As an expatriate in Russia, I’m always asked, by friends back home and by my students, about things that I miss. Oftentimes these questions are thrown in towards the end of conversations, or are asked in passing, so my responses aren’t as thought out. Generally, I just say “my bed” or “the weather”, but when you get down to the bottom of it, things are more complicated than that. Okay, so I admit that living the expat life sometimes isn’t as cracked up as it was meant to be. When I say that, I want to clarify that I don’t mean it’s bad being an expat. Rather, I mean that sometimes, you just have days where you wish you were back home. In the spirit of lightheartedness and a wee bit of whining, these are some things I miss from home:
- My bed. Okay, I mentioned it earlier, but when you’ve slept on sofa-couches for the last two years, you kind of pine for a real bed with a real mattress. Thus, trips back home essentially turn into a “how long can I stay in bed for?” challenge.
- Food. Elitist? Not really. As much as I love the variety of culinary options that Moscow has to offer, nothing beats Washington, D.C.’s variety of food. Spicy food only exist in theory here, so whenever I go home, I try to gorge myself on all ethnic cuisine (I love kimchi like no other). On the flip side, I like to chow down on some fast food chains that aren’t available here in Moscow, such as Five Guys, Chipotle, and Taco Bell. Hey, when you only are able to have them once a year, you make the best of that opportunity.
- The sense that you’re in sync with everybody else. As someone living 8 hours ahead of the folks back home, you sometimes get the feeling that you might not exist because you miss things due to the time difference. For example, it’s hard to really chat to friends because you first have to see what time is it back home, then see if they’re free, and then you can talk. I mean, it’s almost like work. Thankfully, my computer’s clock is set on EST which makes things slightly easier, but overall the mental calculations drag on you. So, some days I wish I could be at home to communicate in real time. I also feel that I miss out on the news given the time difference. Like a detective who has to piece clues together, I have to solve the riddle of what happened, which often occurs thanks to belated updates on my Facebook timeline.
- Some days, trying to do daily tasks can be a lot harder, especially when your Russian isn’t as forthcoming/your accent is godawful. For that reason, I do miss the ease of shopping/buying necessary things/paying for key items. Whenever I get calls in Russian, I freak out a bit, which is unfortunate as I’m sure I just blew off someone calling to let me know about my credit card.
- IP address conflicts are a major pain, so never underestimate the power that geography has on your daily entertainment. I know, this is petty in the grand scheme of things, but some days, you just don’t want to have to think about “will this work?”.
- As I write this, the weather here in Moscow has been fluctuating between the low 20’s and up to simply freezing. I’ve long since adjusted to it, but sometimes, I’d really like for it to only snow between December and February, instead of October to March; even my students complain that it’s nuts to see snow super early. Thankfully, central heating takes care of that issue, and god bless having the ability to wear shorts inside your apartment in wintertime. Summer can be hot (80 degree weather), and having no A/C makes life far more sadistic. I always thought DC weather fluctuated, but at least you wouldn’t freeze nor would you feel like you were burning alive.