Friday, March 27, 2009

a cold war on pleasantries

Contrary to the song, eastern european women don't often come from Russia with Love. If you get know many eastern european you will notice one persisting phenomena... they will be blunt. I know this, because I am one, and I am often blunt. The frank talk, is not meant to bring you down, or demean your manhood ( as some interpret it). Frankly, there's just no european filter distinguishing between what you say and what you think. Honesty is by nature brutal, and eastern europeans are by nature, honest.

Perhaps, it's an evolutionary mechanism inherent to cold climates, but there just doesn't seem to be a point to bullshitting, flattery, and the backhanded compliments that Americans are so fond of. Americans, are the kings of sugar-coating and niceties. This often makes interactions awkward between the two cultures.  In fact on websites for russian mail order brides, men are warned to beware the bluntness of their russian brides. Oh my ! 

Americans tend to interpret eastern European honesty as being unnecessarily cold. And perhaps, in some cases it is. Recently, on an episode of Tough Love, Stasha was reprimanded for her extremely critical behavior. On the show, she does come off as cruel. Stasha, of course, tells fat people that they there in fact fat,  and annoying people that they are annoying etc. While this may seem harsh, for Russians such comments are thought as just tips informing others about ways in which to improve themselves.

For example, growing up I'd show my father a paper.  He would tell me to tear it up and say it was unacceptable. Meanwhile, I've found that many of my Americans friends were coddled through C averages and were told they were great and everyone is special in their own way and all that good stuff. Do their parents think a C is as good as an A, of course not. But for Americans, it's more important to be nice then to be honest, even if the honesty often fosters self improvement. Just as my aunts would foster our self-improvement by telling us all the exact areas in which we have accumulated the freshman fifteen, I often find myself giving overly honest relationship advice whenever asked.

So when on Sex and the City, the Russian told Carrie that Samantha may die, in his eyes, he wasn't being cruel. The Russian was being informative, for there were certain chances that Samantha would die and one must prepare for such chances, just like a russian bear prepares for a harsh winter. When Stasha tells a man he is getting fat, he just is. When Alina on Top Model showed disdain for the idiocy of the other contestants, it was just because they were stupid.

When a Russian women says you are "hairy like animal" it's because truly you look like an animal. Please shave.

Often, I try to keep my bluntness in check. But when I've had too much drinks or I find you obnoxious or cocky to the point of demeaning others. Watch out. My weapon of choice tends to be determining the Irritant's emotional weakness and stating it out loud, straight faced. At first they will think I'm joking (I appear deceivingly sweet) but the moment it sinks in they don't know what to say.  Often, it gives me a strange pleasure. Do I always mean harm, no. But, I merely recognize the areas needed for improvement and then point them out.  Americans are so unused to such biting honesty, that often it acts like a cold ice-pick to the heart.


  1. Having been to the Eastern Bloc (Serbia), and also played online with Serbians, Bulgarians and even some Russians for a few years now... I certainly agree with your observations :)

    Having said that, I don't think many people get on overly well with the American way of talking, and thinking. Forever the optimists, Americans. I guess it's something to do with the fact that it's still such a young, hopeful country. A country that hasn't been weathered by centuries -- or millenia -- of wars, conflict, imperialism... everything!

    So much has happened in the Indo-Europe landmass that it's unsurprising that we don't see a point in masking our emotions! We're not afraid of a bit of conflict :)

  2. Vika, why you get so fat? And you look like sick? Do you really need cake? You not eat enough. Why you no wear more make-up, man no like you. You not so young....

  3. Certain parts of America are much worse than others. In the north we seem to be more blunt than particularly the south... where they'll be cordial to your face and then stab you in the back, but it's all about appearing to be sweet, kind, and nice. There seems to be a gradient of this facade throughout the country. You can tell where people are the most fake because everyone claims "oh, they're so nice there"...

    Nice to your face, but they talk behind your back. I think that's far worse than someone being up front about something. Then you don't have to worry about what they think of you, because you already know.

  4. New Yorkers have definitely adapted the bluntness moreso. I can't stand nice to your face people that talk behind your back. I feel like it takes too much work to be fake all the time.

  5. Might be why so many people say New York is the nicest, and best place to live in the world... it's REAL!