Yulia Safutdinova is originally from Russia but considers herself a world citizen at heart. She is currently living in Bali, Indonesia and has had expat experience as a digital nomad elsewhere, including Thailand. She loves the environment and people in Bali but has much to say about life and culture in Moscow.
She started the Miss Tourist blog with the main mission to inspire others to travel more. She has been travelling full-time and has visited over 60 countries. Yulia shares her experiences on her blog Miss Tourist and on Twitter.
In this interview, Yulia shares her insights on living in Moscow, Russia.
Read more about expat life in Moscow in our Expat Arrivals Moscow city guide.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I am originally from Russia.
Living in Moscow, Russia
Q: What do you enjoy most about Moscow? How would you rate the quality of life?
A: Honestly, I think Moscow is highly underrated. Compared to other metropolitan cities in the world, I think it is one of the best cities for quality of life!
Expats usually relocate here for business purposes since there are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of. Another bonus is the fast pace of city life, which is great for many expats.
Q: What are the biggest elements of culture shock or adjustments one must make when settling into expat life in Moscow?
A: I think the biggest adjustment anyone would need to do when he or she relocates to Russia is having to learn at least a little bit of the local language. Even though you will probably communicate with your co-workers in English, most locals, especially outside of Moscow, speak very little English. So, it’s advisable to learn at least some basics and to learn the Cyrillic alphabet. It definitely will go a long way!
Q: How would you rate the public transport in Moscow? What is your most memorable experience of using Moscow’s transport system?
A: In my humble opinion, Moscow has one of the most developed transport systems out there (I know I am biased but hear me out).
You have probably already heard that Moscow has the most beautiful metro in the world, but not so many people know how efficient it is. There are 232 stations and 7 million people per day that use the metro! The government opens new stations at a very impressive rate, so everyone is very well connected.
We are very proud of our metro, but we also have other types of transport that are pretty efficient. We have extensive networks of trams, trolleybuses and intercity trains that connect all parts of the city and suburbs so that people can commute every day.
Oh, and if you drive then you will be impressed with the road system in the city! We have one of the widest roads in the world. Eight lanes one way in the city centre is completely normal.
Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in Moscow? What different options are available for expats?
A: It is not a secret that Moscow is not the cheapest city in the world, especially in terms of accommodation. So, if you want to stay in the city centre it’s probably going to cost you quite a lot (in comparison with suburbs, but not in comparison with the prices in Europe or North America).
Moscow is being built very fast, so if you are looking for a newer apartment, I recommend searching a bit outside the city centre. In the centre (inside the ring), the houses are mostly older, but you can still find some brand-new ones, keeping in mind they are also going to be much more expensive.
Q: Any areas or suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in?
A: If you want to be inside the hustle and the bustle of the city, experiencing the best it can offer, then I recommend staying somewhere around the metro ring, inside or close outside. This way you’ll enjoy the best of what Moscow has to offer in terms of entertainment.
If efficiency is the most important to you, then I recommend looking for a place somewhere close to where you are going to work.
Otherwise, if you are looking for more budget options, anywhere close to the metro and outside the metro ring would be fine. That would mean a maximum of 40 minutes to get to the city centre from any part.
Meeting people and making friends
Q: Is meeting people and making friends easy? How do you go about meeting new people in Moscow?
A: I think it is quite easy to make friends in Moscow because locals are pretty open and curious about foreigners, especially if you make the first step to connect.
Having so many expats in the city already, it should not be an issue for you to meet new people. Just stay curious and join all kinds of events. This is not difficult in Moscow – festivals and all kinds of events are happening every day. Try to take the first step, get out of your comfort zone, go to as many meetups as possible and I’m sure you’ll make friends in no time!
Just be open-minded, get out and explore! Russian people are much more warm-hearted and friendly than they might seem at first glance. ;)
Family and children
Q: How has your spouse or partner adjusted to Moscow? Do you think there are any specific challenges for a trailing spouse?
A: My husband is not from Russia so I can speak about his experience. He loves Moscow for various reasons, such as that you can get any kind of goods of services 24/7. This city truly never sleeps. The delivery of goods is very well organised. Anything you want in the middle of the night, you get it!
I think he also likes it because people are very friendly to him, and we have grown a circle of friends around us quickly, so he never felt left out. I believe he likes how affordable the city is compared to other countries in Europe and North America.
The one thing he cannot adjust to is, of course, the weather. This can be unpredictable, and, in the winter, you must wear a lot of layers of clothes. Keep that in mind.
Q: Is there any advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals to Moscow or Russia?
A: To conclude, I think Moscow has all the potential to become one of the hottest spots for expats in the future. If you are considering relocating to Moscow for a while, I invite you to give it a try.
Unfortunately, the media portrays Russia in a bit of a negative light, but I invite you to go and check it out for yourself and draw your own conclusions.
If you are still not sure, you can join a couple of Facebook groups in advance and see how alive the community is over there. Afterwards, I’m sure you’ll have no doubt that Moscow can be a great destination for expats!
► Interviewed March 2020