I'm from Durban, South Africa, and have been living in Moscow for just over a year. I've met lots of great friends over here, but always find it loads of fun to meet new people. I was only motivated to join a site like this to find someone to watch ...
Why did you decide to move to Moscow?
The reason I moved to Russia was purely because it was the first country where I was offered employment: I had just finished working in Dubai for a year and didn't want to go back to South Africa, so I applied for work anywhere and everywhere.
I do consider myself lucky though, since it's been the most fun I've had so far and I plan on living there indefinitely.
How was the moving process?
I would say the moving process was a lot less traumatic than I thought it would be.
Since I worked for a big company and they put me into a flat with other English speakers, I immediately had people to show me around, help me out with most of the questions I had, etc.
What are the formalities to be able to stay and work in Russia?
I would say the best is to get a proper, one-year work visa. I know there are different kinds of visas out there and that a lot of people tend to do visa-runs every few months, but the easiest would be to find work with a company that organizes the visa for you.
Failing that, there are agencies in Russia that can help with you personally obtaining your own work visa, but that does of course come at a price.
How was your job search? Any advice you would like to share with the other members looking for a job there?
I had a job before I came over to Moscow, but I've since then left that company and am currently working freelance.
The advice I would give to other members here in Moscow is that it's all about who you know, so make sure you get out there and meet as many people as you can: network, network and network! Even if you meet people who aren't interested in what you have to offer, they might know someone who is.
Did you face some difficulties to adapt to your host country?
I don't believe I had much trouble adapting to Russia. The food is strange, the people do look surly, but luckily I've been exposed to a few different cultures and tend to take it all in stride.
The saying that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar is definitely true, though! Even though they might look like it, Russians aren't always in a bad mood: give them an excuse to laugh or smile and I bet you they will.
What surprised you the most in Moscow?
How easy it was to survive without being able to speak Russian.
To be fair, though, I have drastically improved my charades and Pictionary skills!
Is it easy to meet new people in Moscow?
I don't think it's easy, but it is definitely possible. My advice would be to meet someone on a site like expat-blog.com, for example, and try to do it often. The reality is that not everyone that speaks English automatically gets along, so you might have to go out a few times before you make real friends, but the key is definitely to keep trying.
Either way you're out there socializing!
Could you please share with us a common belief about Moscow or Russia which wasn't right?
That the people hate foreigners and are completely closed off.
I found that Russians love foreigners (at least the Russians I've spoken to) and I found that once you're friends with a Russian, then it's a friendship for life.
What do you miss the most from South Africa, your home country?
I miss the outright friendliness. In all of the shops, all of the cashiers, even people on the street greet you and are all smiles. I also miss the rugby culture, the braais and being able to go camping at least once a month!
What does a typical day as an expat in Moscow look like?
Work, work, work.
I would say Moscow is the fastest paced city I've ever been in and you tend to lose track of time since you seem to be so busy.
What do you do in your spare time?
It's definitely a case of work hard, play hard.
Since arriving in Moscow I've made quite a few friends which don't all move in the same circles, so one weekend of free time can mean a party on Friday evening, an afternoon shashlik-barbecue, drinks at a friend's house in the evening and a lazy lunch the Sunday, all in one weekend.
Which advice would you give to people wishing to live in Moscow?
I would say they need to be adaptable.
They also need to realize that they're in a different country and they need to respect that country's culture and language: I've seen quite a few people coming to Moscow who've decided they're going to change Moscow to suit them, only to give up a few weeks in and return home.
So if you're coming to see Russia, meet Russian people and experience Russian culture, then you're coming for the right reasons and with the right mindset!