Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Assimilation - Moscow-style

You know you've adapted to living in Moscow when...

...you walk back after dropping the kids at school, notice a burst water main in the neighbouring compound on your way home and without wasting any time once you get there, put the washing machine on pause.  Why?  Because you know without being told that the water pressure in your home will drop substantially and that even when it's sorted, the next lot of water coming through the tap will be brown and murky - and the wash you currently have on is white.

...you subsequently receive a call from your compound manager and start the conversation by saying 'Good morning A* - did you know the water is off because of the next-door compound's leak?' before she even has the chance to draw breath and inform you that the water is off for 2 hours due to - guess what - a burst water main.

...travelling home in a taxi after a splendid night out you suddenly realise that you're listening to 'Jerusalem' being sung by clear-voiced choristers on the radio, at 2am, on a busy Moscow highway - and that it doesn't seem at all surreal.

...the girl on the other end of the order line for your water bottles drops your call because she can't be bothered to find someone to speak English to you, so you shrug your shoulders and call back using your pidgin Russian to order it.  Then you buy a couple of 5 litre bottles at the supermarket just in case you - yet again - misunderstood the delivery day/time and you don't want to spend the day at home waiting for a drinking water delivery that never comes.

...your children are wearing woolen hats and gloves as they cycle to school - and have been doing so for the entire last week of September.

...what's more, you let them do it without comment (and in fact, are digging around in the glove basket for your own).

...you have already washed the kids ski trousers and jackets ready for the first snow fall.

...you watch the first snow falling (today) and instead of despairing, check that you have wax for your cross country skis and that you can find your glove warmers.

...you find yourself looking at the fur coat and jacket shops without the same levels of disdain that you did when you arrived in Russia 4 years ago.

...you even come up with a rationale for wearing a lambskin shearling coat (FYI; I eat sheep and lamb - why shouldn't I wear them?), although you still can't quite bring yourself to purchase one

...your children no longer ask new kids in their class where they are from, because they know the answer may well be 'Well, I was born in Houston but then we moved to Singapore, before living in Australia and then Amsterdam'.  Instead, they cut out the blather and ask 'Where did you arrive from?'


  1. I read this carefully, but in a week's time, if questioned, the bit I will remember is the "making cake" bit.

  2. You sound like the ideal person to meet if one moved to Russia...

  3. Iota - to be honest, that's the only bit that really matters.

    NVG - hmmm...

  4. God what depressing weather. (Sorry.) We're back in shorts today. However, in a month we'll probably be matching you for winter misery.

  5. When I was reading this (and thinking that life in Seoul with a dead hot-water-heater really isn't so bad after all compared to your water main break)I was thinking about how all these experiences shape us as expats and wondering what will stay with you (or me) when you move back home. I wish I'd found someone like you during the move when MrL was working on a project across the country and I was on my own (except for the odd weekend) for 6 months with 2 little boys- and this was in the US! Best thing about the expat community is the warmheartedness you find among its members, who have all 'been there.' I probably would have cried with relief and gratitude if I'd been that other woman!

  6. That last bit is why you rock (have been looking at winter gloves and wondering what you recommend)

  7. Sounds to me like you should set up an advice service for people who move to Moscow!


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