Interview: The Experience of a Russian-American Family
An American, Jeanine, who was graduated from a university in Ohio, went to Leningrad to work in the American consulate. That was eight years ago, and since then a lot has happened. She fell in love with a Muscovite, Andrei, moved to Moscow, had Yasha and Tonya, and now lives in Mitino. Jeanine works as an administrator in a branch of a Singapore firm.
— Were your first impressions of Russia similar to your later ones?
It’s very cold — that was my first impression. And then — at home in Ohio it doesn’t snow before January. But I really liked the Russians right away. They’re very warm people, they like to invite you home, they like to entertain new friends.
— In terms of appearance, are we like Americans?
Back home the most important thing is that clothes are comfortable. Women my mother’s age, and teenagers — everybody goes around in pants. American women don’t wear skirts. For example, my mother only wears a skirt when she’s got to. Your women like wearing skirts. I think that they’re trying to look like the pictures in fashion magazines. That’s nice. But I approve of the reasons for that liberation, which explain why American women made that choice.
- But those reasons led to the Clinton scandal.
- In America men have lost their male aggression and self-
confidence. Russian men are more… masculine. They aren’t afraid of
expressing their opinion, even if that might offend someone or if
someone might not like it.
- Do you miss America ?
- When I’m home on vacation I do a lot of walking in the
country. The landscape is flat — there are fields all around — and you
can see everything. If a car comes by even strangers wave at me or
just smile. You could say that it’s artificial politeness, but that’s life
in a small town. I miss polite small-town America.
- You’re living abroad — is that normal far America?
- For most Americans any trips abroad are unusual. For example,
my relatives can afford to go to Europe, but they don’t go that far.
Even Canada — as far as I know, Americans don’t go there that
much. Sometimes they go on vacation to Mexico. But my cousins
have never been out of the country.
- What language do you now speak with your children ?
- We decided that Andrei would speak Russian to the children
and that I’d speak English. But sometimes it comes out backward. It’s
funny, when they annoy me and I use a Russian expression with
them, “Всё! “: “Stop it!” In English that would take two words, and
in Russian it’s shorter and sounds good.
- What does a foreigner feel like on a Moscow street?
- When I’m out for a walk with the children I run into other
Russian moms. They ask me who I am, why I came to Russia.
They’re really not very interested in America, much more in how I
manage with two children. I don’t have to speak Russian to strangers
all that often. I take the subway to work, but I’ve got a monthly ticket.
The store and the market — Andrei usually does that. He buys
everything faster and better, and also, he doesn’t get cheated: as he
says, well, he’s been going to the market his whole life.
- And one last question. In Russia, when people talk about love of
one’s country, they often cite the example of American patriotism. As you
see it, what does that mean ?
- Patriotism means, first of all, tradition. A hundred years ago
Americans were already celebrating Independence Day, the fourth of
July. Each generation meant that many more patriots. Children start
the school day with the pledge of allegiance to the flag. Before any
competitions, including school ones, everyone sings the national
anthem. And all that is sincere.