Five Ways to Settle Fast in Russia

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Five Ways to Settle Fast in Russia

I know first-hand that moving to Russia can seem like a daunting prospect — but it doesn’t have to be! Any expat moving to Russia is likely to experience culture shock, but there are ways to make this transition period easier and indeed more enjoyable.

Learn the Language

Without doubt, learning the language is the best way to help yourself settle in to life in Russia. If you don’t know the language, navigating around the cities will be difficult and the day to day tasks that we think are easy will suddenly become much more challenging. With the exception of Moscow and Saint Petersburg, English isn’t as widely spoken as you may think, so this really is an important first step to take. As you learn more and more Russian, you’ll begin to feel much more relaxed and less restricted in what you can do.

Start by learning the Cyrillic alphabet: although it may look complicated, it should be a lot less challenging than you think. Even a basic understanding of this will facilitate your transition period, as many new words that you think look super complicated, such as супермаркет and ресторан, will reveal themselves to be the same in English (supermarket and restaurant).

Socializing with Russians

Knowledge of Russian links in nicely to my second top tip: socializing with Russians. When I first arrived in Russia, my culture shock was certainly not helped by the fact that I had never socialized with a Russian person before. I felt like a bit of a misfit in the beginning, and it was hard to assimilate myself with this new way of life. A rather common problem is that many expats moving to Russia will avoid contact with Russian people not only because of the language, but also due to the fact that Russians can seem rather rude and cold towards people they don’t know. This was certainly my initial perception! In Russia, do not expect a thank you for holding the door for someone! This is totally normal however and is not due to a lack of manners.

I would wholly encourage contact with Russians as often as possible. After building up a relationship with somebody, Russians are extremely hospitable and friendly towards people and will always be there to help you. Expats in Russia can only benefit from having Russian friends, and this will without doubt make you feel comfortable in your new surroundings much faster.

Develop a Routine

Although developing a routine that works for you can take time, the benefits of having one are boundless for an acclimatizing expat in Russia. In my personal experience, having a daily routine was extremely important in helping me to get over the initial culture shock. Instead of having free time to stress about the new situation I was in, or having time to think about how much I missed home, I occupied myself with a fairly regimented daily schedule until I was totally at ease with my new environment.

Choosing Accommodation That’s Right for You

Making sure that you invest time into finding a house or apartment that suits your needs and meets your expectations can help save you a lot of time and unwanted stress. Before your move, make sure you are clear about which sort of living arrangements you want to make, whether it be in a shared apartment with friends or even on your own.

Personally, I found this to be a hugely important factor as to how easily I acclimatized to my new environment. If the accommodation you’re in doesn’t meet your expectations, this has the potential to negatively affect the speed at which you settle. If your preference is to be in a shared house or apartment, it is important to bear in mind that the accommodation you will move into will be very different to the accommodation that most expats are accustomed to. Particularly in big cities such as Moscow and Saint Petersburg, accommodation is almost always in the form of a small flat. If you would like your own privacy, I would highly recommend making plans to rent an apartment instead.

Similarly, if you’re keen to avoid the morning rush-hour, try to ensure that your accommodation is closely located to a nearby public transport operator. Particularly in Moscow, congestion in the city is a problem, and making use of public transport is almost always advisable.

Go Out and Take In Your New Surroundings

Familiarizing yourself with your new surroundings is always a great way to feel more at home in a new place. When you have a free day, why not go out and make the most of what Russia has to offer? You can find out where your local shops are, or where you can have a nice meal to relax and enjoy yourself. The quicker you familiarize yourself with the area in which you live, the quicker you’ll feel like you belong in Russia.


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