Moving to Moscow

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Moscow is the capital of Russia, and the main city for expats stationed in the country. It is an incredibly large, interesting and challenging city, offering a wide variety of experiences to expats.

Before moving to Moscow, you should read as much as you can about the city to prepare yourself, and to help minimise any initial culture shock. One of the best ways to prepare for moving to Moscow is to learn some Russian, and definitely to learn how to read Cyrillic. This will make your life a lot easier, as you will be able to recognise signs and look up words in a dictionary when necessary.

Moscow is a rapidly expanding city, with the only constant being change. While it is regularly listed amongst the top ten most expensive cities in the world, Moscow can be somewhat underdeveloped, and you will find yourself occasionally having to make a mental switch between life in the first and third worlds. If you have the money, it is possible to have a lavish lifestyle, on a par with any major international city – but you must be prepared to pay for this privilege.

The city vies with St Petersburg for the title of 'Russian Cultural Capital', and while most would agree that St Petersburg deserves this title more, Moscow is by no means short of cultural activities and events. No visit to Moscow is complete without a trip to the Bolshoi Theatre, and ballet performances at the Kremlin Palace are outstanding. There are many fascinating museums in the city, as well as wonderful architecture (particularly in the city centre). Some of Moscow’s most attractive features are the many public parks dotted throughout the city, which give it a more spacious and leafy feel. Going for a walk in the park is a daily habit for many Russians.
The most common means of transportation is the metro, the Moscow underground, which is very efficient, safe and cheap, with trains running from 6am to 1am. Many of the stations are lavishly decorated, and constitute works of art in themselves. During rush hour it can get crowded, especially in the centre, but generally the trains will be less crowded than in London or Tokyo. Buses can be very infrequent, so another good option is to take a marshrutka (a minibus taxi), which follows a fixed route that often mimics the bus route. Marshrutka will drop you off anywhere along the route; just be sure to signal loudly and clearly to your driver.

Taxis can be quite expensive, particularly from the airport, and it is a good idea to agree on a price before you get in. Many private cars will act as taxis for a bit of extra cash. Trams seem to be more reliable than buses, and have the added advantage of not being affected by traffic, as many Muscovites own cars and this contributes to the heavy traffic found in the city. Muscovites are known for their erratic driving style and casual disregard for traffic rules – this has prompted many expats to hire a driver instead of attempting to drive themselves around.

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