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How to help her get used to life in the USA.

Russian Bride Guide

Life in America is very much different from life in Russia. In Russia the life of a middle class person is different. A Russian middle class person lives in an apartment, has a job, a car for the family, sometimes a cell phone. Many Russians have dachas (small summer cottages with a kitchen garden) in the countryside where they spend their days off, digging in the garden, growing potatoes, tomatoes and other veggies or fruit that they would eat in the cold winter. In summer Russians go to forests to pick mushrooms that they fry and pickle, as well as berries to make jam for the winter.

Russians are very family-oriented. Children live with parents usually till they get married and sometimes they keep living with parents because not everybody can afford their own apartment. Parents often continue to support grown children financially. Parents help raise their grandchildren and like to spend time with them. American teenagers start working to earn their pocket money much earlier than Russian teens. Russians are very friendly, they like public holidays, parties and entertainment.

Russian culture is another big difference. Many Russian cities are famous for their beautiful old and modern buildings, museums, architecture that reflects history, parks, fountains and theaters. Russians often spend their time going to concerts, watching plays in theaters, going to movies. Nowadays such places as bowling alleys, fitness clubs are becoming very popular.

I am a Russian woman who came to America as a fiancee. I want to tell about things that I found most different here than in Russia.

First of all is the language barrier. I speak English fluently; in Russia I used to work as a teacher of English. So, I understand what people are saying and can say all I want. But I have a feeling that I don't quite get the attitude of those who talk to me, I don't understand a lot of the humor, all those little hints and speech patterns that make conversation emotional. I avoid watching TV a lot, because after a day of work (I work in a store that sells clothes) my head gets tired of listening to English, speaking English and trying to do it right. I cannot imagine how some Russian girls come to live in the USA, not knowing the language! What do they do? How do they communicate? Even if they don't work and stay home and go shopping and communicate mostly with their American husband, I believe it is not much fun to live in the country the language of which you don't understand. So, the main thing to do if your Russian fiancee is bad at speaking your language is to get her to join some course that teaches English.

The other thing is how Americans do shopping. In Russia I used to go to a grocery store every day or every other day to buy food for the following couple of days. Say I would buy a chicken, a carton of milk, a dozen eggs, a few small cartons of yogurt, some bread and veggies. In America people typically shop for enough groceries to last an entire week, and sometimes more. To satisfy this need, there are many "warehouse" stores in larger cities where products can be purchased in "bulk", which means enough to last a week, a month, or even an entire year! People like to buy those huge packages. They put the food into their freezer, I suspect, and eat the same stuff for many weeks. For larger families, buying products in large quantities like this is especially helpful.

More about food. Americans eat a LOT of junk food. In Russia I never drank so much soda pop and other fizzy stuff, full of artificial flavors and colors, unhealthy drinks. In Russia you can buy them too, of course, but Russians prefer tea, coffee, mineral water and natural juices. Americans don't cook much; they buy a frozen sandwich, stick it in a microwave oven for two minutes and have it for lunch. Everything in America is fat free/no fat/low fat, so milk is like water and sour cream is not that sour as in Russia. American food is different, and it takes some getting used to. Better yet, encourage your American husband to change his eating habits and enjoy fresh, home made food, and not the Colonel's. I felt so happy when here in the store we found things I knew and ate in Russia! I am not a great fan of spicy Mexican food or anything of the kind. If you want your Russian fiancee feel like home, let her cook things she is used to; you will like it too! J

Service. It is very good here in America - much better than in Russia! What I like most is that in the big "warehouse" stores they offer free samples of different food items! And there is a note, asking parents for permission to give some to their child, assuring it would not do him harm. Wow! You eat something for free and they thank you! In other words, if you are hungry, just go to such a store, and taste all that they cook there! I understand it is all because in America there is a great competition among producers and sellers, and supply is much greater than demand - they have to compete for your attention and money. In Russia, there are certainly more things available in stores than there used to be ten years ago, and you can find almost anything you want there. But it will be more expensive, and as a rule, they would very rarely allow you to taste it before you decide to buy. Also, in Russian stores there are always strong security guys, dressed in black suits, carrying cell phones (and probably hidden guns); they watch the customers and never smile.

In a Russian stores, nobody would say to customers, "Hi, how are you doing today?" Service in America is something that I like! I understand that it is all for and about money, but it is ok, it is what it should be.

Also in America there is an awesome variety of everything! It is often so difficult to make a choice! I asked people here if Americans get any "disease" from having so much to choose from. "Yes, the disease is called GREED!" somebody answered. So, I am just trying to take it easy. The easiest way to avoid a strong desire to get something is just not to go to stores. J

Cars. I guess, without a car, life in Phoenix makes little sense. Everything is far from home. You cannot just go out for a walk most of the year because it is too hot, and because there is nowhere to go that is nearby. In the area where I live with my husband, there are just houses like ours. You have to drive if you want to get somewhere. So, plan on buying your Russian fiancee a car and get her to learn to drive it. You both will be much happier!
Garbage. In Russia it is just garbage. In America it is recyclable and other garbage. I smile when my husband washes his plastic cup from cola and puts it in a separate bag. So do I now. And in America you have a handy garbage disposer in the sink so you don't have to worry about what to do with leftover food causing a bad smell in the garbage. When your fiancee is planning to come to America to join you, remind her to take some medicine she is used to. Like, simple stuff for a headache, or stomachache and whatever she needs. It will take her some time to find something similar in America that she would trust. Also, I would recommend her visiting a dentist before leaving Russia and get as much done there as possible. Dentists are very expensive in America.
Climate. Russia is known as a very cold place and it is true most of the year. I like it here in Phoenix, it is very warm! But some people would find it too hot. Just be careful in the very beginning and don't let your fiancee stay too long in the sun. The sun can be very dangerous here. Also, when your fiancee arrives here, help her learn American coinage and money; I mean, quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. Tell her the difference. It may be confusing for a while.
Measurements: America is on the English system, not on the Metric system. Fahrenheit vs. Celsius, feet vs. meters, gallons vs. liters, etc. are still something I don't quite understand.
Nature. In most American cities, there are various kinds of insects and other little creatures that are unfamiliar to Russians, and they must be avoided. For example, in Phoenix, Black Widow spiders are found quite commonly. They are quite poisonous, but are easily avoided with some basic knowledge. One species of scorpion likes to live in the fronds of palm trees, and you can get stung very easily if you're not careful while trimming the palm tree in your yard. Other critters, like rattlesnakes and skunks, can be found in and around the newer housing developments around the outskirts of the city. They are uncommon, but a little knowledge of how to recognize them and what to do if you encounter them is very important.
Summary. Regardless of where you live in America, it is important to be mindful that your fiancee is going to have a lot of challenges getting used to her new home. Do whatever you can to help provide familiar surroundings for your new love: food, activities, hobbies, etc. Life in America is much different than life in Russia, and while there are a lot of similarities in large cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, some of the less popular cities like Portland, Phoenix, Denver, and Minneapolis are quite different from what she's used to in Russia, and they will take some getting used to.

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