By: Samuel McGee and Christiana Hudson, Talon Staff
Starbucks, among other quintessentially American things, such as TGI Friday’s and Britney Spears and the American culture at large, from movies to television to pop culture icons, happen to be things that permeate even Russia. Russians love grabbing an expensive frothy coffee and dining out at TGI Friday’s as much as the next American, it appears.
- Russian population 2018: 143,975,436
- Over 75% of the Russian population belongs to the Orthodox Christian denomination
- Blinis are a very popular pancake like fast food in Russia. That can be stuffed with sweet or sour fillings and eaten on the go.
- Russia is home to the largest McDonalds in the world. It seats 700 people.
an international student at TCC.
It was a tepid day to meet and chat. Thankfully, the characteristic chill of this year’s January had taken a welcome break. Ilia Seleznev is from Tambov, Russia, and relocated to the United States in August of 2017.
Seleznev arrived in a stylish combat-green jacket and a cordial hand outstretched. After the initial introductions were out the way, Seleznev grabbed himself a chilled soda and took his seat across from me to talk all things Russia.
“What would you say the differences between here and Russia are?” I asked.
“To make friends,” Seleznev replied. “For example, I’ve been here almost half a year, and I’ve got pretty much no friends so far. I mean, I do have acquaintances, but I haven’t found like, a real friend. And I feel like in Russia it’s easier.”
“Why do you think that is?”
“Here everybody picks their own schedule, nobody is assigned to any groups,” Seleznev goes on to say. “You know, every class has different people and you don’t really get to spend much time with your classmates. That’s why it’s just harder to make friends.”
“So, with that, what are the classes like?” I asked. “Because over here, at Tallahassee Community College, at least, most of the classes average to about an hour and fifteen minutes in length.”
“You have classes that last to ninety-minutes,” Seleznev explains. “And you have from like, three to five classes a day. And your total course load is around 25 credits per semester.”
A world apart educationally from the academic lifestyle of us here at TCC, for sure.
When the conversation shifted to the things that Seleznev misses about Russia, he didn’t have to ponder his answer long before he found it.
“There is a thing that sucks here the most,” he chuckled. “It’s the lack of public transport.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at the mention of this. We all know how unreliable public transport is in Tallahassee.
“In my hometown, or in Moscow, I never got, like, or even thought of getting a car.”
“And did you have trains, as well?”
“Yes,” Seleznev replies. “Like, in Moscow, it has a great metro system. You know, like, trains run every forty seconds. One train leaves, the other one comes. Even in New York City, sometimes you’ll be waiting for a train for like twelve minutes, ten minutes. So yeah, this is the thing which I miss the most; and that made me buy a car.”
I went on to ask Seleznev what taboos or stereotypes he believes there to be regarding Russia and/or Russians in general.
“Sometimes here, when it gets to 32 degrees, I’ll be like ‘oh my god, I’m freezing, I’m freezing so bad,’ and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, isn’t it cold in Russia?’ A lot of people here seem to think that Russia is just Siberia.”
Seleznev even explained how some of his friends have jokingly referred to him as being a spy, due to fictional portrayals of Russians.
Seleznev also explained that one schema of Russia as a country is that it is notoriously anti-LGBT, though this, Seleznev explains, is not the case. Seleznev detailed how being openly gay in Russia is no different to being openly gay in the United States.
He opened up his phone to show me a favorite Instagram star of his; a young man who favors the art of subtle drag while parading around Moscow, to not a single hostile or bigoted reception.
“Nobody will prosecute you just because you are gay,” Seleznev says.
So, it appears that Russia, while being separated from America by an expansive ocean, is really not that different. Russians drink Starbucks the same as any American; they dine at the same major corporate restaurants; they even, for the most part, have similar attitudes in regards to equality and anti-bigotry.
To finish up our chat, I decided to ask Seleznev whether or not he thought he might remain in America.
“We’ll see,” Seleznev says, smiling and taking a pull from his soda. “If I have great opportunities here. If I find something valuable.”
Given the accomplishment of Seleznev having relocated from almost the other side of the world, and doing so solitarily, it seems unlikely that Seleznev wouldn’t be capable of finding that something valuable which he is seeking here in America, his home away from home.