They are prepared to see armed troops in the streets, aggressive police, censorship and repressed poverty stricken people living in dispare. What they find is a large population doing just fine, happy, open, well traveled, well mannered, and the most educated country on earth. About the only government they see is passport control at the airport and maybe food patrol traffic police who have no jurisdiction off the street. They end up having a great time and meet lots of locals, and do seem to return more often to Russia than they would to most countries after the first visit. The reason people are happy is their ample free time, lack of debt and 70% own their home without any debt/mortgage, almost all are college or university educated and there is virtually no homelessness. Russians tend to travel a lot, particularly young Russians so they are very familiar with much of the world, but few Americans travel so it is more of a surprise to them when their strongest held beliefs turn out to be myth.