The other day, I was asked how I managed my life. More specifically, about how I’ve managed to survive and stay in Russia for just under two years. At the time, I didn’t have an adequate reply, but after thinking about it for a while, I’ve been able to formulate something that I hope will be satisfactory.
While I don’t really think about it, as it’s reached the point of being an automatic habit, I would say that first of all, adapting to the Russian mindset was the biggest thing. That’s not to say that you should be doing (which is a fairly stereotypical/inaccurate image) shots of vodka to go with your borsch, but rather, do not try to excessively compare things to what we have in the west. Maybe it’s just my ability to adapt rather quickly, but it’s not an outlandish thing to ask for. Also, I personally believe that comparisons should be left at the passport control at one of the three Moscow airports. Based upon what I’ve experienced, the Russian mentality is unique in that things are simple-you don’t ask for much and life will treat you decently. Sounds a bit pessimistic? Eh, not really. Expectations are tempered, but not overly so compared to life back home.
I think another thing that has helped is the fact that I have been moderately active in terms of a social life. I understand that a prevailing image of Russians are that they’re disinclined to talk or smile, or even converse with foreigners, but I have not found this to be true. How, you might ask. Really, you just need to go out. There’s a Russian saying “попытка не пытка (to try is not torture),” and it absolutely resonated with me. As someone who is decidedly introverted, I was a bit reticent at first to delve into the abundant amount of experiences offered by the capital. However, I subsequently met a lot of great new friends, who have absolutely made my Russian experience as incredible as it has been! I have other reasons for why I’m planning on staying here for a while longer, but the building friendships and a sense of belonging has been absolutely vital.
All in all, I hope this helped explain why I, as well as many other expats, have been able to proudly call Moscow a home away from home.