Love and relationships are a complicated part of our lives. Many of us see relationships in a subjective way; biased and based on how we were raised and the relationships we are surrounded by. Yet there is a clear cross-cultural difference in how individuals communicate with each other, and the expectations that are upheld between one another in relationships. Born into a Russian-Jewish household, I was raised differently from the average American girl, which has made dating outside of my culture interesting. When I share stories with my mother about certain “male friends,” she is always a bit surprised by the differences she finds in what she knows as dating and what I have experienced.
For one, Americans have an open form of communication in relationships, where much more is discussed. Perhaps the way people lived in the Soviet days, where everything was a secret, translated into relationships and lack of communication. Sure, feelings and ideas were discussed, but how much was really talked about when problems and difficulties arose? In today’s American society, if a couple is having issues, they are urged to seek professional help through couples therapy. It is very unlikely that a Russian couple would seek help or talk about their relationship anywhere outside the walls of their own private home.
A second difference that strikes me as comical, is the expectation in Russian culture, perhaps more so than others, that the wife stay home to take charge of domestic duties and child-rearing. It is very common among Russian families to place that burden on the girls of the family. In the Brighton Beach-based show “Russian Dolls”, a mother tells her 23 year-old daughter, who has prioritized finding herself a Russian husband and starting a family before her perfectly plump, tattooed lips thin out, that she needs to learn how to make borscht in order to find a husband. I believe that among American families, these duties fall more equally on both parents. It is not unheard of to have a stay-at-home dad in an American culture, but would be completely ridiculed among Russians.
Another distinct characteristic of dating between the two cultures is the classification of relationship status. With Russians, if you are dating someone, you are officially dating. There is no concept of “seeing each other,” “hooking up,” or “hanging out,” like there is in the American dating scene. With that, it may be argued which culture has more respect for women. My mother says it is Americans and I say it is Russians. I believe some Russian-Jewish men were raised with a certain degree of respect for the women in their lives, while my mom thinks that American men are not as spoiled and do not expect to have women cowering at their feet. Maybe the divergent opinions leads us to believe that finding respect from a man in any relationship, regardless of culture, is hard to come by.
Rashel Noginsky, 22, whose family emigrated from St. Petersburg, Russia, was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and is studying Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University.