The subtle differences

(Between the U.S. and Russia)

The Moscow skyline

1. The metro. While U.S. cities may rely on the subway, suburbanites tend to have little experience with them. In Moscow, it is a primary form of transportation.

2. Red entrance; green exits. My dad says this must be a mistake, that I’m not interpreting the signs correctly, but often, there is an English translation listed under the Russian, and in some Metros, I caught red entrances and green exits.

3. Russia doesn’t recycle. Separate your plastics, papers, and aluminum if you must, but there is no collection agency to collect it.

4. Weather. It’s cold in Russia, but the main difference in this regard is how the locals react to it. If it’s below freezing in Mason, Ohio, the doors stay shut, and the TVs stay on. If it’s below freezing in Russia, it’s Saturday, and it sounds like a great day to take your five-year-old half-brother for an hour long walk in the snow to explore the Christmas market. (There are never “snow days” there.)

5. Stability of currency. The Ruble is currently in flux due to the sanctions against Russia, causing the exchange rate to react accordingly. The locals vary in income, but my dad told me the wealthy are safeguarding their wealth by buying tradable goods. The result: a sign on a car dealership in St. Petersburg reading, No more than two BMWs per person.

6. While the east traditionally favored tea, coffee has begun to take over this half of the nation. The quality, however, is a thousand times better than that in the U.S. Starbucks is only in business there because it is foreign, mainstream, and an expert on a to-go cup. But if you have time to sit down for a few minutes or so, go anywhere else.

7. Furs. They’re not a fashion statement; they’re warm.

8. As in many European countries, if you go to a movie theater, you can reserve your seats when you buy tickets. (I do not recommend seeing Into the Woods, whether you can pick your seat or not. After we exited the theater, my half-brother told the crowd gathering for the next showing, “It was a really bad movie.” In Russian; they all understood.)

9. Blue jeans are expensive. It is harder to find good quality blue jeans in Russia than it is in the U.S., so they go for quite a bit more on that side of the world.

10. The city is huge. I went to New York for my birthday a few years ago, and I got the sense that the city, while old, had not so much continued growing outward but inward, with the shops and cafes lining the streets constantly being bought out, so it never looks the same. Moscow, on the other hand, is more spaced out; the buildings aren’t as cramped. It continues to grow outward as buildings are built alongside its edges, and the architecture shows how much the city has changed. Right next to a building that has been there since the founding of the city, there’s a modern, glass-encased skyscraper.

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