Russia: Values & Perceptions                                     

Comparing Russian and US American Values

Going to an extreme (Russians) vs. Moderation (US Americans)

  • A Russian could spend all of his money in a restaurant on one single night! Americans would rarely do such a thing and might consider the Russian behavior to be strange or just foolish.

Open-heartedness (Russians) vs. Being reserved (US Americans)

  • A Russian could easily talk to a complete stranger on the train about his/her personal problems. An American would probably prefer to talk about football or the weather rather than to share his or her personal problems with strangers.

Generosity, hospitality (Russians) vs. Being practical and saving money (US Americans)

  • Russian dinners are a real feast of abundance. Americans make as many hamburgers as there are guests expected—and no more. If Americans invite you for coffee, they mean coffee and not coffee and then later dinner.

Complaining about problems (Russians) vs. Always being OK (US Americans)

  • It may seem that Americans are always OK. When Russians watch American movies they are often surprised. Just imagine the following situation: A brave American cowboy is shot by a bad guy. The cowboy is bleeding and is about to lose consciousness when, just in time, the cowboy's friend arrives, and asks him, "Are you OK?" The cowboy replies, "I'm OK." A Russian might say, "But he is not OK!" Upon watching such a movie, a young Russian school child asked, "Why is he lying?"

Critical/ironical attitude to one's country (Russians) vs. Patriotism (US Americans)

  • Russians love of their country is geographical. They love the forests, the mountains, the birch-trees, etc. American love of country is often political and ideological. They love their freedom and democracy and they believe that it's their sacred duty to protect freedom and democracy all over the world.

"Being" orientation (Russians) vs. "Action" orientation (US Americans)

  • Americans tend to be more active physically and mentally. Russians prefer to sit at home doing little and earning little money for little work rather than to stand the physical strains of hard work. On the other hand, many Russians prefer intellectual entertainment to sports entertainment.

Leisure orientation (Russians) vs. Work orientation (US Americans)

  • US American student: You have studied hard for an exam. When you get an "A," you tell your schoolmates that you knew the material and that you deserved the high mark.
  • Russian student: You tell your colleagues that you knew nothing and got an "A" because you cheated.

Problem making (Russians) vs. Problem solving (US Americans)

  • Russians often have a serious attitude. They tend to view things in a complex manner—studying all angles. US Americans have a youthful attitude. They tend to simplify things by "getting to the bottom" of it quickly.

"Creative" attitude towards law (Russians) vs. Law obedience (US Americans)

  • In Russia, it's common to break traffic laws and it is common to bribe the police. In the US, it is common practice to follow all laws even if "nobody is looking." Bribing the police is not common practice and punishment for such behavior is severe.

Collectivism (Russians) vs. Individualism (US Americans)

  • When Russian students are told that US American students do not normally cheat on tests, Russian students can't understand why not. Cheating on tests is considered normal in Russia. The idea in Russia is that the collective class as a whole works together to succeed. Schoolmates help each other to succeed. In the US, the individual student seeks to earn the high mark on his/her own—placing him in a higher rank than the others. Competition between students and colleagues is common.

Problem Solving

  • If a Russian has a personal problem, he/she may well go to his/her relative or friend for help. If an American has a personal problem, he/she may well go to his/her psychiatrist.

Borrowing Money

  • In general, Russians borrow money from their relatives or friends.US Americans most often borrow money from the bank rather than friends.