RUSSIA - If you've never been to Russia, put aside your impressions of that country for a moment.
Russia today, at least on the surface, is very different from the Russia of the Cold War and the early 1990s. The bread and toilet paper lines are gone. Today, many enjoy what the Western culture has to offer. People at least have access to all things that used to be a luxury or a subject of stories from those who was able to travel abroad.
Entertainment, as long as you can afford it, is not limited to any one culture or any one character.
Sochi's city-owned amusement park has every character American kids can think of.
"Recently there are no borders with the internet," said Sergei Karuna, deputy director "Riviera Sochi" Park. "We have foreign characters as well as Russian ones. We have characters from England, India, Greece, there is no difference. People want to see what they watch on TV, or their computer screens, they want to see it live, touch it, take a picture. These are recognizable character. No politics here, pure economics."
The bigger the cities have more options for shopping, dining and entertainment. Russia's capital feels a lot like New York City.
Take a short stroll down one of Moscow's oldest streets and you're surrounded by Western products.
There is a Starbucks, a Wendy's and Dunken Donuts, just to name a few.
Russians are split on what they think of the food.
The 9NEWS crew had a chance to ask some residents of another large Russian city about fast food and Western influences in general. Rostov-on-Don is the host of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It's within driving distance from Sochi. It's a city of more than one million people, situated on of the largest rivers Don.
"If people want to consume that [fast food], more power to them," said Tatiana Nijnikova, a Rostov resident. "Those who don't want it won't eat that."
"I am against fast food," Sergei Alnikov told us. "I don't support that. It's bad for your health. It's bad for the nation."
Some Russians aren't too excited about the English words that have seeped in and stayed in the Russian language. For instance, Russians use the word "Marketing." The very Western expression "wow" is now used here as well.
Nijnikova brought it up.
"I don't like that, especially lately," she said. "While back in the early 90s, when the country was developing, those words were appropriate. Right now, the Russian language is being filled with unnecessary foreign words."
Even the younger generation believe kids are on the wrong track.
"Kids have forgotten about books, what it's like to read, what it's like to go for walks; everyone is buried in iPhones, iPads, music," said 18-year-old Anastasia Tolstoutskaya from Rostov. "It would be nice if the kids spent more time on their spiritual development, want to theater."
However, just like it is with anything in life, people we talked to believe there can be and should be a balance, that Western influence can be positive and negative.
It seems Russia is just trying to find that balance, a balance between the old and the new. Or maybe it's trying to find a new identity all together, what it means to be Russian.
While there are no more bread and toilet paper lines of the early 90s, food and products are readily available; not everyone has access to everything.
The divide between the rich and the poor is felt even more than it is in this country.
The rich are able to pay cash for Maseratis and the poor are struggling to make ends meet.
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)