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If a friend suddenly turned out to be an American: why is it difficult for ours to find friends in the USA

Disunity, inability to build close friendships, superficiality, lack of soulfulness are not only common myths about Americans, but for some immigrants it is a very real reason to return home from the United States. These are the reasons for leaving calledfor example, Elina Whaley, who returned to Russia after 21 years in the United States. Are Americans really incapable of being friends, and if so, how is American friendship different from ours?

Photo: Shutterstock

I’ll answer right away: Americans are capable of making friends, and the cultural difference does not lie in how much time we spend with friends. For instance, Diana Abroskinawho grew up in the USA and then returned to Russia, notes, which much more often gathered with friends in America, while in Moscow all her friends were busy with their family and physically could not find time for her. The key difference actually lies in the place the other person occupies in the lives of Russians and Americans, respectively.

The psychological infrastructure of heroism

Let's start a little from afar. Famous psychologist Olga Podolskaya somehow noticed, characterizing the post-Soviet culture: “We are used to surviving in crisis situations, and this is our strong point. However, most of us do not know how to somehow please ourselves, enjoy life, and this is the weak side of the Russian people. "

Developing Olga's thought, we can say that in our culture for decades, prohibitions on happiness, pleasure, joy and other natural manifestations of human life have been cultivated. This prohibition, of course, was not absolute, but the main values ​​that were instilled in Soviet people were certainly heroism, self-sacrifice, altruism, devotion to an idea, and so on. It was these categories that were primary, and simple human joys were made dependent on them. Moreover, by themselves, apart from “great ideas”, these joys were branded “philistinism”, “bourgeois vestiges” and other unflattering epithets.

This phenomenon is best described by the category of the so-called "moral right": "I have no moral right to enjoy life in the country if I do not defend it." Since the need to be happy is inherent in every person, the ban on “easy happiness” gave rise to the concept of the complex, in which a person could still afford to be happy only after fulfilling a number of conditions: having accomplished a feat, fulfilling the “Stakhanov's” labor norm, or simply doing something not for oneself, but for another.

On the subject: Friendship or friendship? How to make friends with us in America

At one time, the inhabitants of the American city of Seattle, tired of constant floods, postponed your city one level up, throwing earth on the first floors of buildings and starting to rebuild the city devastated by fire immediately from the second floors. By analogy with this, we can say that the Soviet person “raised his concept of happiness to a level up,” and began to build it around the concepts of business, duty, work, feat, ideological associates and other invariable attributes of the era.

Simplifying, this formula can be expressed in the words: “I have done an important job, and now I have the right to rest” (it was not encouraged to allow myself to rest just like that, because of simple fatigue). The same was true of linking important attributes of life to other people: "Tomorrow my friend / relative / big boss arrives, and then we can celebrate this, go to a restaurant," cover the clearing, "etc." (It was not accepted to arrange a holiday for yourself or your loved ones just like that, for no reason). The choice of reasons and friends, in turn, was often determined by deed or ideology: “We are doing one thing, therefore we must be friends”; "We are like-minded people, which means we are friends and associates."

These constructions spontaneously emerged in society, on the one hand, really increased the sacrifice of people, since life was built according to the principle: if you don’t sacrifice, you won’t be happy. On the other hand, they somewhat eased the draconian requirements of the era, creating a kind of "psychological infrastructure of heroism" - an environment in which altruists were comfortable to exist. A person who, relatively speaking, accomplished the feat, finally felt that he now has a moral right to be happy and even ask for help from his comrades-in-arms. Companions, in turn, felt that they were obliged to help him, since they not only did good to their comrade, but also made a feasible contribution to the common cause. Moreover, the desire to bring joy to such a “hero” was sometimes hardly the only way to have fun ourselves, as they say, for the company. As a result of this feeling of mutual moral obligations, people received some kind of psychological return for their labors and gained strength for new "deeds".

Freedom of Good American Style

Years passed, people became disillusioned with Soviet ideas, the USSR eventually collapsed, but the construction of “complex happiness” and irrational moral prohibitions and obligations has successfully survived the ideology and survived in the post-Soviet cultural code. As a result, the place that another person occupies in our life is sometimes very large, because often it is he who is our only reason to allow ourselves to be happy. It is other people who help us to lift the ban on happiness, it is in front of others that we feel moral obligations that are very capable of influencing our life, it is for them that we are able to afford pleasures that we would not have dared for ourselves. If we add to this the objectively difficult living conditions in the post-Soviet space, in which it is really difficult to survive without loyal friends, one can understand why other people are so significant in our life.

Of course, not everyone has such a consciousness, and modern people are much more striving for autonomy, but in one form or another, many of our immigrants are characterized by attitudes that happiness must be earned, and pampering yourself is harmful. The majority of Americans, unlike us, are characterized by the concept of “simple happiness,” in which a person can afford pleasure simply because he wants it.

Americans, known for their respect for legal law, have virtually no concept of "moral law." They do not believe that they should deserve the right to happiness, and even more so to perform feats for this. On the contrary, in America there is the concept of the presumption of complete voluntariness of any action and the primacy of personal interest. Thus, if you do something, it is automatically considered that you need it. No one is obliged to compensate for your sacrifices and suffering just because of what they do with you in a common cause. This does not mean that the Americans do not do good, but they do it exclusively voluntarily, on an inner motive, while realizing perfectly well that they owe nothing to anyone and, accordingly, no one owes them anything. It is clear that this reduces the level of altruism, but it helps to more accurately calculate their own resources.

You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New York.

By the way, scientists at the University of California at Berkeley point out that modern Americans have many stereotypes against gratitude precisely because it can make a person feel obligated. It is difficult for an American to imagine how the actions of another person give rise to an obligation that he did not take on with his conscious decision - after all, this encroaches on his inner freedom.

He will gladly meet a visiting friend and maybe even take him to a restaurant, but he does not need another person as an excuse to go to the restaurant himself. It is far from a fact that the Americans will arrange a magnificent reception for the boss who has arrived on a business trip. It is quite possible that meetings with the “big boss” will be limited to discussing business topics, while colleagues go to a friendly potlak at another time, on their own. And in general, in America it is not customary to be friends with colleagues at work, and the fact that you are doing one thing in one company does not negate the tough competition between you.

Which is better

In short, Americans are much less dependent on others than people of post-Soviet culture. Accordingly, friendship does not take such a deep place in their life as in ours. They try not to abuse friendships and cope with difficulties on their own. That being said, it's hard to say which approach is better. On the one hand, the concept of mutual help and interdependence of friends looks attractive, because at least for a while it allows a person to completely relax without thinking about himself - after all, a friend will take care of him. In this culture, there are happy moments of meetings and "occasions" that bring special joy and are designed to smooth out difficult conditions of life or work. Moreover, the nature of such a friendship is more personal and “confessional”.

On the other hand, this formula is fraught with risks. What if you, for example, made a mistake in a person, and he does not believe that he is obliged to repay you for all your labors and sacrifices (even if people themselves ask for sacrifices and promise such retribution)? In addition, the concept of "simple happiness" is also fraught with a lot of beauty. People who allow themselves to be happy, regardless of merits and friends, know how to listen to their desires, live in harmony with their feelings, do not demand the impossible from themselves and do not forbid themselves pleasure. They do not risk rushing to embrasures, and do not expect someone to help them cope with an overwhelming burden. They may not be capable of feats, but they are much better adapted to everyday life.

It is quite possible that before criticizing Americans for their inability to make friends in Russian, immigrants can try American friendship, which also has a place for serious conversations, and friendly meetings, and pleasant leisure. But if you have truly close and loyal friends in your homeland, it is important to understand that you will not find a replacement for them, not only because of immigration, but also because such people are, in principle, irreplaceable.

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