How to survive in Moscow as an expat?

Moscow overlookAs a native Russian traveling the world full-time, I have recently understood that I have absolutely no articles about my home country on my blog!

To fix this shameful mistake, I have wrapped up the post about the question that people ask me a lot recently.

Is it hard to live in Moscow as an expat? Are people nice and friendly? Or gloomy and closed? How do I make friends? Which places do I go?

Matreshka russia moscow

Calm down my friends, I’ve got it all covered for you!

But first of all, let me explain to my other readers why is it so important?  Why do people want to go to Moscow all of a sudden?

Well, the thing is, Russia is in ongoing economical crisis at the moment. And, even if Moscow used to be one of the most expensive cities in the world, it is far from true now.

But at the same time, it has saved the high standard of living, all the nice restaurants, great transportation system, amazing nightlife. What does it mean for you?

It means that now everything has just become twice cheaper!

Russian currency ruble

Russian currency – ruble

You can live a very good life, renting a nice flat, going out, learning the language – everything will be very cheap!

Moscow is especially great for digital nomads, who want to stay in some place with good living standards for not so much money and work online at the same time.

True, it is not that affordable as Chiang Mai for instance, but you can rent a good 1 bedroom apartment for US$500 thanks to the currency exchange rate now.

Ok, as now the advantages are clear, let me begin the “interview”, where basically you, my dear reader, is interviewing me:

Moscow cremlin

Please remind me: you said you were from Moscow originally? Did you grow up there?

No, I am from the city called Yekaterinburg. It is located kind of in the middle of Russia, in between Siberia and Moscow and it t is the 3rd biggest city after Moscow and Saint Petersburg. But I used to live in Moscow for a while as well, so I can tell you a little bit about the city.

Moskva river Moscow

How is it different from America and Western Europe? How is it the same?

Moscow, and Russia in general, are very special places. I cannot really say that it belongs to Europe fully, nor I can say that about Asia. We have our own special blend that makes us unique.

Answering your question – Moscow is an old city, and the city center has that charm of an old European capital. There are tons of shopping malls and restaurants on every corner! Sometimes I feel like Moscow is way more alive than some European capitals, all the places are open late if not 24/7. You do not have to wander around in search of an open supermarket on Sunday like, for instance, in Paris, it is all open.

russian men

Are people there friendly toward expats and foreigners?

Yes, I would say so. You might encounter some problems when you learn our alphabet or ask for directions in a busy metro (oh, those people in Moscow metro, always in a rush). But generally, people are very interested in foreigners and are willing to help them even despite the language barrier.

Kremlin russia snow moscow

What part of life is hardest for people who move there from out of the country? Any tips to help them overcome this?

Yes, as I mentioned above you should learn to read the alphabet. You will need it in order to read the signs, transport – everything. Yes, it might look really scary in the beginning, but, if you look closer, it is actually quite similar to the Latin one and when I teach my friends, they apprehend it in 30-40 minutes.

The weather might be another issue (it is Russia, duh!). But keep one thing in mind – we have a lot of resources to warm up our houses, and this is when we do not go cheap. Actually, when I was living in Italy, I felt cold and sick all the time during the winter there, because the heating system there cannot be compared to the one in Russia.

russian girl

What tips would you give people to help them assimilate with the culture and the locals?

Moscow is a good place to start assimilating the Russian culture. People are more open-minded there and much more progressive.

Make as many friends as possible. Even if Russian people might seem cold and gloomy at first, remember, we do not smile to strangers, we just do not see the reason why we should do it. But you will completely change your opinion about Russians and Russian hospitality as you will get some local friends.

Get a VK account (a national Facebook that we use more), especially if you want to meet pretty Russian girls! 😉 They are also more likely to speak foreign languages to help you assimilate in the beginning.

Time out roof top Moscow

What tips would you give me to make friends with the locals and other expats? 

Again, Moscow is the right choice as it is busting with this kind of groups. Just to name a few sites that I have used myself to hang out with international crowd – Language exchange Group (a really cool way to meet new friends while mastering your language), Toastmasters Moscow (another great ways to make friends practicing your public speaking skills (in English). Couchsurfing is often a great way to meet local people in any country – just drop them a line asking if they are interested in meeting for a cup of coffee (better, tea, we love tea! 😉 ). Have you heard about meetup.com? Just search for a group that interests you and join some of the meetups. It is quite active in Moscow.

Once you get to know a couple of circles of people it will be easier, you will be invited to more event, will meet more people etc.

moscow nightlife

Are there any bars, restaurants, etc that are popular with expats? 

Timeout rooftop bar is a pretty cool place to meet other expats with an amazing view to the city, located in Beijing hotel (a former KGB building);

Noor Bar – is conveniently located on Tverskaya street (the heart of the city), Moscow’s best bar in the eyes of Timeout magazine, thus, many foreigners hang out there;

Jagger Bar in Moscow is usually full of foreigners as well.

P.S. I also HIGHLY recommend visiting St. Petersburg, it is just 4 hours from Moscow with a speed train. I also have a great blog post about things to do in St. Petersburg, check it out!

Conclusion:

Russia is a very special place, do not miss you chance to live here for a while!

You know, they say “Strangers are just friends you don’t know yet”.

Don’t be shy, just approach people first, use all the endless opportunities that this great city has to offer and you will be able to experience the real Russia with its real people and hopefully understand our mentality a bit better! 😉

What do you think? Have you been to Moscow? What are your pros and cons about the idea of living in Moscow? My expat friends in Moscow, do you have anything to add?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Yulia


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How to survive in Moscow as an expat Miss tourist.com

By | 2017-02-25T09:59:38+00:00 February 2nd, 2016|Europe, Moscow, Russia|17 Comments

About the Author:

Yulia is originally Russian but truly is a world citizen in heart. She was traveling around the world for over 4 years now. Her blog MissTourist.com is created with the purpose to inspire people to travel more and to share her advice of how to travel "smart".

17 Comments

  1. Rick Nielson 03.02.2016 at 04:32 - Reply

    Great information, thank you! My nephew lived in and around Yekaterinburg for 2 years and loved it! I have no expat plans but would love to just stay in Moscow for maybe 3-4 weeks. Maybe if you could post something for the short term tourists with a desire to meet people while enjoying the places (Trip Advisor is full of suggestions for places). My wife and I are well beyond the “bar scene” stage of life but find great experiences in meeting people while traveling internationally.

    • Yulia 08.02.2016 at 22:48 - Reply

      Hi Rick! Glad to hear he liked my city!
      Got you – you dont really want to go to clubs and bars but still want to meet people, correct?
      Well, you can still use pretty much the same links above (toastmasters, language exchange, couchsurfing meetings etc.)
      If you want to know what is happening in Moscow in the recent days, this is a good site to check out – http://kudago.com/msk/ (google translate it).
      Let me know if you have more questions! 🙂

  2. Nabajyoti Borgohain 03.02.2016 at 14:03 - Reply

    Me and my wife are planning a visit to Russia in the winters to have a white Christmas, I am not sure whether the climate will be favorable at that time. What is the procedure of getting a tourist visa from India? Some say one has to send invite, but how can I get an invite?? What are places can I cover in Russia within a 10 days visit?

    • Yulia 08.02.2016 at 22:52 - Reply

      Hi Nabajyoti and thanks for the comment!
      Russia can be quite cold in January and February, but it is really worth the experience I’d say! Just bring the warm clothes with you (or you can buy it in Russia already).
      You do not have to worry about the warmth INSIDE the buildings/transports etc. It is really warm (we have much resources ;))
      As for the visa, I know that you will need an invitation from your hotel/friend and regular paperwork such as tickets, booking, insurance, bank account statement etc.
      If you visit Russia for more than a week, I definitely recommend doing the trans siberian!

  3. Robert 14.02.2016 at 19:39 - Reply

    Great Article! I have been to Moscow twice. Once in the Summer and once in the Winter. What a beautiful city!

    • Yulia 16.02.2016 at 01:22 - Reply

      Thanks! I am so glad you liked it! Now it s time to discover more of Russia! 🙂

  4. Rafael 19.02.2016 at 21:11 - Reply

    moscow has always been on my list. hopefully sooon…

  5. Denny Laura 02.06.2016 at 14:52 - Reply

    True that!

  6. Steve 16.06.2016 at 03:15 - Reply

    Very interesting Yulia. I’ve never visited Russia, but I hope to do so in the future. I think I’d avoid the expat bars though. When I travel I like to try and live like a native and mix with the locals.

    • Yulia 16.06.2016 at 14:22 - Reply

      Sure, I do the same!
      This post is written for people who are living in Moscow and want to find some friends – Russians or expats like them 🙂

  7. Alberto C. 12.10.2016 at 11:35 - Reply

    Great post! I had the chance to visit Moscow just a few weeks ago and I absolutely loved it! This city has some much to offer.

    I actually wrote a post about my 4 day itinerary, feel free to have a look and let me know what you think! 🙂

    http://www.arwtravels.com/blog/moscow-4-day-itinerary

  8. Eva Pena 14.10.2016 at 02:38 - Reply

    Dear Julia I am a retired 62 year old woman. I have been looking at the beautiful scenery in Moscow and St. Petersburg and thinking that I would like to spend some time there. Is there any special advice you can give for a woman my edge? Are there groups of senior women that get together to chat, or library meetings for conversation or cultural talks, like here in the US?

    • Yulia 18.10.2016 at 18:36 - Reply

      Hello Eva!
      It is wonderful you are going to Russia, you definitely chose 2 great cities to get to know the country better.
      I am not sure about library meetings and such, sorry, 95% cases they will be in russian.
      But I would definitely check meetup.com and Moscow Toastbusters club (we even have 2).
      If something else comes to my mind i will definitely let you know! 🙂

  9. Rick Z 02.11.2016 at 11:55 - Reply

    Hey Yulia thank you for the great post. I am in Moscow n I’ve opened a vk account as u suggested for the purpose u mentioned ;p
    But what to do next? if i have no contacts…
    keep up the good work
    cheers

  10. Khater 15.12.2016 at 09:01 - Reply

    Actually you didn’t mention a single expat bar, just random ones, expats & locals who speak languages don’t get together in these bars, I guess you should’ve researched the moscow expat bars before writing.
    There are:
    Expat bars
    Expat friendly bars
    Just Russian good/bad bars (the ones you mentioned)

  11. Khater 15.12.2016 at 09:03 - Reply

    Heads up:
    Jim ‘N’ Jack’s expat bar
    H2 (Hudson Bar)
    Papas Place
    The Standard bar
    Brazilia cafe

    • Yulia 15.12.2016 at 18:49 - Reply

      I have expressed my opinion in this post,
      thank you very much for adding some valuable information here!

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