After nearly a half century of quiet opposition, the cosmetic similarities between Russians and Americans are growing. Our kids both wear fashionable clothes that are vaguely reminiscent of the eighties, they listen to music that’s too loud (and not as good as the stuff we listened to), and they all aspire to live in a freer, more rewarding country. However similar the up-and-coming generation in the United States and Russia might seem, the cultural differences run deep between the two nations. Sure, both country’s presidents might be BFF’s, but that doesn’t mean their teenagers are carbon copies. There’s still some big differences in the culture. Here are a few.
1. Russian Schools Are Much More Formal Than in America
These days, most high schools allow their kids a whole mess of freedom. A lot of schools have no problem with kids bringing a drink into class so long as the kid actually shows up and stays conscious. Russian classrooms are a little bit more business-like. Not only are food and drink prohibited, but Russian students aren’t allowed to choose their curriculum. Everyone in public school takes the same classes.
2. The Respect For the Teacher Is On a Whole Other Level
In Russia, the kids stand when their teacher enters a room, like the arrival of a commanding officer. The teachers are also encouraged to maintain a rigid formality with their students. In the United States, a teacher might take a few seconds to talk about their kids or tell a life story. That’s kind of a no-no in Russia.
3. A Lot Of Russian Teens Aren’t Big Fans Of Ours
Not to say that they dislike Americans, only the American government. It’s how they’re raised (a teensy bit xenophobic). By contrast, most American teens don’t give half a sh*t what’s going on outside their country. So sure, some Russian teens don’t like America, but at least they have an opinion on international relations, right?
4. In America, EVERYBODY Goes To School
These days, an average high school in America can have about 2,300-plus students, a number that would be fairly shocking to a Russian student. Also, most of their classrooms average about 18 students (we hover around 23).
5. Bells in America Aren’t Bells Anymore
For several years, most American high schools have foregone the traditional ringing bell for an electronic beep thing that plays over the intercom. In Russia, their bells still ring.
6. Russian Schools Don’t Often Have Lockers
But they’re so common in American schools, that when some kid is hiding an illicit secret, the locker is the go-to place to look outside the bedroom. That small amount of personal space isn’t afforded to kids in Russia.
7. Neither Set of Teens Really Care About the Past
Any American parent who’s tried to tell their kids the story of . . . basically anything that happened before they were born, has felt like they were talking to a brick wall. Well, it’s no better for parents in Russia, where some patriotic teens might lament their country’s loss in power, without being interested in acknowledging the associated hardships.
8. Human Rights Is a Different Priority for Both Countries’ Kids
In today’s sympathetic American society, kids are encouraged to express themselves in every way that feels right. Whether that means loving someone of the same sex or questioning their gender, it’s all fair game (and for good reason). Russia meanwhile, has a less-than-honorable reputation for human rights abuses, that a lot of Russian teens would rather not even think about, let alone protest.
9. Russian Kids Vote
In 2016, people under 30 only made up 24 million total voters in America. That’s compared to the total 138 million Americans who cast a vote in the Presidential election. In short: young people in America don’t prioritize voting. They prioritize camping out on Wall Street. In Russia, young people are voters. Said one kid, “The only real help we can provide to our country is to vote.”
10. It’s Hard Out Here For a Freshman
Every fourteen-year-old in America has gotten through a tough day freshmen year and thought, there’s no way it can possibly be this bad for a kid my age somewhere else. The teenagers are probably more humane in Russia. It turns out you were right. Said one visiting Russian student, “The whole school is divided between freshmen and those who are disgusted by and hate them.”
11. The Most Popular Sports are Very Different
In Russia, hands down the most popular sport is soccer. By the numbers, America’s favorite sport is football. If you open things up to include both sexes, the favorite high school sport in America is basketball.
12. Drinking Is Much More Relaxed in Russia
In America, our drinking sensibilities are a bit Puritanical. Kids don’t drink until they’re 21 unless the family is especially liberal (and then you’ll still get stares). In Russia, where the legal drinking age is 18, things aren’t so rigid. Often, Russian teenagers are allowed some supervised (though light) drinks in their homes.
13. Russia’s Ever-Present Air of Government Determinism
Try and convince an American kid that they can’t change the world and you’d likely get spit on. We’re trained from birth that we need only speak up and get to work to bend the world to our will. That’s not the case in Russia, where teens don’t even consider protest against the government: “It would be considered an unsanctioned rally, and they would be dispersed.”
14. If You Think Your Teenager Can’t Stop Talking, Consider That They Just Have a Special Skill
When a group of Russian teens spent time with American kids more than one of the imports noticed that American teens had a talent for yakking. Not only that, but teens had a tendency to talk extremely fast. Okay, sure, these Russians were using English as a second language, but still, more than one pointed out that American kids talk too fast and can’t shut up.
15. Russian Kids Were Also Impressed With American Teens’ Supportiveness
The other thing that was mentioned a lot, was how curious and supportive the current crop of teenagers was to their Russian counterparts. So, if you have lost a little faith in the direction the country is going, maybe our kids can fix things with their empathy (provided we don’t muck things up too much).