How to survive in Moscow as an expat

Moscow overlook

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

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

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

If you are a tourist in Moscow, not an expat, I recommend reading this post – 18 Best Things Not To Miss in Moscow

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 what this is so important.  Why do people want to go to Moscow all of a sudden?

Well, the thing is, Russia is in an ongoing economic crisis. And, even if Moscow used to be one of the most expensive cities in the world, that is far from true now.

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

It means that now everything has just become twice as cheap!

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 if you live in Moscow!

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

True, it is not as 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, now that the advantages of living there are clear, let me begin the “interview”, where basically you, my dear reader, are interviewing me:

Moscow cremlin

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

No, I am from a city called Yekaterinburg. It is located kind of in the middle of Russia, in between Siberia and Moscow and it 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 would you describe Moscow to a foreigner?

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

Answering your question – Moscow is an old city, and the city center has the 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 since 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; they are all open.

russian men

Are people there friendly toward expats and foreigners?

Yes, I would say so. You might encounter some problems when you try to learn our alphabet or ask for directions in a busy metro (oh, those people in the Moscow metro, always in a rush). But generally, people are very interested in foreigners and are willing to help them 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. It might look really scary in the beginning, but, if you look closer, it is actually quite similar to Latin and when I teach my friends, they understand 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 where 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.

If you are just arriving in Moscow and you need some recommendations for the best places to stay, I have  just the one  for you – these are hand picked hotel suggestions all with great reviews and sorted by location (city center, near railway stations, airports etc) and by price for your convenience. Read the post here.

russian girl

What tips would you give people to help them assimilate to 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 antisocial at first, remember, we do not smile at strangers, we just do not see the reason why we should do that. But you will completely change your opinion about Russians and Russian hospitality as you make some local friends.

Get a VK account (a national Facebook that we use more than regular Facebook), 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 bustling with these kinds of groups. Here are a few sites that I have used myself to hang out with the international crowd – Language exchange Group a really cool way to meet new friends while mastering a new language), Toastmasters Moscow (another great way to make friends by 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 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 get easier and you will be invited to more events, 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 of the city, located in Beijing Hotel (a former KGB building);

Noor Bar is conveniently located on Tverskaya Street (the heart of the city) and is 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!


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

You know what 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 true 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!


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survive moscow

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