Dear Future Moscow Expats,
Hi! Exciting, isn’t it, tossing all practicality to the wind and coming to Moscow? Some might have called you crazy and hey, they may be right. But you’re in for an excellent adventure. So to sooth the frayed nerves of all you brave souls, good luck and here’s what I’d want you to know:
Russia and Russians’ legendary unfriendliness is, surprisingly, mostly legend. Russians put on a hard face for the world, but that doesn’t accurately reflect their personality. Underneath the cold exterior, Russians can be incredibly helpful, friendly, and funny, even when they’re helping out totally hapless, helpless foreigners. For those who hold on to fearful anecdotes about Russians yelling at stupid foreigners for being too slow, stupid, or just plain foreign, I answer: have you never been to a major city before?
Autumn and winter will make you sad. I am not someone who is normally affected by the weather. Back in America, cold weather and grey skies were welcome occurrences. So what makes Moscow winter worse? Not so much the cold (however if you’re from somewhere warm, HA! Good luck!), but the distinct lack of sun for nearly half a year. Combined with already short days, filthy snow, and Moscow’s naturally grey facade, it’s easy to fall into melancholy somewhere after the New Year holidays.
Moscow and Russia are two different worlds. Don’t think that because you’ve lived in Moscow you know everything about Russian life. I’ll be up front and say I also have little grasp on the “other” Russia that exists outside of Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and a handful of other cities. Life in Moscow may not be totally up to European or American standards, but life is good. Salaries are high for expats, all of the creature comforts can be found (for a price), and there’s a solid community of people to call friends, regardless of nationality. Travel outside of Moscow for a few kilometers and see how quickly life changes. (Seriously, come a few kilometers outside of Moscow and hang out at the Russky’s family house — wooden and without hot water or a toilet.) Russia is made up of two worlds — Moscow is just one half of the experience.
But these are all the massive, overarching themes of Russia that you can read about in any travel book or website. What you can’t prepare yourself for and what will really (infuriatingly) endear you to Moscow are the small nuances of life that’s half-familiar and half-surreal. Turning the corner and coming up on a magically painted Russian Orthodox cathedral. Sitting in a park until the early morning hours, nursing beers or taking shots of vodka with a few of your favorite friends. Getting miserably lost in a forest of Soviet block flats. Wandering through a new place in the city and unexpectedly finding the next metro stop. Freezing your extremities off while waiting for a bus that never comes. Strolling through the forest, knee deep in the snow.
To finish all this, I guess all I can say is you’ll either hate Moscow or you’ll love-hate it. Future Moscow expats: it’s frustrating. It’s endearing. It’s… Moscow. But don’t take my word for it, come and see it for yourself.
I’ve even got an extra bed waiting for you after you get through that damned visa process.
OK, fellow bloggers. I’m officially challenging you all to write an open letter to future residents of your future city. Who knows, maybe you’ll convince a few people to pack up and move away?