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Escape from America: Dedovsk, Russia

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In the latest entry of my Escape from America series, I interview an American who's living in Russia, a country that's been relentlessly demonized by the Western media. To a minority of Americans, however, Russia is a nationalist beacon, or even a possible refuge, as it already is to many Afrikaners.

Michael Kreutzer
Michael Kreutzer
(Image by Michael Kreutzer)
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How long have you lived overseas?

For about 8 years. But I visited home two times in those 8 years for a month or so.

And since I travel by moving somewhere for work, I have only scratched the surface of Europe and never even been to South America or Africa. :/

So in a nutshell it's been: ├ "degrees╦ć 2 years in Vietnam, ├ "degrees╦ć 3 years in Japan, ├ "degrees╦ć 3 years in Russia.

But of course, there were many smaller trips around and breaks in between in places like Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia. A brief stint in Finland, passing through Germany, Poland, Ukraine. I pride myself in getting to know the culture instead of just checking it off a list, but I'm getting a bit older so now I would love to have financial independence in order to explore other continents for shorter periods like my yuppie friends do.

What made you decide to leave the US?

I had hitchhiked all around the U.S. and always enjoyed travel. I think it's in my blood. All the Europeans with gypsy-esque souls were selected out of the European population they say. I pride myself in my pioneer origins / predispositions, but also see the downsides of them as I get older. Perhaps that hyper individualism is what lead to America's degeneration? I don't know. But I always planned on traveling the world. My mom traveled a lot and took us on road trips all the time. So that could be it. Nature vs. nurture. Chicken or the egg?

Anyways, I was actually enrolled in ROTC for a brief bit, because I come from a family with a lot of military in it and am lower middle class. So I didn't have trust fund study-abroad-and-snort-ketamine-at-European-musical-festivals kind of money that some of my peers did. Therefore, the most plausible way to secure a career and cross the seven seas was by joining the Army or Navy. I changed my mind and am glad I did. I've immersed myself and traveled way longer than I could have if I'd have stayed and signed a contract. However, military has always been my plan B if I got in massive debt somehow or got a chick pregnant. Knock on wood, still cruising with plan A.

View from apartment window
View from apartment window
(Image by Michael Kreutzer)
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What advantages does Russia have over the US, societally and culturally, as in every day stuff? What do they do worse?

The stereotype of the (figuratively) cold Russian is true. I get weird looks if I smile at strangers when my American habits seep through unconsciously. And if you visit, you'll see lots of aggressive verbal conflicts and unenthused customer service. But to be fair, locals say "Russians have a generous soul."

I can attest to this 100%. Once you get to know someone, they will treat you like family and go to obscene lengths to take care of you. They are always lending each other money and giving gifts. And the goodbyes last forever, like something out of a movie where the family sits on the porch and waves until your car is out of vision. But I believe this is part of why they are (on average) poorer than Western Europe.

I've couch surfed a lot of places and been in Beverly Hills mansions with robots that clean their pool, as well as homeless shelters with bed bugs. And everywhere in between. It seems counterintuitive, but the poor people are way more giving. Though in hindsight, it makes perfect sense:

"The rich get richer, the poor get poorer."

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Linh Dinh's Postcards from the End of America has just been published by Seven Stories Press. Tracking our deteriorating socialscape, he maintains a photo blog.

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