Differences between Russian and American society

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Since I've met Marina, I've discovered many ways in which Russian and American society not only differ, but are complete opposites. This page tries to document those differences.

In Russia/Former Soviet Union

  • Its very unpolite to whistle indoors. People will get offended by it. Outdoor whistling is also somewhat taboo, but less so.
  • When you give flowers as a gift, it should be an odd number. Even numbers of flowers are for funerals.
  • Participating in sports in high school and college is considered lame. Only losers do it. Cool people are academicly oriented and non-physical.
  • Musicians and composers are considered high society and are the stars where as film and TV actors are not as iconic.
  • Very popular musicians go through the years and perform music from different genres. Fans of the musicians follow them as they change genres. So you wind up with older generations still keeping up with the genres of the new. It would be like if Frank Sinatra sang R&B in his later years.
  • They have one unified New Years show every year that is meant to wrap things up.
  • When going out to celebrate a birthday, usually the person whose birthday it is pays.
  • In School photos, you aren't supposed to smile or they don't ask you to.
  • It is traditional for the groom's family to pay for a wedding.
  • You wear your wedding ring on your right hand, ring finger.
  • At parties and events, it is common for many people at the event to make long toasts where they talk about their feelings.
  • In books, the table of contents is at the end of the book.
  • Santa Claus, who is really called Grandfather Frost dresses in royal blue and white.

In America

  • You whistle when you are happy or to raise people's spirits. Whisting is commonly used in songs and movies.
  • Flowers are commonly given in dozens or half dozens. Many times just 1 is ok too.
  • Participating in sports in high school and college is considered cool. People who are interested in academics are called nerds/geeks and are ridiculed.
  • Film and TV actors are considered stars/high society and musicians and composers are not so much.
  • Very popular musicians usually stick to one genre and people usually listen to a certain genre and if they start listening to a new genre, they listen to a whole new set of musicians. In America, it is common for actors to do what musicians in Russia do and go through the years keeping up with the latest movies.
  • Each broadcast network has its own new years show and the focus is on starting the next year.
  • When going out to celebrate a birthday, often the friends of the person whose birthday it is chip in and pay or another person pays.
  • In School photos, people are encouraged to smile at least a little bit.
  • It is traditional for the bride's family to pay for the wedding and the husband's family pays for the rehearsal dinner.
  • You wear your wedding ring on your left hand, ring finger.
  • At parties and events it is not common to toast, or if it is done, its only done by one person and is usually short.
  • In books, the table of contents is at the beginning of the book.
  • Santa Claus dresses in red and white.

Many more I can't think of right now.


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