Thursday, 23 October 2008

To Russia, for Love - Part 2

Back in March I wrote this post.

You probably forgot all about it. No, let's scratch that. You definitely forgot all about it. But I couldn't, and didn't. The possibility of a family move to Russia has been there continuously, ever since, at the back of my mind. And once Husband started a consultancy stint in Moscow this summer, I decided that it was time to step out of denial and find out what living in Russia would actually mean.

This is not because such a move is imminent, however. It's not. It may happen early next year, it may happen next summer, it may not happen at all (though that last is probably the least likely scenario of the three). It's just that I prefer to be as informed as possible before I make life-changing decisions.

So, Husband and I have spent the last 5 days on our own in Moscow, investigating. And here is what we found out...

That amazingly, there are schools in Russia. Who would have thought it?

That just like everywhere else, some schools are good, and some are not. No names, no pack drill, but the school where the kindergarten teacher rushed past us on her way out during her break and, finding it impossible to shake the 3 year old clinging onto her, simply pressed his little hand into mine and left him crying before disappearing through the playground gate - without locking it behind her - is not on our list of possibles...

That, also just like everywhere else, expats can live as involved or detached a life as they like.

That a detached life can look pretty attractive when it includes a driver, a picturesque house in a secure compound, and the chance for your children to roam free inside that compound.

That a detached life can also look pretty lonely if your husband is spending his 'normal' amount of time in the office.

That Moscow has changed a great deal since we last spent time there. Though of course when we last spent time there we were without children, so most of what we saw on this visit had as much relevance to us then as a conversation about whether disposable nappies were better than non (they are), and whether or not you will use a washing machine more once you have a baby. (HA!)

That whilst Moscow has changed a great deal, it still has a lot of the same characteristics. Amazingly prompt trains (never more than 2 minutes between metros), incredibly entrepreneurial people, and more dust - a fine layer of it that seems to get everywhere - than you would expect in a capital city.

That I still get a buzz just from walking around it.

That I haven't actually forgotten all the cyrillic I learnt back before my first visit in 1995 - but also that since a large number of signs are now printed in the Roman alphabet, the letters I have forgotten are not that much of a problem.

That there are fewer cars you can hail as taxis by simply standing on the kerb and holding your arm out at a 45 degree angle than there used to be. (Husband muttered darkly that there is clearly too much money around if you can't find in a cab in the good old-fashioned way). Personally I was just delighted not to be on the road and in the Traffic, which is...

Awful. To the extent that what would be a 20 minute journey in London - not, as you may know, the world capital for successful road layouts and polite drivers - will take you at least an hour in Moscow, and if you make the mistake of looking out of the window will also decrease your life expectancy by about 10 years.

That Russian drivers love their tinted windows. This could account for their sombre mood in Winter as it is quite gloomy a lot of the time, and so looking at the world through dark glass is not advisable...

That sometimes though the sun will come out and tint the city a shining, misty blue, making you disregard the dust and the traffic, and notice instead the domes, the spires, and the possibilities.

That I would still prefer to be safe and cosy in reliable London, with the school we've chosen for our boys, the friends and family we have nearby, in the neighbourhood we have made our own.

But with that said, actually, I think we could do it.


  1. Well, what can I say, you clearly have a more daring soul than I have, although I can see why you might like to give it a go. I am clearly the wrong person to be your first commenter, being so attached to the place I live in. But your kids are little and you are young, so why not? I hope it means you get to spend more time with your husband. It would be one great big adventure, wouldn't it?

  2. One great big adventure - as Irene says.

    I like the idea of roaming free in a compound, although it does make them sound like lions in a safari park. I've never found the idea of a compound very attractive (maybe it's the mental image of the safari park, with the locals coming and taking photos of the expats through the wire), but that makes it sound much more attractive as a way of life.

    I also liked the original suggestion (was it from Frog in the Field?) of you becoming Potski Mumski.

  3. Would love the adventure but not the cold! The only time I get nostalgic about English winters is at Christmas (and even then it only lasts for 2 days) so can't envisage surviving a Russian one, but I look forward to the blogski should you choose to make the move. Hey, you can take the boys to school on a sled, they'd love that!

  4. Like Irene, I think it would be a great adventure for you all. And I'm sure there would be difficulties too, but it would be brilliant for your boys - as one who grew up abroad I am of the firm belief that it definitely widens your horizons. Cosy, safe and reliable is all very well but sometimes you just have to throw caution the wind! Good luck.

  5. Sometimes somethings you never know until you try. Even if you're living in a compound, there will be exciting places to escape to, exciting things to do. Perhaps not every day but you wouldn't be able to look forward to them if they happened every day. It sounds like a great adventure to me - and you can always come home if it doesn't work out.

    At the moment, I'm quite concerned about the Russian crooks who are intent on emptying my bank account. Or perhaps they're Scottish crooks who have escaped to Russia. Post in hand.

  6. Rather you than me. Russia doesn't appeal at all. Especially since embracing motherhood has turned me into an over-protective cluck.

    Now the Bahamas.....

  7. Think of the caviar, vodka and fur coats..


    BM x

  8. I remember the Russia post. Since the financial sector has not improved in London, I've been wondering when this would come up again. It seems like you are open to the idea, your children are young and adaptable and like Irene said, it could be a big adventure.

  9. You are a much more daring soul than I. It would be a grand adventure with great stories to be told.

  10. Irene, I'm attached too, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say.

    Iota - expat safari parks, good description! Personally I fancy myself as a leopard...

    Sharon, I've never experienced true russian winter, though anything that makes your nasal hairs freeze can't be good. Having said that, apparantly last year it was much milder. I live in hope!

    NVG, thanks, and you're right of course. One big adventure, that's what it will be (if we do it, which is by no means certain)

    GPM, I can't wait for the post, sounds intriguing. And yes, I'm told it is possible to leave the compounds...

    SB, well, if the Bahamas were on offer then the tone of my post would of course have been more of the 'see ya!' type...

    BM, funny you should say that. I have been.. (though I still can't get my head around a fur coat. Perhaps -15deg C would change that though...)

    SB, yes, 'not improved' is one way of putting it politely!

  11. Ped, sorry, comments crossed, and yes, a 'grand adventure' is how I'll be talking about it from now on...

  12. Go for it! But first of all go to the Expat Women web site and find a few Brits actually doing that. It's a great web site and will calm your anxiety. Sounds like you're pretty game tho'.

  13. Good advice EPM - will head over there right now and take a look.

  14. definitely a great adventure! and when you get there, please blog with photos!

  15. Can I be you? Please?

    I loved Moscow when I was there, but that was in the pre-kid days, too. It was still the Soviet Union, now that I think about it.

    But, oh, the possibilities...

  16. Wow - well I can hardly say 'stay in London' now can I? I won't repeat what others have written, but echo what nvg and em say...
    Life would be pretty boring if we never ventured out of our comfort zones ever wouldn't it? And yes, best to try while boys are still young and not uber-attached to their friends.
    Can't wait to read more from you on this subject...

  17. How exciting! You can always come back (I Think), I agree with irene, you're young and the children will only gain from this (you can always come back, I think), it will be a whole new experience that you will only regret not taking when you're ninety and regailing your grandchildren with stories and, of course, you can always come back (I think). MH

  18. Hi Grit, can't promise on the photos but I think you can rest assured there will be a blog about it (if it happens...)

    Hello RC, yes Moscow is still a very exciting place to visit. It's the living there that's giving me pause...

    M/M - watch this space (though there will probably be nothing more to say for a while)

    MH, yes, if all else fails I can always come back!

  19. Well, if you can do it and you want to, then do so. But if you can't and don't want to, then don't. Wasn't that very thoughtful of me? Duh! Like you couldn't have figured that out on your little own.

    Well, keep us all updated.

  20. Have never been there, and would hate the cold - but do you really think you might go? What an adventure. M xx


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