Rachael: The Sky is Just the Sky
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Moscow, etc.
I’m a recent university graduate from Canada who moved to Moscow in the summer of 2013. I teach English at a local language school, which I really enjoy, and am happily getting to know Russian culture!
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I start blogging almost as soon as I landed the job in Moscow. I knew this was going to be a unique experience and wanted it captured for posterity. It’s always so interesting to look back at earlier posts and see how I was feeling and what was going on. It’s also a nice way to meet other expats!
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
One of my favorites has to be my write-up on Elton John’s Moscow concert, back in December. It was a rare privilege to see such an amazing artist live, and the political context of his appearance made it so much more than an ordinary performance.
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?
The Russian way of doing business varies hugely from that of Canada, and that was a significant adjustment. It’s also much less “openly friendly” than back home – though once you make friends, the people are generous and kind. It is also a place where you really have to pay attention to yourself and what you are doing – as a foreigner you have much less opportunity for “fallback” when things go wrong.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Moscow? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
It’s one thing to read about differences and another to live them. I’ve had some tough experiences and some fantastic moments, but it’s all an opportunity to learn. I would have started speaking Russian earlier and more frequently. It has improved by leaps and bounds in the past few months, but could have been so much better!
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
My students alone could provide a novel’s worth. One time, I gave my teens a lecture on why “shut up” is not a nice phrase in English, to which one girl raised her hand and asked: “But when I say ‘please be quiet’ – why is he not shut up?”…Why, indeed.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Moscow?
- Make sure you educate yourself on local practices, so that you aren’t thrown by the changes – especially in the workplace.
- Never turn down an opportunity to see something new.
- And don’t be afraid to feel the ups and downs of expat life.
How is the expat community in Moscow? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community is large and full of interesting people. There are many events around Moscow which cater to us. I found friends pretty easily, as my school employs many foreign teachers. Ask around and don’t be afraid to reach out.
How would you summarize your expat life in Moscow in a single, catchy sentence?
Always complicated, always unusual, always rewarding.