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Anna: Home & Away

In our InterNations Recommended Blog section we let you take the spotlight! Expat life in general is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for great, user-generated reads, and life in Moscow makes no exception. Take your time and browse the great blogs showcased in this article!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Moscow, etc. 

I was born in Moscow, but I spent most of my teenage years and nearly all of my adult life in the US. I returned to Russia a couple of years ago. By day I work at a news network, by night I write and watch adventure movies, and on weekends I’m usually horseback-riding.

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

I felt very much like a fish out of water for months after I returned to the Motherland, which was very unexpected, not at all like ‘coming home’. In fact, I felt more like a foreigner upon moving back to Russia than when I first came to the US – an experience which was difficult to understand for my friends and family both here and abroad. Internet to the rescue! The blog became part expat diary, part travel pitch for Moscow, because it really is an amazing city.

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

Tell us about the ways your new life in Moscow differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?

I spent the last 7 pre-Moscow years in New York City, so going from one huge, noisy, busy city to another definitely eased the adjustment. The biggest shock was the language. I barely spoke any Russian for more than a decade, so while my comprehension was perfect, I would choke trying to say the most basic things. At first, I even asked friends to order for me at restaurants, because just the idea of speaking Russian, after so many years of English, seemed so weird. My brain just wouldn’t make the switch.

Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Moscow? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?

I was very hesitant to make the move, but once I set my mind to it, I was committed to maintaining a positive attitude. Maybe because of that, or because many things in Moscow – from the economy to basic services to public safety – improved drastically since my childhood days, my overall impression of the city was a lot more positive than I expected it to be. I expected to complain a lot more about not having access to one thing or another.

In terms of preparation, I definitely would have bought more warm clothes in the US, and brought them here. It’s not just because compared to New York, Moscow is much colder, for much longer – it’s also because that it really is as expensive as they say.

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?

While recapping my work experience at a job interview, my nuanced handling of the Russian language turned my experience as an energy markets analyst into something VERY NSFW. More recently, while describing a cute baby, I horrified my friends by telling them that everyone tried to rip the child’s eyes out – while attempting to say that “nobody could take their eyes off him.”

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Moscow?

  • Don’t catch a taxi – call one. For a New Yorker, cabs are an essential mode of transportation – ubiquitous, affordable, safe. But hailing one in Moscow is not the best idea, unless you look Russian, speak fluent Russian, know your way around, and have a bit of an attitude. If you luck out with a licensed taxi in the Center, you’ll get MAJORLY ripped off – at best. At worst, and especially with gypsy cabs… I’m sure you’ve heard stories. Luckily, there are now plenty of taxi services in Moscow where you can order a car in advance. With the right company, you can book the car and pay for it with a credit card online, have it at your door in less than 15 minutes, and spend $12-20 for most cross-city travel (and $40 to go to the airport). 
  • Embrace the grey. It is the color of the weather and the city for 6 to 8 months out of the year. If you can’t deal – get out to the countryside as much as you can.
  • Even more so, embrace Nature. Going out 'into nature’ (na prirodu) will not only allow you to bond with Russians over the sacred rituals of mushroom-picking, proper banya, and shashlyki BBQ, but will be essential to maintaining your sanity during the Grey Months and clean lungs during the Summer Smog.

How is the expat community in Moscow? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

I’ve seen estimates that say there are some 100,000 foreigners in Moscow that hail from ‘the far abroad.’ For me, the challenge is connecting with this crowd. Most people – Russians and expats alike – see me as a local until they get to know me, so sometimes it’s difficult to explain to a stranger why I seem to be leaning towards something opposite of ‘my own [Western] kind,' or why I feel a lot more comfortable speaking English rather than Russian. But working at an international company, connecting with fellow bloggers, and attending InterNations events has helped me to start building a proper social circle in Moscow.

How would you summarize your expat life in Moscow in a single, catchy sentence?

Take a deep breath and embrace the unexpected!

Jürgen Hofmeister

"When I came to Moscow I barely knew anyone, but now I've got dozens of expat contacts from dozens of countries. "

Caroline Hayes

"At the first InterNations Moscow event that I attended I was absolutely delighted by the elegant atmosphere and the high-quality expat crowd. "

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