America For Beginners

Bringing American culture closer to new immigrants

[Difference of the Week] Let’s Call It European

I’ve noticed that many Russian places in the US (stores, restaurants) prefer to call themselves European or International, even though their products are straight-up Russian and can be generalized as Eastern European at most.

Russian food stores in the USRussian food stores in the US

It’s sort of funny and sort of ridiculous.  But seriously, I am intrigued. Is it a mere coincidence or an attempt to sound cooler which is based on the traditional Russian love for everything foreign (started by the children of the Iron Curtain)? Marketing gurus and friends who visited Brighton Beach or other Russian neighborhoods should really help me out here and solve the mystery of Russian food hiding under the disguise of “Fine European& American Food”.

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2 comments on “[Difference of the Week] Let’s Call It European

  1. George Simons
    July 14, 2012

    I have several possible theories about this might be so:

    The first is that immigrants are often cautious about blatantly exposing their identity in a culture where despite the fact that most of us are descendants from immigrants, there is a long-standing bias about the recently come.

    Secondly, in the case of Russia, there is a long history of identification with communism, which lingers on as a bad word in the mentality of many US Americans, particularly on the right. Add to this the fact that on the international, political scene, Russia is still seen as the bad guy or at least uncooperative and engaged with us in a kind of power struggle in the United Nations, and elsewhere. Many still see it as a place where human rights are regularly violated. Look at how the French were abused when they refused to join George Bush in his misguided military adventures.

    Thirdly, this could simply be good marketing, that is, saying “international” rather than “Russian” may bring a few more people in the door out of curiosity, whereas “Russian” may limit this.

    Whenever I’m in Paris, I shop at Gastronom, a Russian grocery just across the street from the Gare de Lyon, and they have no problem with advertising themselves specifically as “Russian”. Surprisingly I have not found a Russian shop or grocery in Cannes close by to where I live, though there Is a substantial Russian population there.

  2. Raine
    September 11, 2012

    This ain’t a generalization, but for me. If I see European and American under a restaurant that should be Russian, I usually think it’s an American faking. Of course, me being me, I’ll march in and have a taste first and meet the owner/staff.

    The point Mr. Simmons made about the US aversion to “communism” is sadly still so valid.

    (I’m not trying to comment pollute, but this blog is so fun!)

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