Recently my husband and I had to consider where in the world our next move would take us. There were several choices but we eventually focused on a position in Moscow. Straightaway I turned to my wonderful Expatclic network of expat women, and I was lucky enough to find Leyli as an invaluable source of support and information. Armed with all the details of her host city, I decided to put together an article on how to live in Moscow as an expat. So, here it is, with a seal of approval from Leyli, to whom I send warm thanks.
The main thing, and probably the most important information to know about Moscow, is that it is home to a truly vast expat community of various nationalities. This is a true reflection of the fact that the city has made great strides in recent times. It has developed into a very lively metropolis, with vast cultural offerings. One thing that is certain, living in Moscow you won’t ever get bored, not even for a single moment.
The cultural centres representing the different countries, are extremely active, as are the various expatriate associations. Lots of activities are organised, with never ending things to discover about each and every one. There are cinemas that show films in English, and of course plenty of opera and theatre to enjoy.
The city is clean, well organised and very safe too. There is a high level of involvement by the authorities who control the daily running of the city, so there’s a low crime rate.
Traffic is very heavy, and it really isn’t worth having a car in Moscow. If you want to move around, Uber is available, and taxis are cheap. The most practical and convenient way to travel around the city is by subway, which is still one of the most beautifully ornate in the world. Traversing the city becomes even easier as there are more and more signs in English.
The most noticeable downside of life in Moscow is the climate. It is extremely cold during the unyielding and gloomy winters for at least six months of the year. There is very little light (it was calculated in the winter of 2017 that there were a total of six minutes of light!). Thankfully, homes are well heated, and in some cases, too much so.
Speaking of homes, rents are very high (Moscow is a very expensive city). The choice of accommodation for expatriates is divided between the Rosinka district, where most international schools are located, and Arbat, in central Moscow, near the Kremlin. Rosinka is outside Moscow, but it is definitely more suited for those with school-age children.
Many expatriates send their children to the Anglo-American school (AAS),which is also the most “ancient” and prestigious school in Moscow at 70 years old. It is very expensive but many expats with links to oil companies, eventually send their children to study in the UK, the US and many go to Canada, so this kind of school is a must. These expats usually reside in Pokrovsky Hills or Rosinka, both very popular neighbourhoods.
The British attend both the AAS and the British school (BIS), near Rosinka. Other international schools in English are the English International School (EIS) and the International School of Moscow (ISM),the latter being more popular among the Spanish-speaking expat community.
There are many international schools exclusively for their citizens: Japanese, Indonesian, Swedish, etc.
As for health care, there is a European Medical Centre where English is spoken, and which seems to be at the forefront for care and assistance. An Italian hospital should be opening soon. For more serious cases, it is advisable to return to home.
The connections with the Bel Paese are many and frequent. There are direct flights to Rome every day and a large number of airlines, including of course Aeroflot, but also European ones such as Alitalia, Lufthansa, etc.
Another rather difficult aspect of living in Moscow is the rigidity of the bureaucracy, which also unfortunately involves the issuing of visas. You must always be very careful not to let a visa expire, and you must inform the authorities whenever you have a guest coming from abroad.
All in all, however, living in Moscow is great. Once you have studied a little Russian (not everyone speaks English), getting in touch with the locals is not that difficult: the Russians are reserved but very helpful, and once you become friends, they love you sincerely.
Living in Moscow is a continuous discovery, but even outside the city there are wonderful tours allowing you to explore further afield. On the Golden Ring you can arrive in St. Petersburg in four hours, and there are many other beautiful trips that can be made between the Urals and Lake Baikal.
Leyli strongly recommends the following site, which she found a great help in her early days in Moscow: https://www.expat.ru/survivalguide.php
Claudia Landini (Claudiaexpat)
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