Polly: A Girl And Her Travels
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Moscow, etc.
My name is Polly. I'm originally from a tiny town in Virginia, USA. After studying Russian language at Beloit College, I moved to Moscow, Russia. I've been living in Russian and working as an ESL teacher, freelancer, and blogger since 2010.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I've kept a few blogs during my time here, all of which were started in order to document my experiences and help keep my family and friends back home updated as to what I've been doing here in Russia.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
- Dating in Moscow as a female
- An open letter to future Moscow expats
- One of my most popular posts: What can you buy in Moscow for 30 rubles?
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?
For me, the biggest transition wasn't something exotic: the language barrier was tough but not insurmountable and I didn't experience much culture shock. What really got to me was transitioning from living in a small town to living in one of the largest, craziest cities in the world. I love the experience of living in a big city – after growing up in a small town, it's nice to live somewhere where life goes on after 9PM.
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 really wasn't prepared at all. I decided to graduate from university a year early, mid-way through the year, so all of my decisions were a bit by the seat of the pants. I got a job with one of the big teaching companies and arrived in Russia not knowing anyone and with no real plans in place. Honestly, I wouldn't change how I did it. If I've learned anything while living here, it's that nothing in Russia is predictable and making plans can often be frustrating and futile.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Everyone has the stereotype in their mind that Russians are very cold people when in fact on one of my very first days in Russia I learned the opposite. I had decided to be brave and take a train from my city into Moscow – all went well until I was coming back and accidentally got off on the wrong stop. The way the train station worked is that it wasn't possible to get to the other side of the tracks without exiting through the turnstyle – which I couldn't do as my ticket was for another station. Totally befuddled, I walked up to a group of station attendants who very kindly let me through the gate – and was promptly whisked away by a Russian babushka who heard my plight and led me to the correct platform (even managing to sweet talk the gate attendants so I didn't have to buy another ticket). There's kindness everywhere and it's lovely to discover, even if it all stemmed from your own stupidity.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Moscow?
- You'll never be prepared for your first winter. I came to Moscow from Wisconsin (whose winter is nothing to scoff at!), but the length and ferocity of Moscow's winters is truly mind-blowing.
- Learn some Russian. If you didn't have the chance to study Russian language like I did, at least learn a few phrases that will make your life much easier. For example, how to buy tickets on the bus, basic numbers, and how to order at a restaurant are good starts.
- Cultivate patience. Russia is a very bureaucratic, lumbering country. Rarely is anything simple and your life will be a thousand times easier if you acknowledge beforehand that not everything will always work out how you thought it would.
How is the expat community in Moscow? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community in Moscow, particularly of teachers and younger people, is quite close-knit. It seems everyone knows someone through a friend-of-a-friend. I found it quite easy to meet a lot of people very quickly. My advice? Go to a British pub on a Friday night – you'll very quickly find some English speakers.
How would you summarize your expat life in Moscow in a single, catchy sentence?
21-year-old plans to live in Moscow for one year, loves it, and can't seem to leave!