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An Expat's Guide to Moscow, Russia

Red Square, Moscow |
Red Square, Moscow | | © Opsa / Pixabay
Moscow is an all-around fascinating city that draws people from all corners of the world. However, no matter the city, living in a new place – especially a new country – can be very daunting. Read on for a few things that will be helpful to know before starting a new life as an expat in Moscow.

Finding a house

Flat hunting is an overwhelming undertaking in any circumstances, but it becomes exponentially more stressful when in a foreign country and an unfamiliar city. In Moscow, Facebook comes to the rescue. No matter if you’re looking for a room to rent in a shared flat or a studio for yourself, there is a Facebook group to help you find exactly what you need. Many of the rental groups are bilingual, and the response rate is madly fast.

Arbat Street in Moscow © Florstein / WikiCommons

Getting around

Depending on where you’re from, you might be used to driving everywhere. However, this mode of transport doesn’t work very well in Moscow, as it’s massive and traffic is insane. Never fear! Buy a long-term public transport pass, which can be used for all means of public transport in the city and might even encourage spontaneity.

Forget Google

The 21st century might be the age of Google in many parts of the world, but not in Russia. Russians have developed Yandex, which is a set of services that compete with Google and – as far as the land of Tsars is concerned – work infinitely better. So, forget about Google Maps, and switch to Yandex.Maps. Be sure to download their public transport apps, Yandex.Metro and Yandex.Transport. They are highly interactive and allow for planning ahead. These apps are sure to be lifesavers on more than one occasion.

Learn Russian

Some of the less tourist-oriented areas of Moscow are not big on bilingualism, so it will be helpful to learn to read the Cyrillic alphabet. It’s much easier than you might think, and it will help you feel infinitely more comfortable. If you decide to stay in Moscow for longer, consider learning the language. You’ll learn a lot about the culture in the process, and it will help show respect to the locals, which will inevitably make your life much easier. Take a language course at one of the universities to not only learn the language, but also get to know the higher education system and make some Russian friends!

Food to try

Only tourists go to the fancy restaurants around the Red Square. Also, forget McDonald’s (even though there’s one on nearly every corner). Instead, try one of Russia’s own fast food chains, such as Kroshka Kartoshka for baked potatoes with a variety of fillings, Café Mu-Mu for a buffet with the Russian classics, and Teremok for traditional Russian bliny. Pie with various fillings is another classic Russian dish that is often sold by elderly ladies at little stalls near Orthodox churches – it doesn’t get more authentically Russian than that.

Pelmeni originates from the Urals © Goskova Tatiana / Shutterstock

Weekends

Moscow is not short of things to do to suit any taste. From art museums to amusement parks and gourmet restaurants to nightclubs, rest assured there is plenty to do all year. Save the outdoor activities for the fall and summer, as the weather in autumn and spring can be quite miserable. The best way to keep in the loop is to follow events-related Moscow Facebook groups and the Moscow’s Mayor’s official website.

The river bank in Gorky Park © Alexander Baranov / WikiCommons

Socialising

Moving to an unfamiliar city can feel very lonely. Luckily, there are many events meant to facilitate socialising among expats and locals. One of the biggest is Moscow Language Exchange, which holds weekly meetings that draw a wide audience from across the globe, and the venues often offer a special discount. Another regular event worth attending is the Couchsurfing gathering. It is much smaller but otherwise very similar. It’s best to keep up with both via Facebook. There are other places where expats gather on a less formal basis, but these tend to change periodically. The up-to-date information on those events can be found in expat-related Facebook groups.