Thursday, June 21, 2018

Can Mutual Pursuit of Money Overcome Cultural Differences?

Living among the cultural Other is difficult, and it is especially difficult to do so in a foreign country.  Strange language, strange food, and even stranger people.  All this can be depressing to face for people who are residing abroad for the very first time.  They just do not have experience in handling people who do not come from same cultural background, raised under same educational and social atmospheres.  In short, such is the situation faced by the migrants from rural China who now reside in Vladivostok. But they are not the only ones faced with such difficulties. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Soviet History as Source of Russian Pride

History says that the USSR died back in 1991.  People are supposed to be so fed up with the economic stagnation, the political inefficiency, and low standard of living compared to the West that no one really misses it.  Only strongman and revisionists like Putin would say something ridiculous like how the fall of the USSR was a great misfortune and the great Russian revival requires reinstating some parts of the USSR.  To Western observers, the USSR represented a failed system that simply proved itself to be uncompetitive over course of history. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Is Center-Periphery Conflict an Unavoidable Fact in Large Countries?

The campus of the Far Eastern Federal University is a gorgeous one.  Situated on the mostly wild Russky Island south of Vladivostok, it is a mishmash of imposing modern buildings connected to the century-old downtown area with spectacular suspension bridges.  Perhaps as a result of its extraordinary setting, it serves as the regular venue of the East Asia Summit that bring together political leaders from Russia and its East Asian neighbors.  But for the importance of the Summit for Russia's Look East economic policy, locals are a bit annoyed by the Summit serving to shut down the city for weeks at a time.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Is Excess Alcohol Consumption Making Russian Men "Irresponsible"?

It is a sight that is hard to miss even during the day time.  Drunk men, sleeping on benches and occasionally on the ground, occupying sunburn parks without a care in the world.  While in the city center, local police patrols try to get rid of such men to maintain a clean image for the foreign tourist crowds, in the suburbs, they could not be bothered to even more these drunkards.  And the drunks seem to be around all day long, whether it is 10am, 2pm, or 8pm.  Thankfully, Vladivostok has a relatively warm, but short summer.  In the winter, drunkards freeze to death.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Light Reckoning of Vladivostok's Cosmopolitan Past

In one of the exhibition rooms of the main regional museums of Vladivostok, photographs and objects depict the original Chinatown of the city from the 19th century.  Nicknamed Millionka, the neighborhood inhabited by Chinese Settlers was just one of several ethnic communities in a city with only 20% ethnic Russian population.  Even among the Russian Settlers, the background was diverse, with Settlers coming in from not only the country's European heartland but also Ukraine, Belarus, and the Caucasus.  Foreigners and Russians alike mingled.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

A Different Mentality toward Eating out in Russia?

One of the greatest thing about living in Asia is the wide availability of cooked foods.  Whether it is a major city or a rural town, the main streets of any sizable urban community in much of East, Southeast, and South Asia are dominated by endless arrays of both hole-in-the-wall eateries and fancy restaurants serving cuisines of different regions and countries, at a wide spectrum of prices and quality.  Getting food is mostly just a matter of going downstairs, walking for a few minutes, and paying an equivalent of a few dollars at most.