If you’re particularly sentimental, you’ll probably frame getting married as a way to spend the rest of your life with your soul mate. Can’t argue with that, but what those lovely-dovey optimists don’t note is that getting married is also a way to really dig into another person’s psyche and discover all kinds of weird things you’d rather not know. This phenomenon is particularly exacerbated when you marry someone from a different culture. As much as I love my Russian, there are some aspects of marrying someone born in the USSR that are just frustrating:
1. You will rip out your hair over visa issues.
Marrying a foreigner always comes with a lot of bureaucratic issues – marrying a Russian makes everything that much worse. A quick jaunt to Europe (very cheap from Moscow)? Not without the hassle and expense of getting a visa. Travel becomes a constant Google search of where your visa regimes overlap.
2. Russians are raised in a non-saving culture.
As an American I learned that spending money without saving is a negative thing and even if I can’t manage to save at the moment, I should always keep it in mind. Russians for the most part do not embrace that line of thinking, instead having a more day-to-day, in-the-moment financial plan. I mean, I get it – for a long time Russia had a terribly unstable economy which didn’t give its citizens much confidence in the future. Why save money if the next day it’ll be worthless? Now the economic situation is relatively more stable but mentalities have not yet shifted. The struggle between spend v. save cultures can be incredibly frustrating when you’re setting up a (financial) life together.
3. Their family will be in your life very aggressively.
It seems like the concentration of overbearing mothers and pushy grandmothers is much higher in Russia than anywhere else I’ve been, likely because families tend to be a lot closer emotionally and geographically. (That’s what you get when you live with your parents well into adulthood.) Your Russian family will have no problem butting into your business. Your eating habits, your uterus, your finances? All up for discussion. Take a deep breath and try to ignore them.
4. You will fundamentally disagree about a lot of political/cultural touchstones.
I grew up in a very rural town in the southern United States so I’m no stranger to being around people with wildly different values than my own. But I also knew I’d leave as soon as possible and would never get involved with a southern guy – and I did and I didn’t. Six years later, I end up with a Russian guy which oftentimes amounts to the same cultural conservatism. Without getting into a dissertation about it, the Russian mentality is worlds apart from the west (and particularly left-leaning westerners) in a lot of significant ways. You’ll likely have to agree to disagree on a lot of issue, even with the most liberal-minded Russians.
5. For people who live in a really cold world, Russians have an irrational fear of cold things.
The Soviet Union bred a generation of incredible scientists; however, many Russians still seem to have no idea how the body actually works. Have a drink with ice to cool down on a hot summer’s day? Sore throat and cold. Give small children too-cold ice cream? A cold for sure (probably leading to death). Use air conditioning? Definitely death.