Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Russian group's impressions of Charlotte

Talk about newcomers. What would it be like to spend a few days in Charlotte if you grew up in Russia?

I had lunch today with a group of women from Russia who are spending a week visiting here. It’s a program teaming Charlotte Sister Cities with the Open World Leadership Center. They’re from several different parts of the country, including the Moscow area, near St. Petersburg and Siberia. Naturally, I wanted to hear their impressions.

How does Charlotte compare to Moscow, I asked Natalia Maslova, who is traveling with the group and acting as a translator.

"Moscow is a very, very big city, and it is easier to compare Moscow with New York City," she said. "Life in Charlotte is a little bit slower and maybe more relaxed. I have seen some traffic jams, but not as bad as in Moscow."

Like newcomers from elsewhere in the U.S., the group commented repeatedly on the friendliness and hospitality they’d encountered here. Group members said they were pleased to see Charlotte’s high number of churches and the importance of worship – something that is also very important for them back home, they said.

For Svetlana Largina, who lives in the town of Dubna outside Moscow, Charlotte’s affluence was obvious. "What we can see is a very high level of living here," she said through an interpreter.

Olga Kovalevskaya, from the Siberian town of Seversk, was surprised to learn Charlotte has nuclear power stations nearby – it’s difficult in Russia to build nuclear stations close to highly developed areas, she said.

She and a Siberian travel companion also said Charlotte’s architecture is different from what they’re accustomed to in their colder climate – there are more big glass windows on buildings here and the interiors are lighter, they said.

Other differences? They are not accustomed to being offered so much cold water with ice at mealtimes. Women in Russia wear higher-heeled shoes than women here. Hot tea is more popular than ice tea in Russia. And one pleasant surprise?

"They had a stereotype about American food that it is not tasty," said Maslova. "Here, they can see the food is very varied."

To other newcomers out there, what else in Charlotte has surprised you since you got here?


Blogger Julie Kelly said...

I've been been surprised at the diversity. Pleasantly surprised. It doesn't compare to New York or other larger cities and definitely has room for more diversity, but such a variety of people have moved here from all over that it really makes it a more culturally rich place than I expected.

I expected it to be a typical Southern town with lots of white conservative people (like my family *ahem*). There is definitely a lot of that, but there is really a good balance of conservative and liberal, among other things.

The unpleasant surprise is people's displeasure with Mecklenburg County, which is another can of worms. I prefer the pleasant surprises.

9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charlotte is not a real freindly town and think D.C. is more personality than what Im seeing here; People here are scared because of all the scams and crime going on. They dont know if a person is freind or foe. Paranoidism lurks all over Charlotte. We need to stop the crime and get More People and as many as we can working their asses off. Thats my opinion Love or hate it.

1:20 PM  

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