The expatriate community in Minsk is particularly small, and generally limited to diplomats, teachers, students and clergy. That said, the concentration of international residents in Minsk is far greater than other areas of Belarus, and the expats here are lively and active.
From youth social groups and educational organizations to an Ultimate Frisbee Club, there are lots of opportunities to meet other foreigners and integrate into the international community.
The Russian for Foreigners class at Fialta has a huge turnout and is one of the easiest and friendliest environments in which to make friends. The level of spoken Russian varies widely across the group but the attitude is one of encouragement, and there is always plenty of tea and biscuits on offer.
Friendships with the locals are hard to win; Eastern European culture is markedly different to Western society and friends here are prized and not to be taken lightly. A good level of understanding of the spoken languages is essential to integrating with the locals.
Healthcare in Belarus is amongst the best of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), with medical tourism rapidly becoming a substantial industry. Thanks to an updated version of the Soviet health model, Belarusian citizens receive free treatment.
Foreigners living in Minsk are legally required to obtain adequate medical insurance prior to taking up residence in the city — indeed, it is necessary to obtain a visa.
There are ten hospitals in the country, four of which are situated in Minsk and include two specialist children’s hospitals.
Minsk is the best area in Belarus for schooling. The city boasts hundreds of kindergartens, schools and higher educational institutes, as well as the QSI International School of Minsk.
The international school teaches an American curriculum and caters to children from pre-school through secondary level. Classes are taught in English with Russian lessons taught as part of the languages curriculum.
The Belarusian schooling system is free at all levels, with a government-led curriculum overseen at a regional level by local authorities. There is a legal requirement for children to be educated between the ages of six and fifteen, with an option of going on to higher education or vocational training dependent on the preferences of the individual.
The perception of Minsk in terms of safety has been damaged recently with multiple sources citing huge rises in petty crime and bribery since 2010. However, despite this rise, the level of crime in the city remains moderately low, with burglaries and violent crime levels far lower than some Western capitals.
As with all cities, some areas are more dangerous than others, but taking reasonable precautions and being aware of your surroundings will help to keep you safe while living in Minsk.