Expat Living: Dacha Time! How The World De-Stresses

Image of a Russian dacha, vacation cottageI remember being asked in Azerbaijan, “Why don’t Americans have dachas? Most Americans have more money than us, so why don’t you have a dacha?”

Good question…

Is it that we can’t afford to have a dacha?

Certainly US property taxes are a major obstacle for some.

Perhaps it’s just a cultural thing, something other countries do?

According to one dacha Wiki page, things are changing slowly and we may soon have the “dacha culture” in America after all:

Dachas are very common in Russia, and are also widespread in most parts of the former Soviet Union. It is estimated that about 50% of Russian families living in large cities have dachas.[2] 

Dachas have also started appearing in regions of North America known for their high concentrations of immigrants from Russia and Ukraine. Russians and Ukrainians from New York City, Long Island, and New Jersey have been retreating to their Russian-style dacha homes in the forests of Upstate New York in order to recreate the dacha experiences they had during the Soviet era.

I wonder why has America resisted this dacha lifestyle for so long? Why is it that the new immigrants are just now bringing this concept to life here in America?

Oddly enough, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis (the Fed? I did say odd), the theory comes down to this:

“We [Americans] are proud of being busy—it is a virtue; being idle is perceived as a vice.”

A report in the Journal of Happiness Studies asserts that Americans maximize their happiness (life satisfaction) by working; Europeans through leisure.

CNN puts it this way, “Let’s be blunt:  If you like to take lots of vacation, the United States is not the place to work.

Stressed out, overworked and overwhelmed, many folks need time off but are worried and fearful that a short vacation could lead to a permanent one. They feel damned if they do; damned if they don’t. Not a very psychologically healthy place to be.

So, it seems there is a cultural difference after all.

CNN points out that Americans seem to be unique, but not in a good way.

“Besides a handful of national holidays, the typical American worker bee gets two or three precious weeks off out of a whole year to relax and see the world — much less than what people in many other countries receive.

And even that amount of vacation often comes with strings attached.”

 “It’s typical for Germans to take off three consecutive weeks in August when “most of the country kind of closes down”.”

I don’t think Americans could even imagine America “closing down” for a few weeks in August while everyone took off on vacations or went to their dachas. (Personally, I think there would be a collective panic if did that!)

Here is an interesting graphic on vacation time by country, prepared by Mercer for CNN:

Graphic chart showing Vacation Time by Country

Vacation Time by Country

With that much time off, people can actually, really, relax and unwind.

Is that the attraction of the dacha for the fortunate Europeans who have that culture?

I can’t sum this up any better than Josh Wilson does here:

But for many Russians, the dacha is still a simple home-away-from-home.  Every weekend, many don large rubber boots (резиновые сапоги) and weed and care for their vegetable patches. 

They eat shashlik (a kind of barbeque on skewers), play outdoor games, go for walks and just relax. 

At night, they retire to what usually amounts to a simple wooden shack, often lacking running water and electricity.  To many, this is a “return to the soil,” to their roots and the ways of their forefathers.  

Although some scoff at this ramshackle Russian tradition, both supporters and scoffers alike will agree that the dacha is an important part of народность (Russianness). 


Here’s how I manage to relax (at least I do when I’m not busy breaking bones!)



I hope, wherever you live, and whatever amount of time you have off this summer, that you find a way to relax and de-stress.

    • Go to, or create, a “dacha-like” space- your own or with other friends to theirs,
    • Go to a Tibetan Buddhist retreat, like reader Alice Keys did recently
      (This Tibetan Buddhist retreat is open to the public and free for quiet walks/ meditation during the day)
    • Take time to “stop and smell the roses” (try mine!), or
    • Book a whole spa day, if that’s all the time you have.








  1. Lovell, John (2011). The Shadow of War: Russia and the USSR, 1941 to the present. John Wiley & Sons.
  2. Struyk, Raymond J.; Angelici, Karen (1996). “The Russian Dacha phenomenon”. Housing Studies 11 (2): 233–250. doi:10.1080/02673039608720854.




Journal of Happiness Studies,  April 2011Volume 12Issue 2pp 225-243:

   “Europeans Work to Live and Americans Live to Work
(Who is Happy to Work More: Americans or Europeans?)”



6 thoughts on “Expat Living: Dacha Time! How The World De-Stresses

  1. Thanks for linking to my article. I agree that taking time for quiet contemplation is essential to all humans. Time with family is also important to maintain psychological health and the health of relationships. I walk a lot (also when I’m not breaking bones ;-)). I like to be active. But I have to admit to smelling a lot of roses along the way.

    Good work on this one. 🙂

    PS Did you make the photo video? Lovely!


    • Thank you! Yes I did, using a very simple Animoto background for my own photos.

      Being outdoors is my detox, de-stress mode so it was natural to photo the results to keep for the snowy winter days.

      Your post came out at just the right time- it was perfect harmony (as befits a Tibetan Buddhist retreat). Thanks for letting me share it! That was pretty cool telepathy!


      • Wow. Your photos are extravagant! I love it that you captured the ant on the peony.

        I spend as much time as possible outdoors, too. Nature helps keep me on track. I really enjoyed the retreat grounds and the quiet walk. It gave me a chance to think and to “not” think. .

        I have much gratitude to the monks for opening the grounds. I have much gratitude to my friend for taking me there. 🙂

        You and me are spirit sisters. Expect good things.


      • Awww, I love that you noticed the ant! You’re the only one to have commented on him (though I’m not surprised – you would pick up on him!)

        I would love to have been able to take that walk to the retreat. I thought it was cool that they had the chakra benches at each meditation point- it would take me forever to leave a sanctuary like that!

        You’re right about the connection – I’m expecting good things (and healing) for both of us! ;~>


      • When I was little I was told that the ants ate something sticky off the peony buds and helped them to open. Your photo flashed me back in time. I loved watching the ants and thinking of them being helpful.

        Wonderful things are happening all the time for me/us. 🙂


  2. Pingback: Expat Living: What I Learned In Creating Our American Dacha | Life Lessons

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