American Expat Living in Moscow, Russia - Meet Polly

Published: 4 Sep at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Russia
Polly is an ESL teacher who's been living and working in Moscow, Russia since 2010. She fills her time by updating her blog and doing freelance writing for various travel publications. Polly's expat blog is called Polly Heath (see listing here)

Meet Polly - US expat living in Russia
Meet Polly - US expat living in Russia

Here's the interview with Polly...

Where are you originally from?
I'm originally from a tiny town in rural Virginia, USA.

In which country and city are you living now?
I'm currently living and working in Moscow, Russia.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I've been in Moscow since 2010 and I honestly have no idea how long I'll stay. Every year I say I'm going to move on, but I keep getting pulled back into Moscow!

Why did you move and what do you do?
After graduating early from university at 21 (with a double major in Russian Studies and International Relations), I realized I was too young to immediately take a 9-5 office job. Instead I accepted a job with a large English language school in Moscow. Now I'm still teaching English at a smaller school.

Did you bring family with you?
No, I came alone and didn't know anyone in Russia.

Polly and friend in front of Saint Basil's
Polly and friend in front of Saint Basil's
How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Having already learned the language before arriving, I felt a lot more confident than other expats might feel. I still had a lot of problems with communication, but I got over it quickly. Surprisingly, I think my biggest hurdle was coming to a big city. Moving 5,000 miles away without knowing anyone? Fine. But, noise all the time? That got to me. I think other people who come from larger cities would be able to integrate into Moscow life much easier.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I think the expat community in Moscow is really tight so it's easy to get a large group of expat friends. It's also pretty easy to meet Russians – many teachers become friends with their students or meet Russians when they go out on the weekends. I would say that generally expats in Moscow have a pretty mixed friend group.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
If you like to party, Moscow is full of clubs that go all night long. Clubs popular in the expat community are Propaganda, Krizis Zhanra, and Squat Cafe.

One of my favorite parts of Russian cities is the green space. Dotted throughout Moscow are large parks and estates that are beautiful in any season. My favorites are the czarist estates like Tsaritsyno, Ostankino, and Kolomenskoye.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
I love the experience of living in a big city – your own excitement about that may vary. However, coming from a town of about 3,000 residents and attending a college of about 1,300 students, I love having food, culture, and entertainment at my fingertips.

Polly and her Russian
Polly and her Russian
How does the cost of living compare to home?
Moscow is not a cheap city. I would say that the cost of real estate, clothing, and electronics are very high. What's cheap? Basic food items and public transport.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
The weather is really tough. Winter is long and dark and does affect you more than you might expect. I also really miss varied food choices: for a large city, Moscow is sadly lacking in good restaurants. Anything beyond sushi, pizza, or Russian food is basically unavailable.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
You will never be mentally prepared for your first winter. At times, it will be terrible and depressing, but Moscow's gorgeous spring will soon have you forgetting about the snow and greyness.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Probably the different language. Even though I spoke decent Russian when I arrived, you never realize how tiring it is to constantly be processing and translating a foreign language.

Cathedral in Moscow
Cathedral in Moscow
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Moscow is not Europe! I know this seems strange to say, but many people who end up leaving Russia dissatisfied expected a much higher quality of life than a ESL teacher's salary can offer.
  2. Use for jobs, lessons, advice, etc. This site is invaluable for the expat in Russia.
  3. Make your life easier! Learn some Russian before you come. While many people in Moscow speak some English, in general the people you will interact with on a daily basis (cashiers, drivers, administrators) will not speak English.
  4. Try to choose a company who will provide housing for you. The Moscow real estate market is very competitive – many schools will have apartments set aside for their teachers so they don't have to go through the hassle of finding their own apartment.
  5. Do your research. There are lots of companies/schools in Moscow that offer jobs to expats and not all are worth your time. Be sure to look at any online review before you accept a contract, particularly if you're not in Rusia

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog is called A Girl and Her Travels and it focuses on the everyday life of an expat in Moscow. I have several categories such as “Bein' Touristy” (reviews of museums/parks/etc throughout Moscow) and “Teaching English” (tips for teaching ESL/stories about teaching in Russia) which would be helpful for future expats.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
You can head to my website (see link below) and go to my contact form to submit a question.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingPolly is an American expat living in Russia. Blog description: A blog about a long-term American expat living in Moscow. A focus on teaching English, photography, and food!
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