- Invest in some serious cold weather clothing. Don’t mess about with the cold when relocating to Russia, buy yourself a good quality Parka and some warm shoes. You’ll be wearing them all winter so get the best you can afford and in a style you feel comfortable wearing. The super trendy Nobis, Canada Goose and Woolrich brand parkas will all keep you warm when the temperature dips to -30 degrees. On your feet you will need insulated shoes or boots, Uggs are great as is the Sorel brand. Something that is extraordinary to experience is that in very cold weather your boots will not get wet in the snow, you will stay dry. Remember to buy warm gloves and hats and some scarves. The hood on your parka is not principally to keep the rain and snow off but to keep you warm. Most young people will wear a wool beanie and when it gets very cold pull their hood up. You can wear fur but I would suggest waiting to buy till you understand the style and how it is worn by the Russians first. When it gets really cold I also wear the super comfortable and luxurious Zimmerli wool and silk thermals. Get them!
2. Get Paid in a Hard Currency! The Ruble is notorious for taking massive tumbles against the Dollar, Euro and Sterling. When you arrive in Russia it’s obvious to see who has and who hasn’t benefited from this phenomenon. It’s probably prudent to not sign a contract that pays you a fixed amount of Rubles each month. Don’t try to save money in Rubles, many people have tried and failed to do this over the years! Think of a bucket with a hole in it. You can keep filling it but your purchasing power is always being diminished.
3. Be careful what you say. Even if you are shocked about some aspects of life in Russia it’s usually best to avoid complaining about things to your Russian friends and colleagues. They know things are not perfect in their country but they are still Russian and proud of their history and culture. Instead try to focus on the positives of which there are many. Many Russians have not visited the West especially large cities like London or New York. They don’t always realise what they are missing out on. Try and avoid saying how much you earn.
4. Learn to cook from fresh. It’s difficult to eat healthily if you don’t cook at home. Food in Cafes and restaurants are generally carb and sugar heavy and hot vegetarian options are sometimes limited. You will also not find so many ready meals and prepared foods in Russia so it’s useful to be able to cook. You will have to scout out your local area for the best places to buy produce but you should usually be able to find lots of fish and vegetables. Organic beef and chicken is difficult to find as are eggs but there will usually be a high-end supermarket in your local vicinity where you should be able to purchase things in which you feel quality is important.
5. Try and get a gym membership included in your work contract. Gyms are social hubs in Russia and at the best gyms you will find influential people and the best contacts. If you like keeping fit you will need to join a gym, running outside in winter is pretty much impossible. A good gym will also likely have a pool, sauna (banya) steam room and perhaps a kids playroom and salon which can be great if you have a family.
6. Take Russian lessons! If you intend staying in Russia for some time I would suggest learning the language as soon as you arrive. English is not widely spoken outside of the most metropolitan areas so if you want to be able to get around, shop and eat out at restaurants that do not have English-speaking staff some Russian is beneficial. Until that time bookmark Google translate on your phone, download the “SayHi” app for natural speech translation and the “Word Lens” app for reading menus and signs through your phone camera.
7. Have someone who can help you book taxis. If you didn’t know it’s not normal to flag down a passing taxi. You will generally have to phone every time you need one. This slightly frustrating system becomes extremely difficult if you don’t speak any Russian. There are some apps that will allow you to order in English but if the driver cannot find your position and phones you there is going to be a translation problem. If you are allocated a secretary or an assistant with your new job I’m sure they will only be too happy to help.
8. Bring a load of goodies from your native country. When you first arrive it’s likely that you will have to rely on lot’s of people before you find your feet. Russians love exotic gifts and something from New York, London or Paris will make their day and grease the wheels of friendship. If you are invited to somebodies house always bring a gift as it’s very likely that they have laid on a serious meal for you….
9. Be careful with the beer. Russian beer, even if foreign branded is quite likely to give you the most ridiculously painful hangover you have ever experienced from such a small amount of alcohol. Nobody I have spoken to yet has been able to give me a clear reason for this. In Dubai you understand that your body is usually dehydrated but in Russia I really think it’s something to do with the brewing process. Avoid this problem at all costs by investing in quality imported beer and quality wine. One popular beer that I have found is generally safe to drink when out is the very good imported Czech Krusovice.
10. Acquire Sense of Humour! From falling down icy concrete steps, dealing with the bureaucracy or negotiating strange business behaviour there is very little that can’t be helped by having a sense of humour. You are going to have to let a lot of things go in this country, don’t get stressed and go on a crusade, you are not going to succeed. Think about the issue, relax, look at it in a greater perspective then laugh it off!