BelarusFeed together with its contributors already compared Minsk and Rome, Mogilev and Cardiff. Now it’s time for Alana Felton to go north and check how life in Vitebsk differs from that in Providence, Rhode Island, the USA.
At first glance, Vitebsk, Belarus and Providence seem to have very little in common. Vitebsk is nearly 700 years older than Providence and is more than double the physical size of Providence.
Moreover, Providence’s population is less than 200,000, whereas Vitebsk population exceeds 350,000. However, taking a closer look at the two cities reveals some similarities as well as differences.
Providence has quite a variety of hotels with different price tags and accommodations available for guests. Vitebsk, on the other hand, has fewer options.
Overall, housing is much more expensive in Providence than in Vitebsk and the registration system in Vitebsk is much more time-consuming and complicated than in Providence.
The average cost of a one-bedroom (two-room) apartment in Providence will cost you approximately $1,000, which is vastly more expensive than a similar apartment in Vitebsk, which costs approximately $200 – $250.
While both cities provide relatively affordable public transportation, Vitebsk’s public transportation would win the award for most efficient and consistent, in my opinion.
Vitebsk offers several different modes of public transportation such as buses and trolleys and one can also spend a bit more money and catch a fast marshrutka. Providence, on the other hand, has only buses and they can run a bit late on occasion.
Taxis in Vitebsk are much more inexpensive than in Providence, but in my experience, they take a lot longer to pick you up than Providence taxi services do.
Groceries and restaurants
Sorry, Vitebsk but Providence has you beat in this category. Providence is home to one of the best culinary schools in the USA, Johnson and Wales University, and therefore the city also has an incredible variety of cuisines.
In an average week in Providence, I could dine on bibimbap at a Korean restaurant for dinner, wake up the next morning and get French-style crepes and then for lunch choose from Portuguese, Cambodian, Japanese or Italian restaurants.
Vitebsk is rather limited in terms of food variety, and I have yet to find a pizza restaurant that has pizza even close to the quality in Providence.
That being said, food prices are much lower in Vitebsk and Belarusian cuisine is delicious. I have never had better meals made from potatoes than I have in Belarus.
Vitebsk has a good variety of cafes with coffee and desserts that are comparable to the coffee shops in Providence that I frequented while in university.
Grocery stores in Providence, like restaurants, have a much wider variety of food available than in Vitebsk I sometimes struggle to find certain food products I like.
However, the outdoor markets in Vitebsk have been a great place for me to buy fresh produce. Providence grocery stores have very good fresh fruit, vegetables, and meats available in most grocery stores.
Based on the limited data I could find online about crime rates in Vitebsk and Providence it would seem that Vitebsk is a safer city to live in.
Based on my own experience, I would say that I feel much safer walking in the dark alone in Vitebsk than I ever did in Providence.
From my perspective (that is somewhat limited in this area), both Vitebsk and Providence seem to have decent healthcare systems. Both cities are home to large medical universities and have several large hospitals and treatment centers.
However, people in Vitebsk speak about the quality of their healthcare with more skepticism than most of the people in Providence that I talked to did. Overall, the cost of healthcare in Belarus is much lower than in the United States and Vitebsk and Providence are no exception.
I think that some of Vitebsk’s and Providence’s biggest similarities are related to both cities’ artistic qualities. Vitebsk is the birthplace of the great artist Marc Chagall and has been home to several incredible art schools over the years.
Similarly, Providence is home to one of the top art institutes in the USA, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Because of both cities’ artistic ties, one can find interesting public art scattered around the cities including murals and sculptures and random drawings.
Each summer both cities celebrate their artistic qualities with festivals. Each summer in Vitebsk there is Slavianski Bazaar, a festival that lasts for a few days and is devoted mostly to Slavic culture, music and art and has many international visitors every year.
In Providence from the end of May until the end of October, there are weekend festivals organized to promote art and community engagement in the city.
Both Vitebsk and Providence also have zoos, although I have not had the opportunity to visit either of them and cannot compare them except to say that Roger William’s Zoo Park in Providence is much larger than Vitebsk’s Zoo Park.
Both cities have large college student populations and it seems to me that in both places I often see university and college students walking around.
The weather in Vitebsk and Providence is also quite similar. During the winter season, both become very gray and wet with lots of rain and slushy snow on the ground. Vitebsk does get colder, though.
Another similarity is that both cities have a large river running through them. When I cross bridges in Vitebsk, I am often reminded of the Providence River.
Both cities are lovely places to visit and live and I am so thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to spend time in both of them!
Text by Alana Felton