Voices from Russia

Friday, 28 April 2017

Mind the Culture Gap: “Russian Soul” Meets “Big Mac” Culture

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If Russians and Americans learned to understand our cultural differences, it could ease diplomatic tensions a great deal. In the 1980s, Sting sang the lyrics:

I hope the Russians love their children too!

In Russia, the popular group Lube lovingly joked:

Don’t be silly, America, we’re all the same!

Yes, for a few years, we lived learning our similarities. However, why was this Russian-American romance so short-lived? Why did we turn to hate again? Geopolitics and financial issues aside, it’s worthwhile to ask a question:

Are Russians and Americans culturally complimentary or do our cultural differences get in the way of our ability to understand each other?

Samuel Huntington observed in his 1996 The Clash of Civilisations:

Cultural commonalities and differences shape the interests, antagonisms, and associations of states, accordingly, countries with cultural similarities are more likely to cooperate economically and politically, and the major differences in political and economic development among civilisations are clearly rooted in their different cultures.

Are Russians more aggressive by nature?

According to Washington and all of the Western mainstream media, this isn’t up for debate… Russians are bad! How many movies have you seen with Russians portrayed as the good guys?  I can’t recall even one. Russians are the quintessential badass guys, according to Hollywood or any political thriller. Don’t even bother with the portrayal of their politicians! According to Hollywood and most of Washington, Russia has been always up to no good. What do you get by reading Russian history from Western textbooks? According to some, the Russian state expanded left and right like crazy to amass 1/5 of the Earth. Just keep in mind this simple fact… most Russian wars were defensive wars! The acquisition of Siberia and the Far East wasn’t done by wars, but rather by including the native populations with acceptance of their cultural traditions into the Russian Empire.

Villains became humans for a while

In the early 1990s, there was certainly excitement on the both sides of the Atlantic to discover that we are all humans… “Reds” and “Yankees” alike! The peaceful dissolution of the “Evil Empire” took everyone by surprise. Unlike previous Soviet leaders, Gorbachev charmed the West with his smile and promising words of “glasnost” and “perestroika”. In doing so, he dissipated the fears of “Reds” for some time. Later, the perpetually drunk Boris Yeltsin added more humanity to the face of Russians:

Hey, they’re just like us, except that they prefer vodka, while we prefer beer!

At this point, one can almost imagine the archetypal American hugging the badass Russian in mutual understanding. Yes, we were more similar than different.

Manners

Have you observed on the Russian subway that you can spot Americans right away? Just listen up for their loud speaking. It isn’t that they don’t mind revealing the most intimate details of their lives to the public because people around might not understand English… they do it on American public transportation as well. Russians whisper… God forbid people might hear!

Courting/Dating

If any Russian dates an American or vice versa, you can expect a long list of surprises ranging from believing that opening the door for a woman might degrade her as a human being (some American young men seem brainwashed by feminism) to Russian girls’ entrenched belief that men should always pay the bill at the restaurant (even if you are just friends) just because Russian men would never let Russian woman pay for them.

 Smiling

Don’t expect Russians to show a full row of front teeth just because your conditioning in the land of Hollywood leads you to do it for every stranger you meet face to face. Russians consider American smiles fake and insincere. If Russians smile at you, it means:

I like you and it’s a pleasure to be near you.

There is one major difference between Americans and Russians… it has to do with keeping your word!

Russians don’t waste words and they’re direct in their language, foreigners often misunderstood this as rudeness, but the truth is, there’s little tolerance in Russia for hypocrisy. If you don’t like a person… you don’t give them a full-front teeth smile. Russians look down upon duplicity. Russians value each other by how much they can trust each other and any sign of insincerity is enough to break a relationship. For Russians, a man isn’t a man if he can’t keep his word. Either you’re a man of your word, or you’re a little, unreliable, and worthless weasel…  a chatterbox. Men keep their promises; weasels throw away words without meaning or consideration. You learn it early as a child in Russia. When Bush Sr made a promise to Gorbachyov not to expand NATO, Gorbachyov treated him and the USA as a trustworthy partner. Therefore, when every Russian leader after Gorbachyov told the world that they have a problem with NATO expansion and took a break of the promise as an offence… you have to understand that they mean it!

What Washington fails to grasp is that Russians mean what they say. American leaders have to learn to understand that we aren’t the same. Perhaps, the Pentagon and State Department ought to have positions for cultural advisers? It’d be much cheaper than military advisers are; in the end, it might prevent unnecessary wars. Let’s admit it… from rituals of courting, conducting yourself in public, raising children, to high diplomacy… Russians and Americans aren’t the same and it helps to understand our differences to avoid foreign policy and diplomatic blunders.

28 April 2017

Angela Borozna

The Duran

http://theduran.com/mind-the-culture-gap-the-russian-soul-meets-big-mac-culture/

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