5 September 2016

Alice Lucas - Expat in Moscow, Russia

Alice Lucas - Expat in Moscow, Russia

We’ve had the chance to talk to Alice Lucas, 26, a British expat who has moved to Moscow alone. Ms. Lucas who has been living there for three years now works as an English tutor.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you originally from?

A: From the UK.


Q: What made you move out of the UK?

A: I knew I wanted to spend time living abroad since a language trip to Spain during my A Levels. I remember walking through the streets imagining living there for a year. My university degree included a placement year, so I chose to complete six months in Hamburg and six months in Barcelona because I wanted to improve my German and Spanish to fluency. Since then I have lived in Cuba, Nicaragua, Austria, Siberia and Moscow.


Q: Where are you living now?

A: Moscow.


Q: How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: After University I decided to take a year to travel before finding a ‘proper job’. That was harder than I’d first thought, as all these ‘proper jobs’ seemed to be in dreary offices where I just couldn't imagine myself. I found an advert for a job that I knew I would be good at - running a language school for the summer in London. They called me the day after the interview, and I spent the summer surrounded by foreign students. A few of the group leaders asked me to come to Russia and teach in their schools. At first, I thought that seemed a little crazy until the idea was firmly implanted in my head, I accepted a position in Siberia and off I went. My year was incredible, and I then moved to Moscow in the hope of a bigger city, and more opportunities, just a little closer to London.


Q: How long have you been living in Russia?

A: I've been in Russia for three years.


Q: What has been the most difficult experience you've had when you were new in Moscow?

A: Everything is generally more difficult in Russia, but once you’ve done something once, you know how to go about it next time. Things like taking the bus, shopping, dry cleaning, going to the doctors. The most difficult were when I first moved to Siberia, as there are few foreigners living there, and I didn’t speak a word of Russian. I used to sit on the bus an extra stop until someone else shouted to the driver that they wanted to get off and I’d follow. Once a lady at the meat counter got really angry when I couldn’t explain how much I wanted - shouting across the shop “100 grams - that’s nothing! How much do you want?” Somedays I just didn’t want to go out as I didn’t have the energy to explain myself in broken Russian and lots of hand gestures. Saying that, I had made great friends in both cities who have always been there to help when I needed it, making phone calls for me, or writing notes to my landlady and as I’ve learnt more Russian I’ve been able to do all those things myself.


Q: Would you say that formalities like getting visas or work permits and international health insurance were particularly difficult in Moscow? What was your experience with these?

A: Visas just take a long time. You need an invitation from the company you're working for. This can take between 2-9 weeks. You then need to take the original document, your visa application form, photos and your negative HIV test to the visa application centre in London. You then go back to the application centre a week later and collect your visa. Once in Russia you then need to have your company register you. This happens each time you re-enter the country. If you want to change companies, then you must begin the whole process again. My passport is now full of these visas since changing companies three times.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family?

A: I live alone.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialize with other expats in Moscow? How did you manage to find a social circle in Moscow?

A: In Novosibirsk I had a few friends from work until I discovered the Couch Surfing community where I met two of my best friends and then an English Speaking Club where we’d meet for pizza every Saturday, and they’d teach me, Russian.
In Moscow, I made friends mainly with other expat teachers. There are much more opportunities to meet people in Moscow, with Language Conversation Clubs, Couch Surfing events, Facebook or even just going to a bar full of expats.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Anything to recommend to future expats?

A: There is so much to do in Moscow! I recommend skating in Gorky Park - in winter on the huge ice rink which goes around the entire park, or in summer along the cycle lane which follows the river.
I also recommend going to the sixth floor of the Central Children’s Store for a view over Central Moscow.
Go dancing in Gorky Park on a Saturday evening.
If you’re a bit strange like me, then take the trolleybus around the entire Garden Ring Road. It’s so cool to just watch the view and the people out of the window.


Q: How does the cost of living in Moscow compared to your home? I think in general its cheaper than in London in terms of apartments, transport and cafes.

  • How much is a cup of coffee?

A: Around 240 руб (£3)

  • How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: Around 600 руб (£8) - 1500 руб (£19)

  • How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: To your imagination.

  • How much is a bottle of wine?

A: Anything from 500 руб (£6) in a restaurant.

  • How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: I think 50 руб (£0.60)


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: I love watching people especially the old ladies who sell things outside the metro. People are generally very friendly, but they have a way about them that can seem impolite or rude until you get used to them. On the other side, they are very polite and will always hold the door and give up their seat on the metro to someone who needs it more.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Moscow?

A: Positives:
I feel very safe; there is no catcalling, men are very respectful of women. People are proud to be Russian. Transport it cheap and the Metro is excellent, so you can always do a lot. Cafes and usually comfortable and not too expensive.


The traffic is awful; there are a lot of people in this city so it can feel quite crowded on weekends and big holidays, and on the Metro during rush hour.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes?

A: I don’t think I miss people. I use Instagram, WhatsApp and FaceTime, so I’m always in contact. Then I visit home at least four times a year.


Q: How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I don’t get homesick. I love my life here, and if I want to go home, then I go home for a visit. I try to time my visits with holidays, so I’m not missing out, e.g. Easter and Christmas.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: For now I am travelling during the summer for three months, so I have no idea if I will fall in love with another city and decide to move there. The plan is to stay abroad for at least another year before moving back to the UK.


Q: What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?

A: I can’t say anything has been particularly hard. I love that every day is a challenge which you learn and grow from.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Moscow?

A: I follow Moscow Expats group on Facebook and We Heart Moscow has lots of information on events each weekend. I also follow a few people on Instagram who give me ideas on new places to visit.