Several times after returning to the U.S. my mind has taken me back to Russia.
It happens most when I’m driving around Orlando. The streets are so enormously wide. There are residential streets near my house which are three lanes wide! All concrete. Used about 2% of the time. The streets in our previous village, Budaors, were usually one and a half cars wide, and if two cars needed to pass, they did an ad hoc negotiation of which one used the shoulder. Neither case is wrong, but one case reminds me of Russia.
Just like Americans, Russians are a dominant culture. At a conference I attended where 1000 Eastern European Campus Crusade for Christ staff members met, I couldn’t help noticing that the Russians held themselves like Americans. They projected the sense that the conference related primarily to them. Not arrogant, just very matter of fact. Just like Americans.
Just like Americans, Russians are very practical. All across Eastern Europe on the outskirts of every city are large concrete apartment blocks. They are very practical and every one looks the same regardless whether you are in Bratislava or Bucharest. They do not bring pleasure to the eye. Russian building motto: “Why waste money on an architect? Our engineers can design buildings just fine.”
Americans are very practical. All across America in every large city there are large, franchised chains of restaurants. The food is good, but it is all generally the same. American restaurant motto: If one is good, fifty thousand are better. This mindset extends to residential homes as well. American residential home motto: Hire an architect to design a nice looking house, then build 50,000 of them.
Finally, everything Americans build is BIG, just like the Russians. This is manifest in cars, homes, yards, streets, and cities. After living in compact Central European surroundings just before my visit, the wide boulevards of St. Petersburg were quite a contrast. The largest open square I saw in Europe was in St. Petersburg, and the biggest city I saw was Moscow. Back here in America, I see that all the roads are very wide, and the shoulders and cleared land on either side of the roads are even wider. Entire Central European villages could fit inside most American highway interchanges. Just like Russian boulevards.
That’s probably as far as the similarities go, but I was surprised to see them in the first place and even more surprised to be reminded of them here in the U.S.