5 Things No One Tells You About Moving to Russia

If you’re considering moving to Russia for whatever reason – whether it’s to start your own business or teach English or study abroad – you’re probably expecting a pretty sizeable culture shock.  However, in light of Russia’s powerful role in the business world and their large demand for native-speaking English teachers, it can be a very profitable place to start a career and experience a foreign culture if you don’t mind cold winters and eating lots of beets.  Here are five things to keep in mind.

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Visa runs.  Between Russia’s high turnover rate of government ministers and Vladimir Putin’s increasing disapproval of western infiltration, you may suddenly find that a visa extension you were promised one moment is simply no longer there.  In this case, you will have to leave the country and apply for a new visa at a Russian consulate – and the rules for this are always in flux.  Some nationalities may head to a country on Russia’s border, such as Finland or the Ukraine; others may have to return to their home country.

Image 4Expats there are weird.  No matter how much it’s developed in recent years, Russia is still a very difficult country to live in, with brutal winters and a standard of living probably much lower than what you’re used to.  Most people who choose to emigrate to Russia are those who found life in their home country unsatisfying, for whatever reason.  You will run into everyone from the harmless oddballs to political fanatics obsessed with Communism – keep in mind these will be your peer group, unless you know enough Russian to befriend locals.

Russians are eager to talk to foreigners.  Contrary to the stereotype of Russians as cold and unfriendly, they are generally very excited to meet foreigners – especially in smaller towns – because they usually don’t see a lot of them.  Americans especially will find Russians fascinated by their wanting to visit their country, and eager to strike up a very deep, intense conversation.

There is a lot of racism and homophobia.   If you have dark skin and resemble anyone from the Caucasus region, you may find yourself the target of harassment, Militsia (Russian police) stopping you to ask for your papers, or even violence.  (This is especially bad in St. Petersburg.)  If you’re openly gay, you should probably not go at all.

Bribery is commonplace.  From government officials all the way down to the neighborhood beat cop, accepting bribes is a normal thing to do.  It can feel frustrating and unfair when you’re singled out by some Militsia looking for extra spending money, or when you’re strong-armed into paying extra to get around the Russian bureaucracy.

Clearly, there are plenty of setbacks to moving to Russia – however, it can also be a profitable and exciting adventure for those who stick it out.  Make your transition to Russian life as easy as possible by learning Russian right away.  Send us an enquiry or take our free online Russian language level test to see where we can place you.