Struggling with the visa application? Got a question about Russian grammar? Wondering about the process of getting married abroad? Want to know what I think about the Ukraine situation? (No, actually, don’t ask that. You probably already know and the ultra-nationalist Russians who occasionally comment here are pretty ruthless!)
Anyway, if you’ve got a Russia related question, we can try to answer it. No promises that it’ll go any better than last time.
Get your questions in below within the next few days and next weekend we’ll update you all with the oh-so-insightful answers!
Today I’m hopping off the blog (and into a movie and a liter or so of delicious cider which no, I am not planning on sharing with the Russky!) and giving up this spot to one of my favorite blogs out there, MongomeryFest. If you haven’t seen this awesome blog before, it’s basically the remarkably well-photographed life of two American expats in Brussels, Belgium. Be warned though, you might get mega expat envy when you see how well they’re living it up…
Describe your blog in one word: Love.
One word was a little limiting. Got anything more to add?: We have a whole lotta love for travel and music. We’re also not shy on the gushy marriage part – it’s kinda the most important role we play.
This is my first link up with the Move to America blog. If you’re a blogger, you should absolutely check it out!
I usually frustrate people looking for a good story when I describe my first experiences in Russia. Aside from buying a train ticket to the wrong station (which I managed to get myself out of with what I’d like to think was a charming combination of Russian skills and cuteness), my first weeks and months as an expat were mostly just a lot of fun. Even when I’ve become incredibly annoyed with some aspect of Russian culture or living abroad, I never saw any of it as a particular challenge.
Well, fine, you might be saying. So why the hell are you participating in this link up?
Up until about a year and a half ago, I really didn’t have any huge obstacles to overcome. What changed? Well, all the sudden there was an extra Russian in my life. (And no, I’m not talking about my hedgehog.)
Dating, and eventually marrying someone with a Russian passport was definitely my unexpected challenge of expat life.
Are you in Moscow and looking for a way to have a little romance and/or enjoy the not-so-chilly weather? Free up a night, fill up a flask, and head down to Chistye Prudy. The whole park is lined with trees wrapped in Christmas lights and packed full of fellow Muscovites out to enjoy the last bit of winter magic. You can even still hop onto the frozen pond (be sure to dodge the hockey players!). Just be quick before winter’s well and truly over!
Any Muscovites: anything else I should be doing this weekend? For all you non-Muscovites, what are you up to this weekend? Is it warm enough to venture outside yet?
Hey, all! Happy, happy weekend to you all. I can’t be the only one GASPING in relief that we finally made it! I’m off to celebrate and while I’m gone, I’ve got two interesting people to introduce you to: Alex at Ifs Ands & Butts and Hayley of Living It Up As Hayup!. Get to know them here and then hop over to their blogs afterwards! (Just click on their banner to get there!)
Let’s first welcome Alex from the excellent expat blog Ifs Ands & Butts. Try not to laugh at that, I dare you! An expat bartender living in Karlsruhe, Germany, Alex’s blog is always entertaining and informative. She took the time to answer some of my questions, so let’s get to know her…
Where do you live and what do you do?: I am a former au pair, current bartender at an Irish pub, and an aspiring masters student in Karlsruhe, Germany.
When I first arrived in Moscow, I was rather surprised to find myself deposited in a small suburb of Moscow called Korolev. (I’m sure you can imagine a lot of panicked thoughts as the taxi driver picked me up from the airport, started driving, and ignored all the signs pointing toward Moscow!) Korolev was OK. There wasn’t much to do, but there were a lot of good people and, hey, it was close enough to Moscow for a night out.
Perhaps my favorite part of living in my little apartment (aside from the fact that I lived by myself and my students constantly admonished me for slumming it in the “bad part of town”) was that it was about 200 meters away from the entrance of the Moscow region’s biggest national park, Лосиный Остров (Losiny Ostrov) — Elk Island.
Ever wanted to uproot your life and move Iceland? Well you will after you check out Unlocking Kiki! Kaelene is an American turned expat living and loving it up in Reykjavík, Iceland. She’s one of my favorite bloggers out there and was kind enough to be a sponsor for my blog this month. Check out her interview below and then head over…
Where do you live and what do you do?: I live in Reykjavik, Iceland with my Viking, H. For the month I am a social media consultant for the university and then back to the job search I go.
Describe your blog in one word: Honest
One word was a little limiting. Got anything more to add?: My blog is where I talk about transitioning to life as an expat, my attempts at fitting into the Icelandic society, how awkward I am trying to make new friends, my struggles with the language barrier and any random thoughts I may have on my mind that day. I don’t sugar coat things and tell it how it is, the good, the bad, and the ugly, I am an open book and my blog reflects that.
Let me start by saying that my winner is probably a pretty easy guess. Despite the horrific smog of the first month I lived here, the insane traffic, and the generally grittiness of big-city life, Moscow has become my second home.
Because of that, I feel I can pretty confidently describe life in Moscow; however, I’ve never spent any real time in Saint Petersburg so I don’t claim to be an expert. But I have visited and came away with some thoughts (most of which seem to go against every other expat’s opinion, but whatever!). For my entirely unscientific comparison, I’ve come up with three pros and three cons for both cities and I’ll let you all be the judge.
Oh, Moscow. Russia’s capital and one of the biggest, most expensive, craziest cities in the world. It’s been my home for the past four years and it’s the biggest love-hate relationship I’ve ever had.
1. It’s a real 24/7 city. There are a million and one things to do in Moscow on any given day. Half the year it’s grey and freezing, but if you can drag yourself out of the house you’re sure to find something interesting.
2. You can’t beat the metro system. Seriously. It just wins.
3. There’s real money to be made. There’s a reason that Russians, people from the former USSR, and other expats flock to Moscow: opportunity. For Russians (and citizens of the former USSR), salaries are massively higher than in other Russian cities. For expats, the money to be earned can be astronomically high. (Just don’t get me started on how Moscow’s meteoric rise has meant the demise of basically every other city and village in Russia…).
1. It’s not a western city. Now this is not a factor for me personally because I feel it’s pretty obvious. However, I’m consistently shocked by the number of expats who come to Moscow and wash out because of high expectations. Russia is not a European country, why would you expect Moscow to be a European city? It’s a sprawling, confusing mess with infrastructure, bureaucracy, and standards of living that are not the same as they would be in western Europe.
2. It’s depressing and dirty. Grey buildings, grey skies, grey snow. Add to that the Russian people’s disregard for properly disposing trash, and things get pretty dismal.
3. Living costs are astronomical. Sure, your salary sounds great, but not after you factor in how much you’re going to be paying every month! Rent, food, and entertainment prices are consistently some of the highest in the world!
The “most western Russian city” was founded by its namesake, Peter the Great, at the very beginning of the 18th century. Because of Moscow’s position as first city, Saint Petersburg (or Piter, if you’re in the know) has had the last century or so to percolate a more placid, intellectual existence.
(Yup, it’s that meal here.) It’s been a long week already, you guys. I’m exhausted, but trying to take pleasure in the small things. The sun is finally out when I leave work! Olympics! A stiff drink and a laze on the bed! Plus, only two more days of work until it’s the weekend again!
So in lieu of anything intellectually stimulating today (because I provide that so often, you know), here are some pictures of what I’ve been up to recently:
Eating this bad-ass ice cream. The Russky ate Darth Vader, I had Mayakovsky
For example, my husband worked for some time in an ambulance and it was not the sort of ambulance us westerns might think of. No, my husband worked with his father in what might be more aptly called a “deathmobile”. What exactly is a deathmobile? Well, I’d wager many Americans find their relatives (or themselves) dying in a hospital’s white-roomed quietness. In contrast, Russians are still prone to dying at home in such numbers that it necessitates a secondary ambulance service that only picks up already dead patients.
I’ve heard some stories from his time as an ambulance driver, but for the most part the Russian is quite blasé about it all. “I guess it was a good job. Lots of important people owe my father favors. I mean, everyone dies. Even the rich people.”
The first time you see a dead body is quite shocking – particularly, I’d imagine, when it comes upon you by surprise. It’s all well and good for hospitals or hospices to have dead bodies. At least there you can feel a little better, assuming that person’s end was met with some care and perhaps even kindness.
Because of the good fortune of my childhood, my first time was at the ticket counter in the Arbatskaya metro station.