Ten Things an American Takes for Granted and a Russian Lives Without Posted by Jenya on Jun 18, 2014 in language, Russian life
We are so used to all the things we surround ourselves with, we tend not to recognize the comfort level they help us achieve, that is until we are placed in a situation where those things are no longer available. The opposite is also true: if we never had certain things to begin with, we would not appreciate the comfort they could bring. With that in mind, here are ten things that an average Russian lives without and an average American takes for granted.
A coffee maker (кофе машина) — coffee makers have only recently entered the Russian market. At this point, the average price of a coffee maker is about $100. The hefty price tag puts them out of reach of many Russian consumers. Unless the person is really into coffee and trying new things, that purchase gets put on the list of things to get after everything else is taken care of. Most Russian coffee drinkers make coffee in a турка (a Turkish style coffee pot, the one with a thin long handle) or a regular small pot. I must admit, coffee made in a турка tastes different; the coffee is brewed on very low heat, just until boiling. My mom, for example, still makes coffee this way, even after 11 years in the US because she likes the taste better.
A dryer (сушка) — some people in Russia have them but it isn’t the norm. Some washers are configured in such a way where they do both, washing and drying. The majority of people, however, still hang their laundry out to dry.
Ground meat (фарш) — ground meat is fairly common in Russia, it is used in a wide variety of dishes, but most likely you will have to grind it yourself. Most households still have the good old meat cranker.
NOTE: due to the overwhelming feedback that ground meat is in fact readily available in Russia, I am going to say that a lot of Russian households still do grind their own meat and that ground meat hasn’t been around in Russian supermarkets for too long 🙂 . For those who disagree with фарш, insert peanut butter 🙂 .
Central air (центральная система охлаждения/кондиционер) — while wall mounted air conditioning units are rapidly gaining popularity in Russia, you will not find central air conditioning systems in a typical Russian dwelling.
A dishwasher (посудомоечная машина) — I have seen a couple of small dishwashers in Russia, but again, it was more of an exception than the norm. If you live in Russia, you are the dishwasher.
Wall-to-wall carpeting (ковровое покрытие) — a lot of commercial/office buildings have been using wall-to-wall carpeting for years but for some reason it has not transitioned into your typical Russian home yet. You are likely to see hardwood, laminate, and vinyl, in a lot of cases with a large area rug covering most of the floor.
Fitted sheets (простыня с резинками) — I believe fitted sheets will eventually make their way into every Russian home but as of right now, all the sheets I have seen there were flat.
Two bathrooms in one house (два туалета в одном доме) — pretty much any house/apartment you end up in is going to have one bathroom; in many cases the toilet is in a separate room from the bath/sink combo, but in either case they add up to one full bathroom, no double sinks, no bathroom counters 🙂 .
A shower head that is not detachable (душ без шланга) — shower head with no hose is one of those things that took me a long time to get used to here in the US. How the heck are you supposed to clean the shower when the shower head does not come off? It takes forever! That is why whenever I move to a place that does not have a detachable shower head, I bring my own. Absolute majority of private bathrooms in Russia, including stand up showers, have a detachable shower head.
A lawn (газон) — while lawns can be seen in many public places, a typical Russian apartment building/stand alone house will almost never have one. You can expect to see either unmaintained grounds, some sort of flower bed/tree combo or a little garden.
Despite the vast differences between the two countries and the fact that the US has a much higher standard of living, I have a lot of very happy memories of my Russian childhood. My happiness level growing up was never defined by what possessions I did or did not have, but rather by what I got to experience with my family and friends. I never wished to have it any other way.
I hope if you visit Russia, you are able to look beyond the question of modern conveniences and focus on things that pique your interest, whatever they may be.
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Great list! I agree with all of them, except фарш, which is available in every grocery store around here in Krasnoyarsk. I can actually get a better variety here then I did in the U.S. because it’s used so much more in Russian cooking. There’s even a store where I can pick up some reindeer фарш, but that might just be an option here in Siberia 🙂
And while I doubt coffee makers will ever be the norm here, I do see more and more people with French Presses for coffee and tea.
@Lucas Thank you Lukas. I am going by what I grew up with and what I keep seeing when I go back to visit Russia. On my last trip which lasted 31 days and consisted of visiting 3 major cities and about 15 grocery stores, I still did not see фарш everywhere. It is quite possible things have changed in the last year or so, and ground meat may very well be on the rise in Russia 🙂 .
Great list! I laughed at the “dishwasher” one – when I lived in St. Petersburg 12 years ago, I had never lived without one in my life, and had to get used to hand-washing dishes. 12 years later, it’s a completely ingrained habit! – though I have lived in a house without a dishwasher for the last 7 years. Even when I’m visiting people who have dishwashers, I still do dishes by hand out of habit. They don’t get it! 🙂
@Kat Thank you very much for sharing Kat! Even though I grew up without a dishwasher, whenever there is one around, I use it 🙂 .
That’s a rude awakening how lucky Americans are and should appreciate what they have. I as a child of Soviet Union born parents help Russians find their family abroad at no charge. Please check out my blog at http://lostrussianfamily.wordpress.com/ Thanks!
Someone suggested adding peanut butter. Great idea!
I’ve got another one: widespread morbid obesity.
Well, some of these things are typically American and the fact that they’re rare or non-existent in Russia has nothing to do with the lower standard of living there. I’m a Finn and I never understood why American shower heads don’t come off. It would be much more practical to take one in your hand and point it where the shower is most needed instead of just standing under it as if in a downpour, probably wasting a lot of water and energy. Jenya mentioned the issue with cleaning.
Another thing are fitted sheets. Why should you have fitted sheets when you have a thin “bedding mattress” on top of the actual mattress (on which Americans put their fitted sheets). And why should you use flat sheets with a comforter when you can put a cotton duvet cover on your comforter.
Or, why should you have a standard pillow size of 31,5” x 31,5” like they do in Germany, for that matter 😉
Frozen groud meat, sold in package, sometimes have very poor quality – a lot of water and a little meat. It is not recommended to buy poultry ground meat, because it could be made from, literraly, chitterlings, not meat. Same for fish ground meat. Despite of it, there are poultry rissoles (“kotlety”) and fish rissoles.
Fresh ground meat is better, often it is made on-site and you can see from what. Prices in Moscow – about 200 rubles (6,5 USD) for 1 kg (~2,2 lb) of fresh mixed (50% beef/50% pork) ground meat.
Making (grinding) ground meat at home for “kotlety” or “teftely” (rissoles) requires mechanical or electrical grinder.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR YOUR BLOGS . THEY ARE SO INTERESTING. I HAVE BEEN 2 TIMES IN RUSSIA, BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY. I STARTED TO LEARN THE LANGUAGE AFTER THE FIRST TIME I VISITED MOSCOW AND SAINT PETERSBURG,WHAT HELP ME MOST IS ALL THE INFORMATION I READ IN THE RUSSIAN LANGUAGE BLOG,
I AM FROM SANTIAGOCHILE,
HUGO OSCAR LY
Thank you Hugo! Chile played well today against Spain 🙂 Best of luck to you in learning more about Russia!
Отличный перечень,Женя. Поспорю с фаршем: он был всегда, но в него мололи всякую дрянь, поэтому его никто не покупал (надёжнее молоть дома). А душ со шлангом в России имеет несколько назначений…:)))- вот нород при приезде в Штаты и холодеет от ужаса при виде зафиксированных к потолку душевых головок.Удовольствие читать Ваши заметки, Женечка.
@Lada Лада, большое спасибо! Да, похоже вопрос с фаршем многих задел за живое 🙂 . Предлагаю заменить фарш на peanut butter.
I was born in America, but grew up in one of the former Soviet states because my dad worked there, and I’m feeling very Russian right now from thinking of these ‘conveniences’ as unnecessary. :p I detest fitted sheets (the flat ones stay on better and are way easier to fold!), mounted shower heads (for obvious reasons), and carpeted floors (also for obvious reasons of cleanliness, aesthetics, and comfort). I find lawns, coffee-makers, and dishwashers unnecessary to the point of annoyance (I prefer public parks that I don’t have to mow, I drink tea, and No I do not want to wait two days until my dishwasher is full enough to run in order to clean that dish that I could clean by hand right now in less than 20 seconds and save water to boot). Central air and clothes dryers are nice as a backup, but not worth the excessive amount of electric energy they require, and easily managed without (fans or space heaters work amazingly well in well-insulated buildings, and you hang-dry half your clothes anyway to prevent wear and damage from heat– why not go all out?). And no, it is no convenience to find ground meat at the store. No I will not take the manufacturer’s word for it that it is in fact 100% beef: I will simply buy cuts from the butcher and grind it myself at home, thank you very much. On the other hand, there is one thing on this list that is certainly necessary and I cannot do without. I must have my own bathroom. (I’ve become soft from living in America.)
You know, it might also be cool to do an article the reverse of this. 10 things a Russian takes for granted and most Americans live without.
~water-pot (that boils water for tea in 2 minutes)
~public transportation (with the exception of cities like NYC and Chicago, most Americans drive everywhere rather than subway/bus/train)
~ you get the idea
This was awesome, and brought back so many memories. Thanks for posting.
@Anya Аня, большое спасибо, заходите почаще 🙂
The whole day I practice my English reading on your blog. So interesting to see, what things are wonder for foreighns.
Washmachine… Oh, I dream of dishwasher. But my kitchen is so small (there is washingmashine on it too). So, Sasha is the dishwasher.
Do the people in USA know, what плановое отключение горячей воды mean?))) One more “wonderful” thing of our beeing
@Sasha Саша, спасибо за участие :-). С плановым отключением воды американцы, конечно же, не знакомы. На объяснение этого нужно будет отвести целую статью, парой фраз не отделаешься 🙂 .