5 Things You Can Buy In Russia But NOT In America

Just when you thought being an American meant you owned everything in the world, I will prove you wrong.

Following my recent post on Things You Can NOT Buy in Russia, it is within international principles  of justice that I now pen the reciprocal column on Things You CAN Buy In Russia But NOT In America.

We will not waste any precious time discussing why these items are not available on your local supermarket’s shelves and let’s not nitpick about such “market principles” such as “supply” and “demand”. And I am not interested to hear about some exotic web-site such as “Amazon” where you can order the items on my list.  And please save us all and resist the urge to tell us about the Slavic Market you went to one time.  That doesn’t count.
Without further ado, as I fight the urge to write “driver’s licenses”, here is my list of 5 Things You Can Buy In Russia But NOT In America:
1.  Fish Jerky:  They don’t sell that in America.  But they do in Russia.  It’s on the end of the beer aisle.  Russians love fish in every possible form.  Americans like beef.  And we wonder why we can’t understand each other on less important issues.
A Fine Piece Of Fish Photography.
2. Sundry Beverages:  Namely:  Kvass, Kisel, and Kompot.  This Triumvirate of Beverage Bafflement has left many a foreigner in a Liquid State of Perplex.  I don’t have time to research what they are made of, except to say that, much like “Kholodets“, they are an acquired taste.  I personally enjoy them all.  Kvass is the King of Summer and can also double as the broth in a cold soup that is basically potato salad in a bowl with Kvass poured over the top and then some sour cream or mayonnaise.  My basic understanding is that kvass is made out of bread mold, but I have never seriously looked into the subject.  Kisel is a sweet thick fluid that is pink.  Now close your eyes and imagine you are drinking a sweet thick fluid that is pink.  There you go!  That’s what it tastes like.  Kompot really threw me for a loop when I first came to Russia in early 1995.  I looked at it and said, “The fruit has died and now they put water on top of it”.  Now I drink the water and then apologize to my fellow expats for using my spoon to fish out the dead fruit for immediate consumption.
3.  Individual Cups Of Pickle Juice:  Yes, it is another beverage.  But this particular beverage also contains medicinal qualities as it will overcome the worst instances of the malady known in the vernacular as “hangover”.  Some time ago, I wrote a widely read and award winning piece, “The Clever Commuter Commerce Of The Capital City”, which was a wide reaching and in depth masterpiece discussing the entrepreneurial spirit on display in the local commuter trains.   The zenith of this mobile commercial exhibition was a man with a jar of pickle juice and some plastic cups, plying his wares for the morning traveler.

4.  Trips To The Water Closet:  Capitalizing on another’s need to empty their bladder is certainly a niche business, but it seems to have gained a certain foothold, particularly in the train stations and even some shopping malls.  In the 1993 cinema classic “About the Businessman Foma”, the tale is told of a villager who visits the big city for the first time and witnesses for the very first time this delightful form of merchantry and decides to take it to his home village.  Of course, not all of the locals were equally impressed and one particular gentleman took it upon himself to perform a sit down strike.  You can watch here as they try to negotiate him out of the stall:


5.  Kinder Surprise:   Not Kinder as in “Nicer”, but Kinder as in “Kindergarten”. This egg shaped piece of plastic is coated in an insanely mediocre chocolate.  But inside there is a toy for children.  Thus, the name “Kinder Surprise”.  Our Russian friends will be Kinder Surprised to learn that this seemingly docile treat for the younger generation is forbidden in the United States as according to a 1938 FDA (Fun Death of America) ordinance that inexplicably disallows non-edible joy to be lodged inside edible delight.  I know a guy who once took a whole bag of this lethal contraband for some friends, not knowing that they could summon a fine of $2,500 per egg.  I suppose if he would have been caught, the term “Kinder Surprise” would have taken on a whole new meaning in his life.

Somehow, I miss most of these things in those rare instances that I’m in America.  Illogical, I know, but I guess it’s about the same as craving peanut butter or Hershey’s chocolate over here.  I guess you just don’t know what you have until you can’t get it anymore.

What else can you buy in Russia, but NOT in America?  Comment below.

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  1. Pingback: Squash Caviar, Why Russia is Awesome, Etc. | Planet Russia

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