If you have been in Russia or any other Former Soviet Union republic, you probably noticed that Russian homes and apartments are arranged a bit differently. Some things which may seem odd to you are common and expected in Russia, so don’t be surprised if your Russian wife tries to change some things around in your home.
Probably the biggest difference between Russian and American home etiquettes is wearing/not wearing shoes in the house. Russians never wear shoes in the house and they can’t understand why some other cultures do. It seems common sense to them to remove footwear which has outside dirt and germs on them before entering the house. Honestly, I still can’t understand why someone would wear shoes in the house. I don’t see a single reason not to take them off. Apparently, plenty of our American friends and relatives don’t share my sentiments. Even after asking them to remove shoes in our house and hanging a “Please take your shoes off “ sign many still do. They probably think this is not a big deal or they forget, but it bothers and offends me, because indeed this is very important.
Another thing which you may find strange is that many Russians hang carpets on the walls. Some people hang them for extra insulation, but many find it fashionable. It is more common to see this “fashion trend” in villages and smaller cities, because Russians living in big cities are more modernized.
There are rarely any closets in Russian homes and apartments. Instead, there are hatches, wardrobes and bookcases, which take up a lot of room. Russians like to show off the things they have, so it is common to see huge pieces of furniture with glass doors showing off expensive china, collections of classical books or different souvenirs.
Russians prefer to use wallpaper on their walls. It usually has some sort of pattern which I know many Americans find tasteless.
Even though there is no word “privacy” in the Russian culture, Russians don’t understand why many Americans don’t cover their windows with curtains. They feel uncomfortable when their window is open and anyone from the street can see what is going on in their house, what they are wearing and what they are eating for dinner. In this case, they value their privacy much more than any Westerns I know. More and more Russians use blinds in the house, but the majority still uses 2 layers of window curtains: one is light-colored (usually white with a pattern) and another one is thick and long (also usually with a pattern which may or may not match their wallpaper).
The idea of comforters is very strange to Russians as well. Russians think it is not hygienic to sleep under something which is washed or dry cleaned once a year. Russians sleep under blankets with duvet covers. When their beds are not in use they put a decorative cover on top of the bed. They look somewhat like American comforters, but since people don’t sleep under them they are not as thick. Fitted sheets don’t exist in Russia because Russian beds do not come in standard sizes. Pillows and blankets are usually huge and are often filled with down feathers, so if you have some allergies, keep this in mind before travelling. Russians don’t care too much about things matching, so you may find this disturbing at first.
Most Russian women who come to the U.S. adapt to American homes relatively easy, although, speaking from the experience, the ideas of comforters and shoes in the house are probably the most difficult ones to adapt to.