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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Unhappy Expats Rank Russia in the Bottom 10

Expats in Russia struggle to settle into a cold country with a difficult language but see some financial improvements.
  • 77% of expats find it difficult to live in Russia without speaking the language.
  • Russia has fallen 16 places regarding childcare options.
  • 54% of expats in the country rate the climate and weather negatively.
  • Russia ranks 22nd in the Cost of Living Index — its best result yet in this index.
  • 17% are unhappier after moving abroad (vs. 16% globally).

Russian Language a Problem for Expats

Russia has fallen into the bottom 10 countries for expats for the first time since 2015, ranking 56th out of 64 destinations in 2019. It is also the worst country in terms of language, placing 64th, behind even Japan and China. Over three out of four expats in Russia (77%) find it difficult to live in the country without speaking the language, nearly double the global average (40%), and only 14% find it easy to learn the local language in Russia compared to 37% of expats worldwide. A Swiss expat claims “the language is too difficult to learn if you work full time” as “you need time to learn and revise it”, and close to three in five respondents (59%) share that they were worried about the language barrier prior to their move (vs. 37% globally).

It takes time for local people to trust you and open up to you.

Expats’ struggle with the language may be affecting their ability to settle in: Russia ranks 56th out of 64 countries in the Ease of Settling In Index. Only about two in five expats in Russia (37%) agree it’s easy to settle down in the country, while nearly three out of five respondents worldwide (59%) think likewise. Admittedly, Russia performs slightly better for finding friends, but still below par, ranking 37th in the respective subcategory. An expat from Turkey admits that “people can be open,” but that “it takes time for local people to trust you and open up to you”.

Family Life Ratings on the Decline

Family life in Russia is on a downward spiral: the country has fallen from 23rd out of 50 countries in 2018 to 28th out of 36 in 2019 in the Family Life Index. The most dramatic drop can be observed regarding childcare options: here, Russia fell 16 places from 15th out of 50 countries in 2018 to 31st out of 36 in 2019. While the global average of expat parents satisfied with this factor rose slightly from 61% in 2018 to 63% in 2019, the share in Russia fell 18 percentage points from 74% to 56%.

What’s more, Russia has dropped nine places to rank 28th for the availability of childcare and education and six places to 31st regarding options for children’s education. The country is also third from the bottom (34th out of 36 countries) for children’s health, with just a quarter of expat parents (25%) rating children’s health in Russia as very good (vs. 38% globally).

However, the country does see improvement in one area related to family life: the cost. Russia has risen seven places to rank 11th and 14th for both the affordability of childcare and education, respectively. Nearly three in five expat parents in Russia (57%) agree that education is easy to afford (vs. 49% worldwide), and one Congolese expat comments that “the low cost of tuition fees” is something he particularly likes about Russia.

Expats Unhappy with the Russian Climate

Russia places 50th out of 64 countries in the Quality of Life Index in 2019. Expats are particularly unhappy with the climate and weather: Russia places in the bottom 5 (60th) for this factor. Over half the expats in Russia (54%) rate the climate and weather negatively, compared to just over one in five worldwide (21%). A Turkish expat remarks that “the climate is difficult to cope with if you are coming from a Mediterranean country”, while an expat from the USA dislikes the “dark winters”.

The climate is difficult to cope with if you are coming from a Mediterranean country.

Career Prospects Improve Slightly

Career prospects and job satisfaction in Russia have improved, albeit slightly. Russia places 40th out of 64 countries in the respective subcategory, up 16 places from 56th out of 68 in 2018. Despite this improvement, Russia still remains a largely unattractive country for expats to work in. It only ranks 49th for job security and 56th for work and leisure, with close to a third of respondents (32%) dissatisfied with their work-life balance (vs. 21% worldwide). This can maybe be partly attributed to the fact that expats working full time in Russia work over four hours more each week than their counterparts worldwide (48.1 hours a week vs. 43.9 globally).

Expats Managing Better with Poorly Performing Economy

The state of Russia’s economy continues to displease expats: the country ranks 54th for this factor, with nearly two out of five expats in Russia (39%) rating it negatively — over double the global average (18%). The financial situation is a cause of concern for expats, too, with Russia ranking 43rd for this factor. One Turkish expat explicitly mentions “the economic issues such as the dollar to ruble rate” as something that he dislikes.

However, expats seem to be managing slightly better financially than in 2018. In terms of whether expats’ disposable income is enough to cover daily costs, Russia has actually climbed 18 positions from 37th out of 68 destinations in 2018 to 19th out of 64 in 2019. Over one in five expats (21%) think that their disposable income is a lot more than enough (vs. 11% globally). On top of this, Russia records its best results yet in the Cost of Living Index, ranking 22nd. Fewer than one out of five expats (18%) rate the cost of living negatively, compared to over one-third of expats globally (34%).

Further Reading