10 Comfortable American Habits I Had To Quit Upon Moving To Russia
Whether it’s from one street to a block close-by, or from your hometown to another part of a country, any move is both hectic and exciting.
To me, moving has always been a rewarding transition that is about bringing unique changes into life.
To get used to a new neighborhood, explore nearby supermarkets and coffee shops, come across new people and bask in your newfound freedom are all life-shaping experiences that will enrich your world.
However, the most breathtaking move happens not when you elect to stick around in your comfort zone, but when you take a mature step forward, outline your next sojourn and fly across the globe.
I’ve spent a good number of years of my mature life in the USA. One summer day, however, I found myself in the JFK airport with three huge suitcases and a one-way ticket to Moscow, Russia.
I haven’t been to Russia for a long enough time to be able to absorb the American mindset and exist in its lifestyle concepts. I entered my home country more as a foreigner than its citizen.
Becoming a Russian from scratch and accepting being a greenhorn for a while was quite an experience I would never exchange for any other.
Jumping into the adventure of homecoming, I had to quit some of the American habits that were seated and fast-grown into my subconscious, everyday lifestyle.
But, mostly, I had to change the way I perceived everything.
1. Drinking an unlimited amount of good coffee
Unfortunately, it’s very hard to find legit coffee shops in Russia, including Moscow, where one can get pretty much everything foreign if looked for persistently.
After living in NYC and traveling around California and other states, one can’t help but admire and indulge all kinds of coffee beans from all over the world at every corner.
There are hardly any organic or authentic coffee shops to spend your afternoon at in Russia.
And, the farther you go from the Western part of the country, the coffee tastes less like coffee. That is, besides Starbucks, if it’s within the range of your coffee standards.
2. Yoga and hiking
Practicing yoga is a relatively new activity in Russia.
I’ve subdivided Russian-style yoga I’ve witnessed into two parts. The first one is a Hindi spiritual yoga practice, where Kundalini yoga focuses on opening and cleansing your chakra.
The second part is a sort of power yoga classes you can attend at a local gym, designed for aerobic-crazed women to burn calories. Vinyasa, ashtanga and bikram are so popular all over the US, and barely exist in Russia.
Here, people still prefer working out in the gym to wasting time on breathing and asanas.
Yoga practice in America includes a certain way of living, like eating clean and organic, being peaceful and focused, wearing Lululemon yoga outfits and drinking coconut water before a yoga practice.
I enjoyed this kind of yogi lifestyle, and truly miss it here in Russia.
3. Frequent friend gatherings
If you are over 25 and still single, forget about dragging your girlfriends out for a night on the town.
Ninety percent of them have already got married or are in a serious relationship. They aren't willing to go out on a Friday night or to have Sunday brunch.
Family is everything for Russian people, which is not bad, but some Russian women literally have no time for their friends. On the weekends they clean the house, cook and spend time with kids and husbands; girlfriends are the last on the list.
I left for the US right after university, and when I came back, all of my friends from school and college had gotten married and had babies.
Some already two babies; some got divorced and remarried. I found myself so far behind in terms of family life.
4. Access to cabs and traffic-free life
What’s going on with cabs in Russia?! In NYC we have the privilege of hailing a cab right from the street, and the cab fare costs nothing.
In Moscow, for instance, you need to call a cab in advance (which means you always need a phone, charged), wait until it gets to where you are (too bad if you don't know where you are) and pay the amount a cab driver makes up in his head (scam).
Cabs are expensive, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, and there’s no guarantee cab drivers won’t rip you off and charge you more, which happens a lot. Oh, how Russia needs Uber!
5. Happy hour
When I asked my colleagues if they knew of any cool happy hour places, they looked at me with huge question marks on their faces. There’s no notion of happy hour here.
In Russia, it’s a whole different mindset. People rush straight home after work to cook dinner and be with family; they can afford having a drink with colleagues only on special events and office parties. Boring!
6. International people
I’m super social and have a bunch of good friends from all over the globe, which I’m really proud of, and seeing multinational people in the US is casual.
I enjoyed watching mixed couples having mixed children, immigrants share their life stories of pursuing their American dreams and hearing globetrotters’ experiences.
Russia, however, is not a melting pot. The Russians are a white nation.
Although, now, more and more often you see immigrants from the former Soviet republics coming to Russia to fulfill their “American”-type dreams.
Still, I wish there were more international people around to spice up the environment and to broaden views.
Smiling is a necessary attribute for Americans. They wear a smile all the time, even if they feel at their worst.
I find nothing bad about seeing smiles everywhere you go. It’s nice to be welcoming and polite around people, but not in Russia.
Either due to weather conditions, or the quality of life, Russians tend to hide their emotions under austere facial expressions and smile rarely.
When I landed in Moscow, I smiled to the right and to the left for the first weeks, until I felt misunderstanding and reproaching looks in my direction.
People can’t understand why you smile, and take it absolutely wrong, thinking there’s something unstable going on with you.
If you don’t want to appear as if you're missing a few screws, hide your teeth next time you are in Russia.
8. Dining out
There’s a big problem in Russia with dining out. It was very hard for me to find good restaurants.
Chain restaurants, consisting mostly of world-known chains like McDonald's, KFC, Burger King, etc. have invaded the Russian food market.
If you crave real Indian, Cuban or Chinese, you can taste only their knockoffs for extremely high prices.
In Russia I’ve supplanted dining out to cooking at home. At least I know what kinds of products I use, and make sure they haven’t been expired yet.
9. Loud talking
Americans love loud talking. I explain this habit with feeling free and comfortable in their country and refusing to pay attention to what people around might think of loud conversations.
In Russia, loud talking is a sign of flamboyance, especially if you practice it in public places.
Here, people don’t want to be heard, as if someone is spying on them. Who knows? Still, watch your mouth.
10. Accessible shopping sprees
If you are a shopaholic and love world-famous brands, Russia is not the best place for you to reside.
Clothes, shoes and accessories are twice, if not three times more expensive here than in Europe, and moreover in the USA.
Be ready to forego a casual shopping spree at a mall after work and spoil yourself with fresh enticements, like a pair of new jeans. Russians shop rarely (of course, depending on their material status) and practically.
My advice is to bring as much clothes as you can carry; there’s no wallowing in shopping here.