US Expat Living in Russia - Interview With Lisa

Published: 28 Mar at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Russia
Lisa and her boyfriend Ben met in college and quickly fell in love, bonding over their desires to travel. After graduation they decided to move to the capitol city of mother Russia to begin a life together teaching English. Though they have only lived in Moscow for a short while, they have fallen completely head over heels with everything this amazing city has to offer. Lisa felt that her new home was an incredibly underrated city (in the blogosphere) and decided to start blogging about the important and moving culture that surrounds Moscow. Lisa's expat blog is called les jours contents (see listing here)

Meet Lisa - US expat in Moscow
Meet Lisa - US expat in Moscow

Here's the interview with Lisa...

Where are you originally from?

In which country and city are you living now?
I am currently living in the capital of Russia, Moscow.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I have lived here for two months and I'm hoping to stay for a couple of years! I just have fallen head over heels in love with Russia and want to absorb as much of this city and culture as I possibly can. I am currently employed at a British language company with a contract for nine months, so fingers crossed I impress them enough to have that renewed.

Why did you move and what do you do?
I moved to Russia because I wanted to travel and teaching English seemed like the best way I could do that. I had been born and raised in America's heartland and I felt a deep urge to travel and understand the world outside of the Midwest. I had just graduated college and was looking for work when jobs in Russia started popping up. I had originally been thinking about Japan, or at least somewhere in Southeast Asia, but Russia began to grow on me. My boyfriend Ben had studied in Russia for six months and highly recommended it, so when I received a great job offer teaching English, I took the plunge. I'm so grateful I did too because Russia was enough of a culture shock--I can't imagine what I would have done going to Japan right off the bat! But maybe someday...

This is my boyfriend Ben and I after we found a castle while walking through one of Moscow's amazing parks!
This is my boyfriend Ben and I after we found a castle while walking through one of Moscow's amazing parks!
Did you bring family with you?
Yes, my boyfriend Ben is also teaching English with me in Moscow.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
This is a tricky question... there were aspects of the move that were very easy for me to adjust to and others that were quite difficult. Russians are, needless to say, quite different than Americans. Especially in their mannerisms. I think it took me awhile to get used to the way they spoke (very gruffly and directly) and treated me (they don't smile, don't say excuse me, please, etc. which can be quite confusing for a girl raised in the Midwest!), but once I did, it didn't bother me so much. It is difficult living somewhere you don't speak the language of, I'm not going to lie. I lost a lot of independence because I essentially have to rely on my boyfriend Ben for everything except buying groceries... but that has been great motivation for me to work on my Russian!

The parts that were easy were things like the excitement of a new city, the hustle and bustle of Moscow, the food! Oh, there's nothing I love more than exploring this amazing city--everything fascinates me.

Funky, hip bar in downtown Moscow.
Funky, hip bar in downtown Moscow.
Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Ben had a few friends that he made while he was studying abroad and they quickly became my friends. Through them I have met a few people, but I do spend a lot of time with other expats (mostly because of work and my very limited Russian). It's hard for me to answer this question because I spend a lot of time working, but when I have gone out in groups with Russians I didn't know, I always end up having wonderful conversations and making new friends.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
The parks in Moscow are amazing. I feel that Moscow is a very underrated city because before I came here I wasn't able to find a lot of information about it because there isn't as much tourism in Russia as some other European or Asian countries. However, the parks did come highly recommended, but man they were not what I was expecting! The parks I have been to are absolutely the most beautiful places I've ever been--rolling hills, tall forests, and castles!

And just walking around Moscow is very exciting. The mix between the old and new worlds is very interesting and your guaranteed to see something bizarre and cool in this eclectic city.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
The food. God, do I love living off cheese, bread, and meat.

And I just had to include a picture of our first shot of Russian vodka! There's an entire section of our grocery store dedicated to it!
And I just had to include a picture of our first shot of Russian vodka! There's an entire section of our grocery store dedicated to it!
How does the cost of living compare to home?
Well, it depends. Moscow itself is one of the largest cities in the world, so yeah, it can get kind of pricey if you're trying to go to a nice club or restaurant. I live a little bit more on the outskirts, so it's not too bad for me. Groceries are the same as they are in the states, if not cheaper. Bread and meat is usually very reasonable and snacks sold in stands around the city are very delicious (warm baked goods) and very cheap. Cigarettes and vodka (yes... they do like to drink a lot of vodka here) are also incredibly inexpensive.

If this helps you gauge your understanding, I'll tell you this: I make terrible money, and I mean really terrible, and I've been able to have nice nights out on some weekends, and am always able to pay for groceries. So you can make do.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
If you're quite sensitive, don't move to Russia. Russians are notorious for being very blunt and a bit unfriendly (at first). It can be a little startling, but nothing the average person couldn't handle. There's also some unfortunate racism, but you're going to find that everywhere. Oh yeah... it can get a little cold.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Learn to speak Russian! Or have someone with you who can speak! You're not going to find much English here, so be prepared for that. If it weren't for Ben, I don't think my transition would have been so smooth.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Probably the buzzing, blooming confusion of not being able to speak the language of the world around me. I feel like a child, numb to words and lost in poor dictionary translations.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I actually wonder about this a lot. I'm not sure how I'll handle it--is there a reverse culture shock expats returning how experience? I think that will happen to me, but it's hard to determine in what context.

This is a lovely little street by my flat.
This is a lovely little street by my flat.
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Definitely make an effort to learn the language. You'll feel less anxious and more involved with the world around you. It's also the best way to get to know the people of your new home, which is most of the fun of moving to a new country, yes?!
  2. Bring comfort items. This is probably the best piece of expat advice I found before I left, so I will give it now to you. Bring photos, your favorite pair of slippers, a pillow you've had since you were a kid, anything you might need in times of homesickness.
  3. Read up about the customs of the country you're moving too - it will help you fit in better, or at least not offend or alienate people around you.
  4. Make weekly skype-dates with family and close friends. Having a set time and day is really helpful, especially when extreme time differences are involved. It's very easy to lose connections with people, so my advice would be to establish something right off the bat. Conversations with family and friends from home will also be very comforting and give you a chance to share all that you're going through!
  5. Be ready to explore. Be ready to explore the whole infinite abyss.

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I like to think of my blog as a diary or journal. I write a lot about my work, my weekends, my Moscow musings, and the quirks I pick up about Russians. I like to include photographs, recipes, and movie recommendations as well.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Via my blog.

Lisa blogs at which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. les jours contents has an listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Lisa, please also drop her a quick comment below.
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