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
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 get easier and you will be invited to more events, will meet more people etc.
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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Thank you for your article, it is nice to read the point of view of an actual Moscovite about her city.
I lived in Moscow as an expat between 2011 and 2016 and loved it, it is a very special experience in my life. I am French and have lived in Paris all my life, which is a huge city too, but as you said, Moscow seems more lively (even though Paris is already very lively), as you said everything is open all the time and lots of people in the streets at all hours.
The choice of places to go to eat, drink, culture like theatres, ballet, cinema, museums, etc. is just overwhelming. Also lots of shopping opportunities if you are into that. Transportation can be difficult, the metro is great, in my opinion the best in the world, however busses and trams are quite unreliable in my opinion and driving is a nightmare. I would honestly recommend you to never drive in Russia if you are not used to it, and I am not an easily scared person.
What make Moscow so special, apart from being a huge city, meaning that there is always something do to and something to see, is that Russia is such a unique country. It can seem very similar to Western Europe and then all of a sudden extremely different, it really enlargens your horizon to get to know the culture. As Moscow is the center of Russia, it also feels like an important place, where decisions are made and you can kind of feel that vibe in the city.
I worked together mainly with Russians and learnt the language enough to be able to go out only with Russians and speak Russian during that time, I do make lots of mistakes though and my accent is horrible. As you said the alphabet is scary at first, but easy to learn, the language itself if very difficult however, you will need a lot of patience.
The weather is actually kind of okay I think, summers are very nice and winters are cold, but everything is made for that, so you only really feel cold when you walk a lot outside, which most people don’t in winter. The only thing is that winter is really very long. In December I never really minded the cold, in April I did.
The only negatives for me were that Russia being such a huge country Moscow is kind of far away from everything if you want to travel. Also while the center is beautiful and I saw that they are renovating a lot, if you live and work in Moscow be prepared that you might spend 90 percent of your time in not very beautiful surroundings (except in summer when the city is beautiful everywhere because it is so green)
Also while in general I do love Russians, contrary to the stereotypes they are a very cultivated people, lots of people are extremely well read, love literature, music, theatre, philosophy and they are very loyal to their friends and family, also they are very funny if you know them, in everyday life most people you meet are not very friendly. I’m saying that coming from Paris, which is also known for being quite a rude city, but I feel like Russians have kind of an insider-outsider mentality. They are wonderful with the people they know but very mistrusting of strangers. That being said you will have an advantage as a foreigner, as I feel like most Russians seem to have a more positive image of foreigners than of their countrymen…
Also it seems that has changed, but I thought that the balance salaries and cost of living was not very good, when I was there it had almost the prices of Paris with salaries quite a bit lower… But that also depends on where you go, what you do for work etc.
Altogether I would not want to live in Moscow forever, but I am very much looking forward to going back to visit and I would stay there again for a few years in a heartbeat! If you do have the chance to go, do it 🙂
Have a happy new year Yulia and everybody reading this 🙂
SO nice of you, Marie, to write this!
I am happy you liked living in Moscow, hope you will come back and not once – there are always so many new cool things to do there!
Happy New Year to you too, hope it will be nice to all of us! 🙂
I have heard stories of foreign people going to russia and they were put in prison, because russia thought they were spying.
I would like to live in Russia, because it’s cheap and fun. But wouldn’t russia think “what is this Dutch girl doing here” “is she spying on us”?
And how are gay people treated in Moscow?
I don’t really know what to reply to you, Lisanne, except that you may be reading news from dubious sources that do sacrifice the quality to a click-bait-y article 🙂
I know a lot of expats that live in Moscow and the rest of Russia, and I have never heard about anything like that, so stay assured, everything will be fine! I would love for you to come (when they open the borders again) and see it for yourself – people are super friendly towards foreigners and the government is far from what it was 30-40 years ago. You will like it i Moscow, I promise! 🙂
As for your other question, while other cities might be a bit more close minded, Moscow would definitely be the place to go. Unless you will specifically try to show off your non-traditional sexual orientation, again, noone can care less 🙂
I hope I answered your questions and as i said, once you come see the place in person, I am sure all your concerns will fade away! 🙂
Your writeup was very educative and useful thank you so much. Please how can I get a 1room apartment in Moscow, somewhere not too far from people’s friendship university.
Check out this website – https://www.cian.ru/ (all the current offers can be found there!)
Stumbled upon this article, wanted to know if there is indian community that can support other indians
Yep, there definitely is. My sister from moscowplaces.com can help you out with it, she hangs out with many indians and can maybe introduce you to some! Just drop her a message through the contact form on the site 🙂
Great friendly website for first_timers to Russia, enjoyed it!
True, I do have a lot of articles on Russia (it’s my home country, after all, haha)!
Super useful post about Moscow! I also read the one about best places to stay in Moscow and I’m going to choose my hotel based on that!
Its very good article. Moscow is beautiful city. i am very happy to happy to read this post. its great information keep updating new data…
Thank you, Moscow is indeed a gorgeous city! 🙂
Well written blog. I claim up in Russia because I do not speak Russian. I wish I could find a guide to help me see the cool places.
i have a long blog post with tips on things to do in Moscow, i also give recommendations for guided tours there, check it out, hope it will be useful!
First I wanted to thank you for this informative article!
I am not Russian and I am going to live in Moscow for next 6 months (at least) and I would like to ask you some questions about some of the neighborhoods in Moscow and suburbs, so if you could give me some advises on them I would be very thankful.
As far as I know living inside the city is expensive so I have decided to rent a place for myself in one of the suburban towns around Moscow.
I learned that there are four suburban townsaround Moscow:
I want to know which of these towns is more suitable and safe for a foreigner to live in?
I am a 30-year-old man with no wife and no child so I will be living alone.
If you could introduce me any websites that can help me to know the neighborhoods in Moscow and suburbs it would be great.
Thank you in advance
nice you are moving to Moscow, you will surely have a lot of fun there!
While I dont know much about every suburb town surrounding Moscow of course, I know that Podolsk is pretty easy – it is 25 mins away by electrichka to Tsaritsino metro stop and it has everything you might need in the city stores wise.
The rent should be much cheaper there as well.
I hope this helps, sorry i cant consult on every town.
P.S. I also have a very detailed article on things to do in Moscow, check it out for when you feel like exploring the city! 🙂
Thank you Yulia!
Actually your blog can help me a lot, I will definitely read your articles on Moscow.
Hi Yulia, enjoyed reading your post. I’m going to be moving to Moscow for a year teaching in a school. I noticed that your article is over 2 year old now – would you say that most of the information on here is still relevant? Can you give an update on the cost of living for example – is it still 2 x cheaper?
congratz for going to Moscow, I am sure you will enjoy it!
You can find updated information about prices and also tons of tips on things to do in Moscow in my newer post here – https://misstourist.com/18-best-things-to-do-in-moscow/
Hi, a great article helped a lot, I’m moving to Moscow for 4 years and looks amazing I just speak English and Spanish so I’m scared about the language a little bit and the cold 😀 I’m from Mexico currently living in Australia so guess will be so different 😛
Wow, thats exiting Arturo!
I am sure you will LOVE it there and you will learn some stuff in russian too! 🙂
Jim ‘N’ Jack’s expat bar
H2 (Hudson Bar)
The Standard bar
I have expressed my opinion in this post,
thank you very much for adding some valuable information here!
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.
Expat friendly bars
Just Russian good/bad bars (the ones you mentioned)
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
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?
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! 🙂
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! 🙂
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.
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 🙂
moscow has always been on my list. hopefully sooon…
Great Article! I have been to Moscow twice. Once in the Summer and once in the Winter. What a beautiful city!
Thanks! I am so glad you liked it! Now it s time to discover more of Russia! 🙂
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?
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!
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.
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! 🙂