'What matters is deciding to get on...' An open letter to Expats considering moving to Moscow.

>> Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Every now and again I am contacted by people thinking of / planning to move to Moscow.  The questions these people ask are varied and often surprising, but I always try and answer them honestly whilst at the same time being positive about their forthcoming adventure.

Russia is, you see, something of an unknown quantity for most people in 'western' countries.  They don't know much about it, and what they do know is often not very encouraging.  So almost the first thing I write in my response is something along the lines of 'Congratulations on your forthcoming move' - because I'm fairly certain they won't have heard that from many people back home.  

Then I touch on schools (lighten up - especially if you're coming from the UK), traffic (it's hell), bureaucracy (don't ask 'why', just ask 'how'), learning Russian (even a few words will help), and prioritising the family commute over the working partner's travel (something of a bugbear with me since all the families I've known who've left early have been those where the kids have had a 2 hour drive to school whilst the dad - and yes, it IS always the dad in this situation - has a 15 minute journey).

Recently however, I've found myself wanting to include a quote from one of my sons' favourite movies, The Polar Express in these letters. (Can you tell I've been subjected to too much kids tv over the last few years?).  I can't, of course - how trite would that sound? - but here, on the blog, I can say what I please so I'm going to use it...   

I'm paraphrasing, but after the children's adventures are just about finished and our Hero arrives back outside his home, the Conductor's final words to him (apart from 'Merry Christmas!' obviously) are something like "That's the thing about trains; it doesn't matter where they're going.  What matters is deciding to get on..."

That, for me, sums up a successful attitude to coming to live in Moscow.  Who knows where the ride will take you?  It may be where you're expecting - and equally, it may not.  But wherever you end up, if you sign on for the experience with an open mind you will be surprised, entertained, rarely bored and you may just find strengths and skills that you never knew you possessed. 

So.  In the Conductor's words; 'Well. Are you coming?'


MsCaroline 6 March 2013 at 21:27  

It's difficult to sum up a country and/or a city for someone, isn't it? I happen to love it in Seoul and would heartily recommend it to anyone. I think approaching an move with an open mind (at home or abroad) is the key to making it a success. It would be interesting to compare our experiences, though. When you first moved to Moscow (yes, I've been reading that long) I would have assumed that - it being more of a 'Western' nation(at least compared to Korea) - your transition would have been relatively easy compared to ours - but I'm not sure that's always been the case! Either way, though, you've obviously made it work and are taking advantage of the opportunity. Years ago when my family lived in Germany, I remember asking my mother where the new neighbors (they'd been there only 4 or 5 months)had gone and my mother told me that the wife had packed up the children and returned to the US because she 'just couldn't take it anymore.' Hard to believe that anyone would voluntarily give up the opportunity to live in Europe, but there it is. You can't ever predict how people will respond to a given situation, can you? Your advice is spot-on.

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