Moving to Russia

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For many expats, the idea of moving to Russia exists as a flirtation with mystery, adventure and danger. The world’s largest country, spanning 11 time zones, is often exclusively credited with cruel dictators, a fearsome mafia and vodka-tinged depths of despair. Many imagine its greatest historical achievements to be wars waged on both international and domestic fronts.

Russian church - seen by expats moving to RussiaBut in truth, many foreigners seem to have little notion of the reality of the present-day Russian Federation. The oppressive Soviet state was dissolved in 1991 and, although the country is still very much overshadowed by its turbulent past, today it has emerged as a proud country prepared to reassert its place as a global superpower.

The majority of expats relocate to Russia to assume a senior or managerial position, and to take advantage of the accompanying attractive salary packages. After all, the country is one of the most notable wealth hotspots for those from abroad. Others come to teach English, or to expose themselves to a rich, interesting and complex culture.

But regardless of what might motivate one to move to Russia, it’s important that expats prepare for an overseas experience like none other and, more than likely, an experience that is quite trying.

Russia, and especially the heavily expat-favoured economic centres of Moscow and St Petersburg, has a high cost of living, and most of the services that will appeal to Westernised foreigners will levy higher fees than that of the local equivalent.

Furthermore, the government-provided versions of certain systems, like education, banking and healthcare, will fall far short of the standard that many expats expect. It’s important to recognise this when negotiating a contract, or creating a budget.

Lifestyle adjustments will also almost certainly have to be made. Most Russian accommodation comes in the form of small, disproportionately expensive apartments. Furthermore, Russia’s former isolationist state of being has limited its populace’s exposure to foreigners, and many expats report that they find the locals unapproachable and cold. The sizeable language barrier (very few Russians speak a second language) also creates a tangible divide.

Additionally, Russia is famed for its extremely harsh, cold, dark and long winters, and the severity of the weather cannot be denied. However, summers can also be very hot and pleasant, with plants and other wildlife going through impressive growth spurts in the warmer months. The further north one goes, the colder the weather and the longer the winter. Areas of southern Russia, like the resort city of Sochi, have much more temperate climates.

Overall, Russia is a vast and varied country, and it is vital that expats do further research to find out more about this destination before they relocate.

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