Soviet people were convinced that paradise existed “overseas.” Every misfortune, every contretemps was narrated with the obligatory addendum of how nothing this untoward could have happened overseas where problems did not exist, period. (The hatred Russians feel for “the West” today originated in the discovery that life there was not fully paradisiacal. It’s that sense of betrayal when you discover that Santa isn’t real and there is no magic in the world.)

What’s really curious, though, is that there is a large class of Americans who are like that, too. They also think there’s a paradise and they bring it up with maniacal dedication. Like their Soviet counterparts, they believe that paradise is located overseas. Their Garden of Eden is a vaguely defined Northern Europe, and one ends up having the most tiresomely repetitive discussions with them. 

“I can’t have any dessert because I’m pre-diabetic.”

“Ugh! Here in the US half of the population is diabetic. We are so third-world! This doesn’t happen in other countries.”

“It’s hereditary. My grandfather died of diabetes.”

“You see! If this was in Western Europe, he’d live to be 80!”

“He did, actually.”

“And his healthcare would have been free! And it would have been of a much better quality!”

“He died in Ukraine.”

“Good for him! At least it wasn’t in this horrible country!”

At which point I begin to contemplate gorging on massive quantities of dessert with the goal of going into a hyperglycemic shock and escaping from this insane conversation.


18 thoughts on “Paradise”

  1. “At least it wasn’t in this horrible country!”

    Hey, cut these disgruntled Americans some slack. I remember the winters in Illinois when I was stationed there, and the locale definitely reminded me of Siberia.

    You want year-around paradise in the U.S. — move to Arizona.


    1. I’ve never been to Siberia, of course, but the climate here is a lot milder than even Ukraine, let alone Russia. My health suffers because I’m physically incapable of adapting to this climate.


      1. Well, you’re in southern IL which I think has maybe a Philadelphia or DC climate, not even as cold as New York, let alone Chicago, let alone … etc. Your latitude is about that of San Francisco, compared to Ukraine’s which is like Portland, OR or Seattle / Vancouver; Russia’s further north than that and northern Siberia’s practically the Arctic. BUT those prairie landscapes, they’re still steppe, and so is southern Argentina


      2. I am taking an interest in this. It is 9C in Kharkov and also Moscow right now, and -22C in Novosibirsk, similarly cold in Omsk, -37C in Yakutsk! It is also fairly warm throughout the US and Canada, including Alaska and the Yukon, etc., Manitoba, and also Greenland. It’s also -7 in Kazan. So I don’t know, Siberia just seems to be the coldest-coldest. They don’t even have land at the parallel point in the southern hemisphere, until you get to Antarctica. Canada doesn’t seem to be able to get as cold


        1. In Siberia, they have double-paned windows, and the distance between the two panes is up to one meter! Because they need it to cold-proof apartments. I’ve never seen anything like this because I’m not from a climate that’s this harsh. But I do remember going to school on a road flanked on both sides with mounds of snow taller than my height.


          1. One meter, that’s a lot! The mounds of snow like that, I’ve seen it in upstate NY, for instance, concluding that snow quantities and cold do not correlate exactly.


            1. Where I am (western Poland) it snows only within a temperture range of -1 or -2 C or between -10-15 (tiny hard pellets). It’s rare for snow to pile up because it needs to snow a lot and then get colder and snow again as temperatures are aroudn 0 again and that just doesn’t happen in the city (countryside yes but cities are warmer on average).
              The last time snow was piled up for a while was six or seven years ago.
              So far this year there’ve been flurries in the air that don’t last on the ground and a little that lasted just long enough to turn into slippery slush for a few hours.

              In general terms IINM the world is still in an el nino event and that causes atypical weather all over the world, mostly warmer than average winters here.


  2. Today I was told that in other countries there is a way for old people to remain in their houses and receive all the care they need. I REALLY doubt it, not for people who need 24/7 help, a certain amount of it with highly trained personnel, and who need this on the longer term. I can’t imagine what it would cost — just to have 24/7 sitters cost us $14K/mo. for my mother. I’m so glad my father is in a hospital-type setting just for the social interaction, let alone the expertise, and even he says this despite not liking the hospital-ness of it — his comment on the idea of being stuck in bed in the house was “I am not a hermit!”


    1. I’d also vastly prefer a hospital type of setting. For men, especially, it’s very helpful to have the social aspect provided. They tend to take isolation very badly because they are not equipped to deal with it.

      It must be so hard for you. There’s a lot of responsibility and it’s always a lonely thing to go through for an adult child of an elderly person.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “paradise existed “overseas”

    I think this is a more or less human universal. The Polish version of that is “in a normal country” (w normalnym kraju). Things in Poland were compared with the hypothetical normal country and Poland was found wanting.

    “This (thing that just happened) would never happen in a normal country”

    “In a normal country they would do X” (X being the opposite of what’s done in Poland)

    “When will I be able to live in a normal country?”

    It’s not as common as it used to be but it’s still around.


    1. Here in Kurdistan I have taken to saying that here du koi du penj (2 plus 2 is five) to note the fact that things actually are radically different here than elsewhere. Nowhere else have I seen university students that almost universally behave worse than the worst primary school students.


  4. When I was a student I hated taking advanced lab classes because lots of our equipment was crappy (my lab partner and got bad electric shocks from old machines on separate occasions, etc). I told this to a Hungarian professor who replied that she felt the same way about the lab equipment when she was a student, but she assumed it was all crappy because it was in Hungary.


  5. Every country has its problems. I do, however, want to live in a country with socialized medicine. If I didn’t have to worry about paying the co-insurance for major illnesses and 9800 dollars out-of-pocket maxes per year, I think I’d be a little less stressed. I also wish that every single K-12 education were good quality for all citizens. But I am an idealist about these things. I know that there’s no panacea for America’s problems. Or the world’s problems. There are problems everywhere.


    1. If I lived in the neighboring country with socialised medicine, I wouldn’t have my daughter right now. I can’t get over that knowledge.

      The sense of impotence when you just can’t get a doctor to give you a second of their time while you are distraught with pain is something I’ll never forget. This was my experience in Canada, and it was uniformly bad. Here, my doctor sees me 30 minutes after I call, no questions asked. In Canada, I’d have to wait for months to get that “free” appointment.

      That’s just my experience, though. I’m sure people have different stories.


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