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‘Things That Are Normal In America But Offensive In Russia’

‘Things That Are Normal In America But Offensive In Russia’

Interview
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What separates the United States and Russia isn’t just a vast ocean or even differences in politics—it’s also the small cultural nuances that make up people’s daily lives. Things that you get so used to seeing, it’s only when you go abroad that you realize not everyone behaves the same way.

From forgetting to bring a small gift when visiting guests to dressing up as best as you can for someone’s birthday and much, much more, Los Angeles-based TV writer Alyssa addressed these American and Russian cultural differences in a series of fun and educational TikTok videos that you’ll find below.

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Alyssa, whose family is half from Russia and half from Ukraine, told Bored Panda all about herself as a video creator, how to celebrate cultural differences, and what the biggest culture shocks are for Americans and Russians alike. According to Alyssa, laughter, food, and embracing the fact that there’s no single one ‘right’ way to live helps connect different cultures together. You can read our full interview with her below.

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A small heads-up before we begin, dear Pandas. This article is meant to show just how vast, deep, and different the world really is. What this post is not meant to be is a criticism of any single culture. Each country has its own pros and cons—we can all enjoy learning about these differences without making it feel like it’s an attack on someone’s traditions and behavior. So kick back and relax with a large cup of tea.

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More info: TikTok | Instagram | YouTube

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    Here’s one of Alyssa’s most popular videos showing the cultural differences between America and Russia. You’ll find the various other differences below

    @alyssuhlyssaChange into home clothes or bust😤 #tiktokrussia #russianvsamerican #russiantiktok♬ original sound – Аlyssa Lyssa🦊

    “In my experience, Americans who visit Russia are surprised at how directly Russians communicate. Russians say what they mean and don’t go out of their way to cushion your feelings the way that Americans are trained to do. Russians tend to value ‘honesty’ over ‘niceness,'” Alyssa told Bored Panda.

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    On the flip side, Alyssa noted that Russians visiting the US “often find people ‘fake’ and ‘disingenuous'” when compared to the open and even blunt communication back home.

    According to the video creator, laughter is the best way to celebrate cultural differences without being overly judgmental of them. “When I create my videos, I never intend to poke fun at one culture or another. The funny part to me is that millions of people can hold completely different values and each party considers themselves ‘normal,’ she said.

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    “I hope the takeaway is that there is no one ‘right’ way to live. Everything is relative. Everything goes! Oh, and of course, the other best way for people to connect is food. Lots and lots of food. Burgers and borsch,” Alyssa told me and I couldn’t agree with her more.

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    Bored Panda also went into detail with Alyssa about what inspires and motivates her to create her videos. She revealed that it’s all rooted in her half-Russian, half-Ukrainian heritage. “I think most children of immigrants feel split between two worlds. Growing up, there would be one set of values in school or with friends and then I would come home, and the norms would be flipped upside down. Since there wasn’t a large Russian/Ukrainian community where I grew up, I didn’t have a way to fully process these experiences.”

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    She continued: “Then I visited Ukraine for the first time and I had a giant wakeup call. Suddenly, I was bombarded with personality carbon copies of my entire family! I was like, ‘Woah! I guess my family isn’t that weird after all.’ As I got older, I started to notice that there are many cultures and immigrant families that are actually more similar to Russian and Ukrainian than the stereotypical American culture. All I hope for is that my videos make people from all different backgrounds feel connected, seen, and a little bit happier.”

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    Lying in bed with ‘outside clothes’

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

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    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Alyssa, living in LA, has over 524k followers on the video content platform, along with a total of 18.5 million likes across all of her posts which is just downright spectacular.

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    It’s not a surprise that Alyssa is so popular, though. Her videos are lighthearted, engaging, and also end up teaching her friendly fans a bit more about the world. Infotainment at its best? We like to think so!

    In some videos, the creator also addresses what Russians think is normal but is strange or even rude in the US, so it’s not just a one-way street.

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    Sending your parents to the retirement home

    America:

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Russia:

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

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    Dressing up for someone’s birthday

    America:

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    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Russia:

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    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Sending your kids to sleepovers

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

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    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

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    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Calling your friend’s mom by their first name

    America:

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Russia:

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    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Ending parties early

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

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    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

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    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Smiling at strangers

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

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    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Friend’s moms are supposed to feed you

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    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

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    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

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    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    You must bring a gift when going over to someone’s house

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    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Paying the bill

    America:

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    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

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    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Russia:

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

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    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Asking if the food is fresh in a restaurant

    America:

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    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Russia:

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    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Image credits: Аlyssa Lyssa

    Coming over empty-handed really is a big deal in Russia and in other culturally similar countries. It’s a way to show respect. What’s more, it’s also considered rude to say ‘no’ to the host when you’re being offered food or something to drink.

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    Of course, you can refuse if there’s a really good reason like you having special dietary needs or needing to drive home later on, but generally, it’s best to embrace their generosity. Hosts enjoy acting like hosts. So let them.

    Russians are also very big on tea. In fact, you could even argue that they have a culture that emphasizes tea as much as the British, albeit in a different way. You can bet that you’ll probably be offered a whole host of snacks—from biscuits to other sweets—alongside your cuppa. Remember, if in doubt, just smile and say ‘yes, please.’

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    The importance of family is also an integral part of Russian culture. Having close relationships with your grandparents and even your distant relations is somewhat of a given (though with exceptions, of course). That means that you always have a support structure in place to help you in your time of need. On the flip side, though, you’re also expected to help your loved ones. There’s a certain sense of obligation there that is hard to say ‘no’ to.

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    What’s more, Russians tend to forge closer relationships with their neighbors than some Western countries do. In short, your local community plays a much more important role in your everyday life than in some other places.

    We’d love to hear what you think of Alyssa’s videos, dear Pandas. Did you enjoy her playful TikToks? Did you end up learning something new? For those of you who have visited both Russian and the US, what were the biggest culture shocks for you personally? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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    Jonas Grinevičius

    Jonas Grinevičius

    Writer, BoredPanda staff

    Read more »

    Storytelling, journalism, and art are a core part of who I am. I've been writing and drawing ever since I could walk—there is nothing else I'd rather do. My formal education, however, is focused on politics, philosophy, and economics because I've always been curious about the gap between the ideal and the real. At work, I'm a Senior Writer and I cover a broad range of topics that I'm passionate about: from psychology and changes in work culture to healthy living, relationships, and design. In my spare time, I'm an avid hiker and reader, enjoy writing short stories, and love to doodle. I thrive when I'm outdoors, going on small adventures in nature. However, you can also find me enjoying a big mug of coffee with a good book (or ten) and entertaining friends with fantasy tabletop games and sci-fi movies.

    Read less »
    Jonas Grinevičius

    Jonas Grinevičius

    Writer, BoredPanda staff

    Storytelling, journalism, and art are a core part of who I am. I've been writing and drawing ever since I could walk—there is nothing else I'd rather do. My formal education, however, is focused on politics, philosophy, and economics because I've always been curious about the gap between the ideal and the real. At work, I'm a Senior Writer and I cover a broad range of topics that I'm passionate about: from psychology and changes in work culture to healthy living, relationships, and design. In my spare time, I'm an avid hiker and reader, enjoy writing short stories, and love to doodle. I thrive when I'm outdoors, going on small adventures in nature. However, you can also find me enjoying a big mug of coffee with a good book (or ten) and entertaining friends with fantasy tabletop games and sci-fi movies.

    Ilona Baliūnaitė

    Ilona Baliūnaitė

    Author, BoredPanda staff

    Read more »

    I'm a Visual Editor at Bored Panda since 2017. I've searched through a multitude of images to create over 2000 diverse posts on a wide range of topics. I love memes, funny, and cute stuff, but I'm also into social issues topics. Despite my background in communication, my heart belongs to visual media, especially photography. When I'm not at my desk, you're likely to find me in the streets with my camera, checking out cool exhibitions, watching a movie at the cinema or just chilling with a coffee in a cozy place

    Read less »

    Ilona Baliūnaitė

    Ilona Baliūnaitė

    Author, BoredPanda staff

    I'm a Visual Editor at Bored Panda since 2017. I've searched through a multitude of images to create over 2000 diverse posts on a wide range of topics. I love memes, funny, and cute stuff, but I'm also into social issues topics. Despite my background in communication, my heart belongs to visual media, especially photography. When I'm not at my desk, you're likely to find me in the streets with my camera, checking out cool exhibitions, watching a movie at the cinema or just chilling with a coffee in a cozy place

    What do you think?
    Add photo comments
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    shaynameidela avatar
    Dorothy Parker
    Community Member
    3 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

    A bit confusing as to which was the American and which was the Russian.

    subwoofer45 avatar
    Thomas brennan
    Community Member
    3 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

    When I was traveling in Russia and the "do not smile at strangers" cultural thing was explained to me Russia suddenly made more sense and seemed much more friendly. Also when I attempted to speak Russian at the till in a shop, the cashier and queue all broke out in smiles. I choose to believe they were impressed...although more likely they had never heard broken Russian with an Irish accent spoken in Nizny Novograd before

    ceredwynealanta avatar
    Ceredwyn Ealanta
    Community Member
    3 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

    I was there a while back, and everyone was super nice to me for trying to use my terrible Russian. I agree that people seemed reserved, but the very milisecond I became 'not a stranger', it was like I was family instead.

    Load More Replies...
    jesse-b avatar
    Brigitte
    Community Member
    3 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

    I guess this would have been somewhat entertaining if I didn't have to scroll through 70+ pictures.

    Load More Comments
    shaynameidela avatar
    Dorothy Parker
    Community Member
    3 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

    A bit confusing as to which was the American and which was the Russian.

    subwoofer45 avatar
    Thomas brennan
    Community Member
    3 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

    When I was traveling in Russia and the "do not smile at strangers" cultural thing was explained to me Russia suddenly made more sense and seemed much more friendly. Also when I attempted to speak Russian at the till in a shop, the cashier and queue all broke out in smiles. I choose to believe they were impressed...although more likely they had never heard broken Russian with an Irish accent spoken in Nizny Novograd before

    ceredwynealanta avatar
    Ceredwyn Ealanta
    Community Member
    3 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

    I was there a while back, and everyone was super nice to me for trying to use my terrible Russian. I agree that people seemed reserved, but the very milisecond I became 'not a stranger', it was like I was family instead.

    Load More Replies...
    jesse-b avatar
    Brigitte
    Community Member
    3 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

    I guess this would have been somewhat entertaining if I didn't have to scroll through 70+ pictures.

    Load More Comments
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