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Living and working in Moscow

Written by Marcus Campbell

It was a freezing cold November evening when I first arrived in Moscow. I’d been travelling all day, from London via, if memory serves me well, Vilnius and was fast in need of a bed more than anything else. I have vague memories of whizzing past various impressive examples of bombastic muscovite architecture before reaching the flat that the school had provided for me, before collapsing in a heap on my bed.

The next day I arrived at Windsor, handily located pretty much in the centre of the city to continue my teaching career. I was not quite a rookie, having taught for 2 years previously in Ukraine and Poland, but I was still very conscious of the fact that I was still learning the ropes (do we ever stop?).  At that time, the company was significantly smaller than it is now, with only one school rather than several, as is the case now. As one of the longest serving members of staff, i’ve had the good fortune to see how Windsor has grown and developed over the years, while still retaining a friendly atmosphere.

Of course work is only part of the experience of life in Moscow, and I’m glad to say that socially too, Moscow has been more than forthcoming. While the students themselves are always happy to go out with teachers, Russian people generally are warm and welcoming. Despite the language barrier, most young people you meet have enough English to get by and they are always keen to speak to foreigners and hear about your life.

To be honest, I never intended to stay in Moscow for more than a year initially, determined to keep on travelling and seeing the world. Eight years later, I’m still here, having recently signed another contract, with the feeling that I’ve still only just scratched the surface of this fascinating country.

Written by Daryl Wagman

It is no easy task to sum up in so few words what life in Moscow is truly like.  Russia’s famous capital is similar to that of any other metropolis in the world but at the same time, it is unique in its own right.  Its idiomatic flair and flavor make it a place that feeds the senses at every turn.  For anyone seeking adventure, you’ve come to the right place.

Moscow is a city that never stops and never sleeps.  I’ve lived here just shy of two years and I can say without the slightest hint of exaggeration that I’ve never once found myself without anything to do.  The city has a plethora to offer and can satiate the desires of any visitor.  The Bolshoi Theater serves up some of the finest ballet and operatic performances the world over.  Red Square and its neighbor, The Kremlin, offer a glimpse into Russian history showcased by their impressive architecture.  The Tretyakov is just one of dozens of art galleries found around the city proving that Moscow has embraced the art scene.  You can explore the streets (and in some cases, even the homes) of Russia’s greatest authors like Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Pushkin and Bulgakov, and relive the moments of some of the finest pieces of literature.  And these are just a few sightseeing highlights.  The boutiques and souvenir shops on Arbat Street or the designer outlets at GUM mall demonstrate the vast range of shopping options.  If it’s nightlife you’re after, bustling clubs abound—closing down far after the sun has come up.  And if you need an escape from the busyness of the city, there is always a park within walking distance where one can get in touch with nature.

The Weather.  I’m not going to sugarcoat it: Russian winters are long and cold.  The coldest day last winter was minus twenty-six degrees.  I’ve found, however, that the secret to survival is simply to dress appropriately and when done so, you’ll be quite comfortable.  You’ll also come to find that most buildings are well heated, perhaps even to the point where you might want to open a window.  The summers here are gorgeous.

The Muscovites are a people whose turbulent history has made them strong, yet wary.  At first, they may seem as cold as a Russian winter but it takes only a small gesture of friendliness to make them open up and it is then that you realize what an intelligent, witty and hospitable people they truly are.  They are curious and eager to learn about other cultures as well as being willing to share theirs.  I’ve made best friends here.  I’ve found love, too.

Russian cuisine goes beyond just caviar, bliny and borsch.  From high-class restaurants to Soviet-style cafes, Moscow has got its bases covered when it comes to dining experience.  Because she is a cosmopolitan city, just about every other international type of food—from American to Mexican to Italian to Japanese—can be found here.  It is true, however, that you may need to seek out what you’re in the mood for, but isn’t that part of the adventure?

Politics.  Oftentimes the things we read in the media paint an inaccurate portrait of what is actually taking place.  I find this to be true with Russia.   Granted, Russia has been in the spotlight for the past several years now—not always positively—but this has never affected my daily routine, nor dampened my experiences here, all of which have been positive. 

Transportation.  Not only is Moscow’s metro one of the most efficient and easy to navigate in the world, it is also one of the most decorative.  Trains come every two minutes and are never late.  Many of the stations retain their historic décor from days long passed and if you can detach yourself from the hustle and bustle to admire some of these features, you’ll be impressed. 

Teaching.  Russians are an absolute pleasure to teach.  Their attitude towards the learning process and willingness to communicate make every lesson fun.  Generally, their level is quite high which is a major plus.  Because of this, I can communicate freely during my lesson without getting bogged down trying to explain every piece of vocabulary.  The teaching methods Windsor employ are effective, produce results and for this, the job is even more rewarding.

The cost of living vs. salary.  While you won’t get rich teaching in Moscow, you can certainly live more than comfortably, see all that there is to see, and even have some left over for a holiday or two.  I’ve never struggled with what I make here, in fact, with a little discipline I’ve been able to save.

There truly is adventure to be had in Moscow.  My only word of warning is that once you’ve come here, you may just want to stay.

Written by Jonathan Wickman

First of all Moscow’s a big city, very big, and it’s growing all the time because more and more of the Moscow region’s becoming part of the city itself and is known as ‘New Moscow’. The city has the same hustle and bustle and fast pace of life as other capital cities like London or major financial centres such as New York. Though people from Saint Petersburg might argue that their city’s the cultural capital of the Russian Federation, Moscow’s certainly where the money and power is.

This means that the city is famous for its traffic jams, so driving here’s definitely not recommended -particularly as parking is neither easy to find nor free now. The metro’s architecture’s amazing but it too can get very busy at peak periods, however, with train frequency averaging about one train every two minutes, with more during the rush hours and less in the early morning and late evening, if you do have to wait for a train, you won’t be waiting long. It is important to pay attention when crossing the road, as some drivers may jump the lights, and to remember that jaywalking is unlawful here, though playing the ‘dumb foreigner who doesn’t understand any Russian’ may result in you getting away with it if caught by the Police.

Like all big cities there’s a lot to do, so whatever your hobbies and interests chances are you’ll be able to do them here. You may also be able to try new things which’re no longer available at home, as Russians generally aren’t so concerned with Health & Safety.

Regarding men’s clothing, by far the most popular colour’s black – particularly for coats. Most professional men dress in the style known as ‘business casual’, a smart shirt combined with either trousers/pants or jeans and leather shoes, and this style is certainly acceptable for teaching. Suits and ties are rarely seen, though they may be required for some in-company classes. In summer, their style can be more casual with T-shirts, polo shirts, long shorts and trainers/sneakers replacing the other garments. It’s important to bear in mind when deciding what clothing to bring for the winter that in the majority of buildings the central heating’s provided by the city, so the temperature tends to be on the high side. This means that when indoors no more than a thin jumper’s needed and often not even this. However, when going outside a thick coat is required since the temperature can fall to -20 Celsius/-4 Fahrenheit, though usually not for very long.

Written by Paul Richard

I really love teaching and living in Russia. Russia, and Moscow in particular, have a very special place in my heart for numerous reasons. First of all, I became fascinated with the Russian language, Russian music, and Russian literature, especially classical, 19th century Russian novels, at a fairly young age. Later, while deeply immersing myself in the language, literature, and culture at Pushkin Institute here in Moscow, I met my future wife, who is from Romania and was also studying at Pushkin. Moscow is the place that brought us together. And we’ve just recently returned to the city that we love so much in order to work, teach and live.

Moscow is, quite simply, a charming and fascinating city to live in. It is a city of contrasts, extremes, and has a vibrancy and energy that constantly invigorate its visitors and its residents alike. If you enjoy sightseeing, it offers an endless list of places to visit beginning with, of course, the centre of Moscow and Red Square. The buildings and various architectural styles in the city are beautiful and cover a broad range of styles from centuries-old buildings to Stalinist to the modern skyscrapers of “Moscow City.” Many of the Moscow metro stations are breathtakingly beautiful, and tours are offered if you’re interested in knowing more about the construction and architectural intricacies on display. And there seems to be dozens upon dozens of stunningly beautiful churches and monasteries to visit if that is an area of interest for you.

If it’s rich Russian culture you’re interested in coming into more intimate contact with, then Moscow is a great place to live. There is always something on offer – countless museums, galleries, theatres offering plays and film screenings, concerts, exhibitions, lectures, etc., etc. For example, my wife and I recently attended a solo-performance play about the life of Rachmaninov, whose music I happened to grow up listening to. It was, simply, an unforgettable and magical evening.

While Moscow is a fascinating and, for me, wonderful place to live, it does occasionally pose a challenge for those unaccustomed to living a huge city. I grew up in a relatively small city in the U.S., so the size and crowds one has to deal with can be intimidating at times. However, while distances are at times daunting, the public transportation system is excellent and inexpensive.

Because of my own personal history, background, and knowledge of the language and culture, Moscow for me is essentially “home,” or as close to home as I’ll ever have. If you are considering living in Russia and exploring this vast and fascinating country, then I can highly recommend living in its capital, and, for me at least, most fascinating city, Moscow!

Written by Alexander Alvarado

It's hard to say much that is new about a city like Moscow. Probably because of its size and rich history, so much has already been said, and some of it may even be true. What I've found most interesting in living and working here is how much of what is said about the place comes up short.

For instance, that it's cold, in every sense. But summer has been beautiful this year, and maybe wouldn't be as easy to appreciate without the dramatic changes that all four seasons bring in this part of the world. And then, with the world cup this summer, I've seen people from all other parts of the world arrive, be welcomed, and have no problem finding fun.

Far from the hard, unapproachable country it's often made out to be in the Anglophone world, Russia in real life is really what you make of it. Moscow in particular has something for everyone. Learn the language, live the culture, keep an open mind, and the city just might repay you with all it has to offer.

Written by Danny Androutsos

Living in Moscow. What can I say? Well, I’ve been living here for most of three years now, and it’s become my home. Getting married and having a baby here would probably do that to you!

Then there are those periods of the year where the cloudy days and leaveless trees make the city look very bleak. But they’re kind of balanced out by the times of year where everything gets covered in snow, which really brightens the winter, or in late spring when all of the trees finally bloom again and the sunny days dominate. That’s when you realise that Moscow is actually a really green city. In fact, I think right now (June) is the very best time of year to be in Moscow. It doesn’t really get dark until close to 10pm, so even if you’re working late you feel like the day has just ended.

I think the thing that makes the place most tolerable is the people, which is ironic, since Russians are often known for their cold exterior. It’s definitely true that many of them wear a mask when they’re alone in public. Well, I guess we all do, but there one is obviously not so smiley. But if you’re aware of this, it can actually be quite entertaining. It almost becomes a challenge – how long will it take for the mask to crack? Because underneath the mask you will find warm, sincere, friendly people who will capture your heart. Thankfully, most of our students make an effort to take theirs off before they enter the classroom, so you’ll find teaching Russians to be an engaging experience. They are often very direct in their views, while at the same time they can come across as being very thoughtful and polite. You’ll occasionally receive gifts from very thankful students at the end of their studies, which is really sweet.

There is plenty to see and do in Moscow, but that’s for other people to tell you about. I can recommend the massive Kolomenskoye park, which is like a giant oasis from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s just 10 minutes’ walk from my house, so it’s kind of like our local. My favourite spot in town is around Novokuznetskaya, which is one of the oldest areas of the city.

So yeah. Can I tell you that Moscow is the most amazing place you’ll ever visit? Um, no. But it’s safe, green, interesting, and it’s a good place to work. And as everyone who travelled here for the World Cup found, it’s probably much nicer than you are expecting.