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Brandon Giglio

A Memorable Trip
By: Brandon Giglio
College Now Course - BSS 1

A little more than a year ago, I traveled to Russia on our school's exchange program. I, along with several other students, traveled to Russia in April of 2006. We flew into Moscow and were met by our foreign friends and their families. Even though America and Russia (part of the former USSR) were arch-enemies during the Cold War, they do share many similarities. In fact over the three weeks spent in Russia, I saw many similarities and cultural universals between American and Russian society and lifestyle. Ultimately, my Russian trip was a memorable experience that opened my eyes to similarities that exist across international borders.

Immediately I was astounded at the similarities between Moscow and New York City. Most of the urban areas of Moscow, contain long blocks of tall apartment buildings, where the majority of Muscovites live. There are cheap, small apartments, similar to one-room studios in Manhattan and huge, luxurious apartments similar to those inhabited by the affluent on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Moscow traffic is truly deplorable, even more so than in Manhattan and parking is also difficult to obtain. Thus just like many New Yorkers, many Muscovites ride forms of public transportation including: subway lines, trolley-buses, regular buses and tram lines (which are similar to monorails). There also are many private taxi lines. Many Muscovites, like many New Yorkers, don't own cars, because it is too expensive to own and maintain a car in Moscow. As you travel into downtown Moscow, there are flea markets and small shops similar to those found in Chinatown and the Village. Also there are coffee shops on nearly every comer. Moscow, like New York, also has parks for the Muscovites to unwind on the weekends or after a long day of work. Moscow also has a high standard of living just as New York City does. Ultimately, Moscow appears very similar to any American city, especially New York.

In addition to all of the above urban similarities between Moscow and New York life, there are many cultural universals and social similarities between Russian and American culture. Many cultural universals that are similar in America and Russia include food, music, movies, clothing, arts, family, school and social organization. Just as in America you can find international food everywhere, international food is ubiquitous in Moscow also. You can find European, Asia and American cuisine, all on the same street comer! I found that American music was very popular in Moscow and many of the teenage students listened to the same music that my friends and I listen to. We all attended the movies on several occasions. However, we didn't see any foreign films, we always saw American movies that were dubbed in Russian. This is ironic because many of the trivial movie stars and celebrities that are idolized in America are also idolized by Russians. Clothing styles and to some extent clothing companies are very similar between America and Russia. The boys wore similar attire: t-shirts and jeans, while the girls also wore similar attire: skirts, jeans, T-shirts Many of the same American clothing brands are very popular in Moscow, but the clothes are a lot more expensive in Moscow than in America. Everyone is aware of New York's cultural value, including its hundreds of museums. However, Moscow also has an extremely high cultural value and history. Moscow has hundreds of monuments for various Russians and wars throughout Russian history. Moscow also has many museums that exhibit both priceless pieces of Russian and international art. Familial values run strong in Russia, and many people live within an extended family household. Many of the children lived in close proximity or sometimes in the same apartment as their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. The education system in Moscow also is similar. Children attend school from five years old to sixteen years old. They then decide to enroll in a college or institute or start working. The classes the children take are similar to classes Americans take. They even read the same books as us in their English classes including The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye. Finally, the social organization in Russia is similar to America's. There are definitely class divisions between the lower, middle and upper classes; however, upward social mobility and opportunity run rife in Moscow.

In conclusion, my trip to Russia truly was an eye-opening experience. I first expected to find Russia a completely different place with different cultural universals, lifestyles, values and a different city. However, my original inference couldn't have been further from the truth. Russia shares many similarities with American lifestyle including cultural universals such as: entertainment, clothes, culture, food, family, education and social organization. Russia's capital, Moscow also is very similar to New York city in several aspects: difficulty parking, traffic, most people live in apartments, expensive to live in, public transportation is used by all, shopping and eateries. I would recommend anyone interested in Russian or even European lifestyle to take a trip to Moscow as soon as possible. You may be worried that Russians don't speak English, but they even have this in common with Americans, they speak English! Moscow is an interesting and fun city for all to visit, especially Americans who believe no place in the world is similar to America or even New York City for that matter.