Australian Expat Living In Moscow - Interview With Karla

Published: 14 Nov at 11 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Russia
Karla Spera's passion for travelling and the excitement to be an expat started when she entered the travel industry at 19 years of age. She spent the next 18 years working for an Australian travel wholesaler where she eventually wrote the travel brochures and traveled throughout Asia inspecting hotels and new destinations. It's was during this time she fell in love with my future husband who was the General Manager of a well-known hotel in Kuala Lumpur. After a two year long distance relationship they decided to make Dubai their home where her husband took up work in hotel development for the next 7 years. As expats without a family they spent those years travelling to Europe at every given opportunity and the ease of getting in and out of the country made it possible for weekenders in Paris, London, Prague and Athens. She managed to return to Australia three times a year over that period but all that changed when they took up the opportunity to live in Moscow! Karla blogs at A Diamond in Moscow (see listing here)

A Diamond in Moscow

Here's the interview with Karla...


Where are you originally from?
I was born in the quaint fishing town of Fremantle in Western Australia to Italian Immigrants

In which country and city are you living now?
We moved to Moscow, Russia a year ago after being expats in Dubai for 7 years.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
We have just finished out first year in Moscow and may stay for another two years. The longer we stay the more comfortable we feel about living here.

Why did you move and what do you do?
My husband is working on developing hotels in Moscow and I moved with him. I spend my days exploring this Russian city for us both, meeting friends, exercising and constantly looking for that missing common ingredient that the supermarkets don't sell that week. I have a passion for cooking and spends hours in markets and food stores.

A Diamond in MoscowDid you bring family with you?
My husband has three grown up boys who live in Australia so we live on our own.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Moscow was the biggest challenge and one I was not ready for. The fact that not many Russians spoke English was our biggest obstacle. A lot of the information on the Internet was outdated and finding housing was a nightmare. It took months to finally settle and realise that it wasn’t so bad once we made friends. Coming to Moscow in the middle of Winter made settling in a little harder than someone that arrives in Summer but you get to see exactly what your new home and surroundings will look like covered in snow.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialize with other expats?
At first we had no idea where the other expats were hiding. Our neighbours were all Russian and spoke very little English and they kept to themselves. It was only after I joined the group called "Auski" (Australians and New Zealanders living in Russia) that I started to meet other expats with similar interests and living close by. From then I joined the international women's club (IWC) and that's when the doors opened to meeting so many people from other countries.

A Diamond in MoscowWhat are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
We live in the old historical area of Moscow called Arbat. The architecture alone is beautiful and the closed pedestrian street is perfect for people watching. It's the perfect place to start living here as there are more English speaking people in the area and three supermarkets all walking distance plus the metro line connects to just about any part of Moscow.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
I love experiencing four seasons. After living in the Middle East for 7 years and suffering through hot humid summers and warm winters it is invigorating to have a mild summer and an extremely cold winter. Just the snow alone is worth living here.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
They say Moscow is one of the most expensive cities in the world. But so is Western Australia where I'm originally from so I don’t get too shocked when I visit the supermarkets or buy a glass of wine in a restaurant. Yes it's expensive but if you buy what's in season and get out to one of the many Auchan hypermarkets then you will find it's no different to many other big cities in the world.

A Diamond in MoscowWhat negatives, if any, are there to living here?
If you don't like the cold then this is not the place for you!
Being in a city with no beaches around you can be hard during summer.
The language barrier ...... I don't feel it's important to do a full language course on Russian as it can take 5 years to speak it fluently but learning conversational Russian is a must.
The standard of housing is nothing like what you would expect back home so get used to smelly apartment buildings and lifts that look like they were built in the 1960's.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Choose the location of where you live rather than the decor of your apartment or home. Location is everything in this city and can make or break the experience.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Being so far away from Australia. Jumping on a flight at the last minute is not an option as it was when we were living in Dubai.

A Diamond in MoscowWhat are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Don't worry how young or old you are, it's always a good time be an expat at any age. You're never too young or old to learn the cultures of another country.
  2. Be prepared to live in countries you didn't know existed or never dreamed of visiting as it could happen to you and you need to keep an open mind.
  3. As soon as you arrive into your new country do some research and join expat clubs and exercise clubs to meet new people straight away. Join in the activities and watch your social life grow.
  4. Learn some of the language even if it's just good morning, hello, thank you. It makes a big difference to your day.
  5. Enjoy the experience ......everybody back home wants to be you as you are living the dream so make sure you record it all to look back upon it one day.


Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
It was the first time I had put down in writing how I was feeling about being an expat and what I was going through after a very rough two weeks of settling into a new city that I really knew nothing about. I felt that if I didn't know that much about it then neither did others who must be hungry for up to date information of what it's really like to live in Moscow. Dubai was easy, it didn't feel like I had left home and everything fell into place but Russia is a different story and by recording the great moments and the not so great I could help others be more prepared than myself. My blog has introduced me to some wonderful readers, some of whom now live in Moscow and have become good friends. This alone was worth writing my story.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Via my blog I can be contacted and I have mainly been asked to keep a lot of my readers' questions private and not published on my blog to protect their move over to Moscow. I am more than happy to communicate direct with my readers so that they can ask personal questions via email.

Karla blogs at http://adiamondinmoscow.com which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. A Diamond in Moscow has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Karla, please also drop her a quick comment below.
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