The entire essence of travel is that you change, both as an individual and as a citizen of the world. At any rate, a few weeks ago I wrote about things that I miss from home, but I’d been thinking about the flip side: what I don’t miss. I understand that this post will seem very snobbish, but there are some things I do think that are viewed in a different light from abroad.
- The pace of life. I’ve been sitting on this for the last almost 27 months, but man, Americans are all about doing everything and quickly. It was actually really surprising, considering how you’d imagine Muscovites to be busier than bees. In my experience, it’s a resounding ‘nope’. I think you don’t realize the gung-ho attitude of workers until you’ve spent plenty of time abroad; indeed, Americans work longer hours than most of the world. While it might not be a good thing, and I’m anticipating it’s going to kick my ass whenever I visit, I feel at ease. Case in point: there’s an overabundance of cafes. In my personal experience, Russians aren’t going to kill themselves doing things, and I honestly am all about that mentality.
- The lack of public transportation is one of the biggest discrepancies between Europe and America, and America absolutely lags behind. Living in Moscow has more or less ruined me when it comes to transportation. The metro is fantastically reliable (waiting for two or more minutes is considered slow), and there always are buses, trams, and now a new metro line to get you around the city. Unlike the chaos of the WMATA in D.C., the many, many metro stations of Moscow are aesthetically and functionally brilliant. Not to mention, they’re also dirt cheap-20 passes, which enable you to ride over the 200+ stops, cost around $15. Another example I like to use to reinforce my point is Copenhagen’s metro. When I was there, I was blown away by how disgustingly clean it was-it was shiny and extremely white inside. They also had TV’s telling you the news and the weather, which again, was a revelation for me. Nowadays, when I go home, I make it a duty to avoid taking the metro whenever possible. It’s just not the same anymore.
- People complaining about the weather, and I feel justified for this point. In Russia, you either freeze or you fry. Is this an oversimplification? A bit. But, compared to the stuff you face back home, you get really used to extremes. I acknowledge that yes, there are uncontrollable fluctuations that may cause freak snowstorms and the like, but on the whole I feel it amusing to see the good folks at home whine about snow and the cold. Also, in summers air conditioning doesn’t exist as a default option, so one gets used to having to toughen up with the heat. Again, I don’t want to diminish how nasty the weather can get in the D.C. area, but my point is that I feel there needs to be some perspective.
- Utilities. A recurring theme in this post, as you may have already picked up on, is how different Moscow and D.C. are. One thing that still blows me away is how overpriced utilities are back home. Case in point: electricity and water costs maybe $32 a month (split between two people, to boot), and monthly phone bills cost around $8. Whoa. I can’t fathom what I’d have to pay in America for that, so I thank my lucky stars it’s super cheap!