Living in Russia may seem a daunting prospect at first but this amazing country can offer expats a truly unique life experience. Spanning 9 different time zones, the Russian Federation is the largest country in the world and covers an area that is almost twice the size of that covered by the USA. It has an approximate population of 142 million people.
Russia has a rich history and cultural heritage and this is reflected in its museums, architecture, and monuments. The unspool countryside also offers expats an opportunity to enjoy natural wonders such as Lake Baikal and the beautiful mountains, deserts, rivers, and forests.
Russians are intensely proud of their rich culture and, when living in Russia, you may be invited to discuss their greatest artists, classical musicians, and authors even in business situations, so brushing up on these beforehand could help you fit in.
Russia as an Expat Destination
Russia is a country that is making significant economic progress and this is reflected in the number of western businesses that are establishing a presence in the region. Such developments have brought large numbers of expats into the country, many of whom base themselves in the busy cities of Moscow or St Petersburg.
Living in Russia can be quite challenging. The climate is harsh and many cities have high levels of pollution. There is also a relatively high crime rate and a number of security issues to take into consideration. However, the majority of expats who do base themselves there are able to afford a high standard of living that allows them to live in gated developments that offer good levels of security. For such expats, issues pertaining to Russia’s bureaucracy and inefficient customer service have a greater impact on their day-to-day lives than the highly publicized security risks.
The facilities available to expats living in Russia’s bigger cities are very good and there is a good availability of international schools and healthcare facilities.
Russia is frequently referred to as Europe’s most expensive country in which to live and according to many analysts, this is set to remain the case for quite some years to come. In the 2012 Mercer cost of living survey, Moscow was named as the 4th most expensive city in the world for expats for the third year running. St. Petersburg rose one place in the rankings and was named as the 28th most expensive city in the world.
It is possible, however, for expatriates to live an affordable life here provided that they relinquish some of the luxuries they associate with home and adopt a more local standard of living. While housing here can be very expensive, other items such as groceries, public transport, and petrol can be acquired quite reasonably.
The Expat Info Desk guide to living in Moscow contains a comprehensive list of all the costs of living in this European city, including groceries, eating and dining out, local and private transport, schools and education and a whole host of other living expenses.
The official language of Russia is Russian and expats will benefit if they are able to learn some of the language. Turkish is also spoken in some regions. Whilst a small number of Russians do speak English, and it is frequently used in business transactions, the majority of public signs and directions will only be available in Russian.
Russia has many different climatic regions, from sub-arctic conditions in Siberia to a temperate, continental climate in the south.
Russia’s economy is one of the fastest growing in the world and many international companies are establishing operations there. This does bring with it some job opportunities for expats but these are usually only available via internal company transfers or are jobs that secured by expats from their home country prior to arriving in Russia. People who move to Russia in the hope of finding work once they arrive will find it difficult to find a suitable job. In addition to this, securing a suitable work visa can be a lengthy and difficult process.
There is a high demand for English teachers in Russia and there is no shortage of jobs available for qualified teachers. The schools in Russia however, often only employ teachers on a part-time basis and may not pay good salaries. It may, therefore, be necessary for people who do wish to teach in Russia to secure more than one teaching post.
Working knowledge of Russian is a necessity for most business jobs when living in Russia, especially those that are situated outside of the major cities.
Whilst pharmacies in major cities will be well stocked, it can be difficult in some areas to find drugs such as antidepressants and prescription painkillers. Expats who require medication should check if their prescription will be available in their intended place of abode before relocating to Russia. If required they may need to take a good stock of their medication with them.
It is illegal to film on the Russian metro. If you are seen doing so by a police officer they may confiscate your camera.
The Russian people can be very hospitable and you may be invited to visit their homes. If you do so, be careful complimenting something as they may try to give it to you. As a guest, you should always take flowers or wine when you visit a Russian’s abode.
Foreign citizens who have entered the Russian Federation are obliged to register their visa within three working days from the day of their arrival in Russia. If the foreign citizen changes the place of his/her stay in the Russian Federation, he/she must register their visa at the new place of stay within three working days as from the day of arrival at the new place of stay. Visa registration can be done at the local UVIR office. It is practically impossible to extend a visa that has not been duly registered, and getting out of Russia with an unregistered visa can also incur heavy fines. Further details of locations where your visa can be registered can be found in our guide to living in Moscow.