Canadian Expat Living in Russia - Interview with Rachael

Published: 29 May at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Russia
Rachael is a film enthusiast and blogger who somehow managed to find herself in Moscow. The experience has been one big lesson, but a marvellous opportunity to grow. Throughout the year, Rachael has chronicled the madcap Russian life on her blog, The Sky is Just the Sky. She is a skiier, writer and singer, and knows for sure that there is no place like home. Rachael's expat blog is called The Sky is Just the Sky (see listing here)

At work, during the Olympics.
At work, during the Olympics.

Here's the interview with Rachael...

Where are you originally from?
I'm Canadian in origin, born in Vancouver and raised in the interior of British Columbia.

In which country and city are you living now?
I live in Moscow, Russia.

How long have you lived in Russia and how long are you planning to stay?
I moved to Moscow in August of 2013, and plan to leave at the end of June after the school year finishes.

Why did you move to Russia and what do you do?
I have been a longtime Russophile, and Russian Language and Literature was one of my majors. When university finished, I decided to flee the bad economy and teach English abroad. I was hired to teach here in Moscow, and here I am.

The Bolshoi.
The Bolshoi.
Did you bring family with you?
No, I'm flying solo!

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
It was very up and down. Culturally, Russia and Canada are very far apart, and the adjustment can be daunting. It's also difficult to be so far from family and friends. However, after a few months I began to adapt, and things got much easier. I still have tough moments, but on a whole am better prepared to handle Russia and its quirks.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Though my closer friends tend to be expats, I do hang out with Russian coworkers. My school makes a serious effort to connect their foreign teachers, so it was easy to meet people. I've made a few good friendships through them - which has been endlessly helpful in a new place.

In Jerusalem.
In Jerusalem.
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Gorky Park is one of my favorite places, especially in winter. They turn it into a skating rink, decorated as a true winter wonderland. I also like to hang out at Dom Knigi, a huge bookstore with tons of materials in several different languages.

What do you enjoy most about living in Russia?
Without a doubt, it's the interesting people and huge variety of perspectives that I've encountered. I've learned so much about the world just through casual conversation. Getting to see all the sights from my favorite books is pretty nice, too!

How does the cost of living in Russia compare to home?
I find it quite manageable, and save a fair amount even on a teacher's salary. Moscow is quite expensive by Russian standards, but if you're careful you can get by pretty well.

Looking out on Moscow. Er, not me.
Looking out on Moscow. Er, not me.
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Russia?
The bureaucracy. Assume that anything you do here will be ten times more difficult than back home, even if you speak the language. It can be quite discouraging.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Russia, what would it be?
Your friends are the greatest resources you can have, both for the sense of connection and for practical tips. Find some!

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Adjusting to different cultural norms, especially in terms of work and bureaucratic practices. They're not kidding when they say Russia's complicated.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
The job market is still horrible, so I have no illusions of any prospects there, but reuniting with friends and family will be such a joy. Overall, I think I'll do fine - but am prepared to face the unexpected.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Never turn down an opportunity to do something new. You may never be back!
  2. Try to practice your language skills as much as you can, even if it's just grocery shopping. You'll be surprised at what you can pick up through mere existence.
  3. Know your rights (at work, as a resident, etc) backwards and forwards - you're going to need them.
  4. Don't expect expat life to be like a long vacation. People tend to build it up as a perfectly happy experience, when it can be quite isolating. Don't feel any pressure to have a perfect time. No one does.
  5. Your new country is great, but chances are that it's close to a lot of other interesting places. Go further afield at every opportunity! I've traveled to Israel, have a trip to Poland coming up, and am planning a big adventure in Scandinavia in a few months' time.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
Basically, it's a chronicle of what the expat experience really feels like, as well as a look at some of Russia's unique qualities. It's a bit odd, because I'm a bit odd. I've been a bit neglectful lately - but that will soon change.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Commenting on my blog is probably the best way to reach me. If not, Twitter is fine!

About the author

Expat Blog ListingRachael is a Canadian expat living in Russia. Blog description: Canadian teacher gallivanting in Russia. Time for an adventure!
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