(RBTH) – Over the last couple of years, Russia has definitely been attracting Westerners’ attention and not only in terms of hacking rumors and every other scandal under the Sun. The way ordinary Russians live and cope with their problems is also interesting, especially in comparison to the West, the U.S. in particular.
On Jan. 15, 2017 a user going by the alias ajl1239 posted a question on Reddit: “As a so-called ‘Westerner,’ I’d like to know what are some things that you absolutely think Russia does better than the West (i.e. U.S./EU)?” Six months ago almost the same question appeared on Quora.com: “In what ways is Russia better than the United States?”
We’ve studied the most popular answers, compared them with what we see in Russia, provided information from some other sources – and made a list of what Russia excels at. Here we go.
“Nearly every metro station in Russia is beautiful, not comparable to underground stations in the West,” Mistogun7 wrote in answer to the question on Reddit. This may be a slight exaggeration: After all, not every city in Russia enjoys its own subway system, let alone as developed and beautiful as the one in Moscow.
Nevertheless, generally when people compare Russian metros even to the biggest and most developed in the U.S. (New York) they seem to criticize the latter. “I rode Moscow’s metro for a day, and it blew New York’s subway away,” Dylan Love wroteon the Insider website, deeply impressed by the speed of the trains, cost of travel, and all-around beauty (marble floors, stations looking like palaces, etc.).
As Peter Ponin, a Russian expat who has lived in Seattle for several years, mentioned on Quora, “In Russia it’s not uncommon to have 3-4 providers to choose,” which makes Internet far more affordable. Seems about true – in Russia you can get a 100 megabits per second (Mbps) connection for 449 rubles ($7.9) while in America the price for the same speed is around $89.
At the same time, Alexander Novikov, a Lithuanian, commented on the question that Europe beats both Russia and the U.S. in terms of cheapness/speed correlation. “Down here in Lithuania, symmetric 500/500 Mbit fiber is 20 euro a month”, he said. But when Russia is only compared to the U.S., Russia wins.
This one doesn’t concern infrastructure or technology but communication. Reddit user ineedmoresleep described it briefly and comprehensively: “No bullshit,” and many others supported him. According to them, Russians nowadays are far more sincere than Westerners, who are constantly “afraid to offend anyone” and “don’t say what needs to be said.” Apparently, Russians have no problem speaking their mind.
Sometimes they even found it disquieting. While Americans complain about being too politically correct, some Russians wish their countrymen were nicer. For instance, Andrey Gunin, a Russian who visited the U.S., wrote: “I know that many of those who’ve been to the U.S. say that there affability is non-sincere (and I don’t argue). But when it comes to me, I would choose even non-sincere friendliness over sincere boorishness that we, unfortunately, often face in our country.”
It’s debatable which country provides better medical care but in Russia it’s surely cheaper. Though more private clinics exist nowadays, the Soviet heritage remains: If you have an insurance policy you get treated for free.
This seems to impress Americans, with Greg Easter (an expat living in Russia) writing: “You get free medical and dental care. If you have a small child who is sick, a doctor will make a house call the same day at no charge to you.”
Healthcare in Russia is not all rainbows and ponies though. It may be free but it’s not very available. The number of hospitals in Russia reduced by half from 2000 to 2015 – the government is closing small hospitals in the regions in a bid to improve efficiency. According to research conducted by the Accounts Chamber in 2015, the availability of services is decreasing. So if you’re living in a small town or village in Russia’s province, getting treated can be a problem.
As it is with healthcare, this is inherited from the Soviet past. The constitution guarantees everyone free education up to secondary level. School graduates are then able to get free higher education as well… if they succeed in their exams. Many universities have state-provided seats but only graduates with the best results get them.
Nevertheless, in the U.S. it’s even harder to get higher education for free so many people mention free education as a plus in Russia. “It is a huge social lift and a real opportunities equalizer,” one user commented on Quora, adding at the same time a couple of drawbacks: “Too many educated people, devaluating higher education, low paid professors.”
At the same time, in terms of comparing the top universities, the U.S. wins. International rankings value American universities higher: In QS World University Rankings 2018 the top four universities are American, with the best in Russia – the Moscow State University – only taking 95th place. American higher education is surely better – but less available. After all, everything in life has its pros and cons.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.