— Привет, как ты? (“Hi, how are you?”)
With this phrase in all its variations, we Russians greet each other on campus, and this is the usual situation for all cultures — to greet your peers in your mother tongue. Yesterday, however, I had a conversation with a friend of mine, who does not speak Russian, and he complained that Russian speakers usually stick together and do not socialise a lot with others. I disagreed, explaining that most Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian and the other nationalities, enjoy communication with other cultures and actively socialise with others, whereas the new students usually stick together for a some time, exploring the environment and looking for new acquaintances. Back to my studies at the International Relations program, cultural differences were discussed in detail.
The cultural features always come from the history of the nation and the area where the people lived. Wars, laws, religion and different parameters were influencing societies in various ways. Nowadays sociologists divide national cultures into few dimensions, whereas one of these dimensions is the individualism-collectivism. Opposite to individualist, collectivist cultures have more group-orientated values, with the natural tendency to gather in groups. On the scale, most Russian speaking cultures are collectivists somewhere a bit below the middle between individualist and collectivist (many thanks to the Soviet Union); thus, this concept may explain why Russian speakers are likely to stick together. At the same time, the cultural vector is changing to individualist for the most part who live in western countries. For example, Russian speaking AAU students in the last school year communicate and socialise freely with other students, but new students (without an experience of intercultural communication) are relatively anxious and closed.
When I came to Prague three years ago, I was anxious. I did not know how to communicate with other cultures, so I stayed within one group of my Russian friends from the university. After some time, an adaptation period passed, and there was no more problem for me to make new friends from other countries.
Being in a new environment, we usually are searching for individuals from similar groups or cultures, ideally with shared interests — somebody who can help with adaptation to the new environment… Some people stay in this stage for a long time (some probably forever) while others move forward. For many Russian speakers the first is the case, especially in the Czech Republic, where there are a lot of peers with the very same problem. I think the main reason why some don’t want to adapt in the taken example of communication and socialisation is that they simply don’t have problems and feel comfortable. In case of AAU students, the Russian speaking part shows the desire to integrate into the academic environment; thus, after some time, as I have already mentioned, the confusion disappears, which I believe is a good dynamics for all future AAU alumnus.