Pros and cons of expat life in Russia

Pros and cons of expat life in Russia

Pros and cons of expat life in Russia

Russia is hardly ever out of the headlines nowadays for political reasons, but what’s it really like to be an expat in this controversial land?

Whilst it has to be said that expat professionals aren’t exactly queuing up to take on career advancement relocation to this uncomfortably Communist heartland, for many expat wanderers it’s a challenge they enjoy. One rarely mentioned motivation for becoming an expat in a specific land is the long-time, often inexplicable fascination they’ve felt for one particular location, its culture, its language and its people. Also, due to the 20th century’s mass migrations, many Westerners whose parents or grandparents came from Russia are curious to experience at least a few aspects of their genetic inheritance.

According to expats who’ve been there and done that, their first impressions led to the realisation that Russia couldn’t function without its very own form of corruption. Many don’t hesitate to stress that bribes run the country as wages are comparatively low compared with the cost of living. Everyone in every sector expects a small gift, either of currency or goods, in order to successfully perform even the smallest tasks. The larger the task, the larger the gift!
Another much-missed aspect of life for those arriving from the West is predictability, which simply doesn’t exist in this massive country, thus making every day an adventure.

The language is another barrier barring expatriates from an appreciation of Russian history and culture, with many new arrivals left wondering why their Russian colleagues spend so much time talking about the Russian soul. This much-vaunted accessory is crucial to all Russians, as it explains a great deal about their attitudes to life in general. Positives of living and working in the country include the Russian people themselves – known for their outgoing characters, welcoming of strangers and hospitality in general. Strangers start conversations with expats at every hands’ turn, at which point learning the language becomes compulsory rather than optional.

Unless you’re living in Russia’s far south, the Russian winter is a serious no-no for those unable to adjust to freezing temperatures for much of the year. Its plunging mercury defeated Napoleon’s and Hitler’s armies, and does its annual best to force expats from warmer climes to scuttle back to their home countries. It’s no use saying you’ll get used to it – you won’t, ever, unless you were raised in a remote, high Alpine village or the Himalayas. Winter is the perfect time to get to grips with Russia’s murky history and amazing culture via a visit to the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. Founded in 1764 to house Catherine the Great’s collection, it’s the second-largest in the world and is crammed with priceless artefacts and examples of the world’s greatest art. For expats and even short-term visitors, Russia is a unique destination which can easily become an obsession.

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