10 Reasons Why I Couldn’t Live in Russia
My family moved to Moscow when I was 11 and stayed until I graduated school. I grew to respect and understand Russians and their culture, but still there were these few things I knew I’d never be in peace with.
- The goddamn winter…obviously. I still remember the time it snowed on my mid September birthday. Russian winter is nothing like that Westeros winter, when it says it’s coming, you know it’s coming. If you’re anything like me and you’re not crazy about winters Russia is not for you.
- Corruption. It is so frequent it’s not even raising eyebrows. Everyone is looking to get a financial reward to do you a favor. And by favor I mean the thing they are supposed to do. You gotta oil the wheels to get good deals all the time. From graduation exams to finding employment, from adding a few years to work experience for your pension benefits to finding a better place in the cemetery. God forbid you decide to travel from one city to another by car, you’ll be pulled over every 10 miles by what they call Traffic Police to solicit more favors.
- Security checks. If you live in Moscow you have to carry your passport all the time. This applies to everyone, but foremost and most importantly to people with “unrussian” looks (we’ll get there soon). The Police can ask you to show your passport at any moment, if you don’t have it they’re supposed to take you to the station to look for you in the database (yes that thing called Internet keeps evading Russian law-enforcement). But the likeliest scenario is that the Police will first solicit a favor.
- Racism. If you’re a foreigner you will always be a foreigner. Some would argue the same applies to all countries, but I respectfully disagree. It certainly is not the same in the US and in Europe, where it is common understanding that racism is a thing of past an one should be ashamed of being racist. In Russia racism is somewhat frowned upon, and that’s it, if you properly mix your racism with a dash of patriotism, you’re good to go. I can understand why one’s nationality may be an issue in mono ethnic states, but Russia is multiethnic. Yet Russians will remind you, you’re not one of them on a daily basis in public transport, in a shop or even in hospitals. Foreigners are the universal scapegoats; whatever a Russian can’t achieve a foreigner is to blame. They take the jobs, they take best girls, they control show business and the Government. There’s a grave irony in the fact that Nationalist movements keep getting stronger and stronger in a country that defeated fascism. As a teenager I was attacked by skinheads a number of times and not only the bystanders didn’t care, the attackers would likely be unpunished even if the Police actually bothered to arrest them. But hey, you could get in trouble if you tried to defend yourself. Russia is for Russians. This motto used to be voiced only by knuckleheads, but lately it was accepted by most Russians.
- Superiority complex. Russians are the only people I met that use the term “unrussian” (нерусский) in negative connotation. My first reaction to hearing that was “is that even an insult?”. It is, at least it’s meant to be. I met quite many otherwise reasonable and great Russians, who did believe that Russia is somehow superior to the rest of the planet and that it has some sort of a divine messiah mission to accomplish. Russia is taking it as far as proclaiming itself a bastion of family values in the modern world, that is destined to defend everyone from the evil liberal influences of the West. All this while the divorce rate in Russia far exceeds US and Europe, the term Russian bride has long became a cliche and intercountry adoption rate is soon equaling China. Yet Russians feel they have a few morality lessons to teach theWest.
- The media. There is only one pre-approved, pre-censored opinion on Russian television and it is echoed on every channel. And television is the predominant source of information. The smaller bastions of freedom of speech that existed on the Internet keep being shut down leaving for that one opinion to be repeated over and over again. There was a time when you could go to Internet for some alternate takes on current events, but new laws that can jail you for a Facebook status, seem to take care of that.
- Constant whining about the West. a) The West is always plotting something against Russia; b) if you think the West is not plotting something against Russia, see point ‘a’. I’ve seen these consequences of Cold War both in Russia and the US, Remember how every bad guy in Hollywood action movies used to be Russian? Somehow the good-humored Russians, who used to laugh at these stereotypes for many years, turned paranoid themselves. Even this very article may be a another Pentagon or Obama plot against Russia
- The ridiculous prices. You keep hearing that London or Paris are expensive, well you haven’t been to Moscow. Not only it is more expensive, people get paid significantly less too. You’ll end up renting an apartment so far it will take you an hour to get to your work. Basically all of my friends, who did not inherit an apartment, will have to work for 30 years to finally pay off a mortgage for a 60 sq. meter apartment that is technically not even in Moscow
- The drinking. Yes the drinking is a problem. It starts in schools and lasts a lifetime. It is uncool not to be able to drink shitloads of alcohol, so kids start prepping in middle school. The task is not that hard, because most shops and especially numerous kiosks will sell alcohol to an infant. Every attempt to fight alcoholism has shown little or no results. I guess the reason is, that most Russians are proud of drinking a lot, and they have success stories and anecdotes to share.
- Distances and massive traffic. You’ll spend a considerable portion of your life commuting, about 3–4 hours a day, if you’re lucky and there are no traffic jams. But the “fun” part of course is there are always jams. Roads are always repaired, because they were not properly repaired, when they were repaired the previous time and so on. You get the idea. So forget about cars. Use metro. All the time.
Through my years in Russia I met many wonderful people and made very good friends. I also received a very good education for which I’m eternally grateful. I only meant to address some of the issues a foreigner comes across in Russia, so you are ready. It’s a great place to visit, they have tremendous places to see, and if you know at least a few things about Russia I shouldn’t tell you about Russian influence on music, literature, cinema and science. It’s just that I’ll never stay they there for too long, and most Russians are pretty happy about that, cos “Russia is for Russians”, right?