the majority of Russian people do not really understand the huge difference between life in Russia and in the West. Very few Russians have ever been abroad, so their image of the western world is quite different from what it is really like.

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13. Russians love to complain about having a very difficult life, but still they do not consider their life miserable; many believe that things are changing for the better and “everything’s starting to work out” for their country.

14. Russians like to emphasize their different attitude towards material values and consider themselves as sincere, cordial, understanding, and unselfish. Do not be surprised if they ask you right in the face whether you like the Russians and how much you like them (expecting, of course, to hear some nice response). They like talking about the “specifics of Russian soul” or the “mysterious Russian soul,” and will certainly mention the famous phrase of a Russian poet, “You can’t understand Russia with your mind.”

15. Russians believe in the great mission of the Russian nation in this world. Even if you hear them criticize their country and life, you are not supposed to do the same, or they will start defending it furiously. They blindly believe that they are citizens of the largest county in the world, which has a very rich history, and they are proud of it.

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Jerry Jay Carroll

New York Times bestselling author

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