About two months ago, I was asked how I’ve to survive and stay in Russia for just under two years. At the time, I didn’t have an adequate reply, but after dwelling on the matter for a while, I’ve been able to formulate something that I hope will be satisfactory.
While I don’t really think about it since it’s become an automatic habit, I would say that adapting to the Russian mindset was the biggest thing to overcome. 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.
Making the huge decision to move abroad to teach was the marking of the second chapter of my life, but one thing that’s remained the same is that I treat this like an adventure. That way things become contextualized, meaning the good and the bad don’t outweigh each other. Sure, things aren’t always as rosy as my posts on social media may make it out to be, but adopting the mentality of “well, tomorrow’s another day to see what’ll happen on this journey” is the way I cope. And you know what? It’s worked! Honestly, it’s made the previous two years fly by and increase my anticipation for what’s to come!
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! There are other reasons for why I’m planning on staying here for an undefined period of time, but the friendships combined with 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.