Living in Russia as an American Expat

In today’s globalized world, the decision to move from one country to another is often driven by a myriad of reasons. For some, it’s the allure of new opportunities, for others, it’s the pursuit of a better quality of life. In this post, we delve into my personal journey of living in Russia, we’ll cover my experience of living in Russia, reasons for considering a move to live in Russia, shedding light on the cultural, economic, and personal factors that influence such a decision.

My days in Russia have been filled with new experiences and insights. From the bustling streets to the intimate moments shared with locals, every day brings a fresh perspective on life in this beautiful country.

My journey to Russia has been filled with unexpected moments and cultural insights. Here’s a glimpse into my first day:

Table of Contents

The Journey to Russia

Setting out on this adventure, I began with a brief stop in Chicago, where I caught up with old college friends, Ella and Oscar. We enjoyed some Chinese food and watched a college football game. The next day, we embarked on a 10-hour flight to Turkey. The in-flight experience was comfortable, with meals and entertainment. Our daughter, TAA, surprisingly remained calm for most of the journey.

A Brief Stop in Turkey

Upon landing in Turkey, we explored the airport, aiming to enjoy some Turkish coffee. We also made a pit stop at the duty-free to buy some sukuk, a Turkish liquor. However, in a comical turn of events, the bottle broke within minutes of purchase. It was a brief taste of the unexpected moments that travel often brings.

Arrival in Russia and Family Time

After another flight, we finally arrived in Moscow and embarked on a 4.5-hour drive to our destination. The journey was long, but podcasts kept me engaged. Upon arrival, our daughter was immediately embraced by my wife’s family. It was heartwarming to see the close-knit bond they share, contrasting with my own family’s more reserved nature.

Experiencing Russian Delicacies

The next morning, I was introduced to a unique Russian drink made from otter extracts. Its strength was unparalleled, feeling like a fiery potion coursing through my veins. For breakfast, we enjoyed siki, a type of cottage cheese pancake that’s both delicious and filling.

Living in Russia
Living in Russia

Observations on Russian Culture

One thing that stood out to me about Russia is the reserved nature of its people. While they might appear cold at first glance, once you get to know them, their warmth and loyalty shine through. My wife’s father, for instance, has already invited me to multiple hunting trips in the short time I’ve been here.

Haircuts, Coffee, and More

I took the opportunity to get a haircut, which cost me just six bucks. The result was satisfactory, and it felt good to freshen up. We also explored local coffee options, with my wife’s mom introducing me to a brand she loves. The coffee machine they use, a vintage DeLonghi, brews a perfect cup every time.

Reflecting on the Day

As I wind down, I can’t help but appreciate the rich tapestry of experiences this trip has offered so far. From the unexpected moments in Turkey to the heartwarming family interactions in Russia, every moment has been a lesson in culture, adaptability, and the beauty of human connections.

During my recent time living in Russia, I’ve been soaking up the local culture and daily life. In case you were curious, here’s a snapshot of what my typical day has been looking like:

Morning Wake-Up and Bed Space Battles

Waking up on my second full day living in Russia, I found myself battling for bed space with Teya, the smallest person in the house, yet she manages to take up the most space. It’s a humorous start to the day, reminding me of the little quirks of family life.

English Class Q&A Session

I had the opportunity to participate in an English class Q&A session at a local university. The students were curious about various aspects of American life, from politics and gun violence to views on marriage and work. While I tried to provide a balanced perspective, I couldn’t help but feel I was a bit critical of America. Nonetheless, the experience was enlightening, and I even considered the possibility of tutoring part-time if I ever started living in Russia.

What’s a Typical day living in Russia look like?

Observations on Russian Beauty and Shopping

Walking around, I couldn’t help but notice the natural beauty of the Russian people. It seems like they take better care of themselves compared to what I’ve observed in America. Later in the day, we visited a mall, where I indulged in some shopping. I bought a pair of shoes, though I’m still on the fence about them. The quality of products in local stores is generally good, and the prices are reasonable.

Dining Experience

We had a delightful dining experience at a local bistro aka Bazaar. The self-service system allowed us to pick and choose from a variety of dishes. The portions were generous, and the total bill for four of us was surprisingly affordable. The quality of the food was top-notch, and I was particularly impressed with the tea infused with fresh oranges and mint.

Russia’s Walkability and Grocery Stores

One of the things I love about Russia, especially the city I’m in, is its walkability. Almost every corner has a grocery store, making it convenient for residents. This accessibility means that many people walk a lot during their day, contributing to their overall fitness. The city’s design ensures that everything one needs is within a short walking distance.

Traffic Lights and Road System

The traffic light system while living in Russia is slightly different from what I’m used to. Lights indicate the seconds left before they change to green, giving drivers and pedestrians a heads-up. It’s a small detail, but it adds to the overall efficiency of the road system.

Quality of Food

One of the first things I noticed during my visit to Russia was the significant difference in the quality of food. Unlike the heavily processed foods often found in the US, Russian foods tend to have fewer chemicals and sugars. This not only impacts the taste but also the overall health benefits. For instance, sodas in Russia are less sweet and don’t have the same chemical aftertaste, leading to a more natural flavor.

Why I Decided Living In Russia is Better For My Family Long Term

Ease of Transportation

Russia, especially its major cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, offers a plethora of transportation options. From taxis, trains, and buses to subways, getting from one point to another is both affordable and convenient. With services like Yandex taxi, which is akin to Uber, transportation is not only efficient but also light on the pocket.

Medical Costs Living in russia

The affordability extends to medical care as well. I think back to the experience of getting comprehensive medical tests done for just $50, a stark contrast to the exorbitant prices one might encounter in the US. This affordability ensures that healthcare is accessible to many, without burning a hole in their pockets.

Safety and Social Fabric

While no country can claim to be entirely free from crime, my personal experience in Russia was one of feeling safe, even during nighttime strolls. He contrasts this with the increasing frequency of mass shootings in the US, highlighting the difference in public safety perceptions between the two nations. Moreover, the strong emphasis on family in Russian culture resonated with him. Families spending quality time together, be it during dinners or weekend outings, showcases the importance of familial bonds in Russian society.

Mentality and Traditional Values Living in Russia

The mentality of the people in Russia, seems to lean more towards humility and hard work. There’s a noticeable difference in ego and attitude, especially when comparing the dynamics between genders. The traditional values, where men are often the providers and women take care of the household, might seem archaic to some, but they offer a sense of clarity and role definition that appeals to many.

what's the quality of life in Russia?

Cost of Living in Russia

Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons for considering a move is the cost of living. With the American dollar having a strong value in Russia, one can enjoy a higher quality of life at a fraction of the cost. From housing to entertainment, the reduced expenses allow for a more comfortable and stress-free lifestyle.

It seems more and more people are slowly realizing the value that leaving more expensive countries to adventure life outside their homeland. Travelling with Russell is one such example.

The decision to move to a different country is deeply personal and influenced by a variety of factors. The allure of Russia lies in its rich culture, affordable living, and the promise of a better quality of life. While it’s essential to recognize that individual experiences can vary, I hope to provide valuable insights into the broader narratives of migration and the search for a better life. Whether you agree or disagree with my perspective, it’s undeniable that such personal journeys offer a unique lens through which we can view our interconnected world.

Living in Russia, shopping at a Grocery Store

Ever wondered how much it costs to shop for groceries while living in Russia? With global economies constantly shifting, understanding the cost of living in different countries can be both fascinating and enlightening. In this post, we’ll take you on a virtual tour of a popular Russian grocery store, Lenta, akin to Walmart, and give you a firsthand look at the prices, products, and peculiarities of shopping in Russia.

Beverages Galore

One of the first things you’ll notice in Lenta is the vast array of beverages. From authentic Russian vodkas priced as low as $4 to a variety of wines, both local and imported, there’s something for every palate. Notably, the store also offers a unique pine-flavored soda and a fermented drink called kavass, which is a delightful blend of wheat flavoring.

The Bread Culture

Bread holds a special place when living in Russian households. From sweet pastry breads coated with cinnamon or honey to the staple black bread, the variety is immense. The freshness is also a key factor, with bread not meant to last for weeks, emphasizing the importance of daily fresh produce.

Dairy and Eggs

The dairy section is filled with a plethora of options, from different types of milk, including oat and soy, to a wide range of yogurts. Interestingly, mayonnaise is refrigerated, emphasizing the freshness of products. Eggs, too, are affordably priced, with a 30-count available for just $2.50.

Meats and Seafood

Russia’s love for sausages and salamis is evident in Lenta’s meat section. From tender meats to various fish options, including sardines and herring, the choices are vast. Notably, caviar is available by the container, emphasizing its popularity and accessibility.

Sweets and Snacks

The store boasts an impressive range of sweets, from Kinder bars to unique sunflower candies. There’s also a variety of chips with flavors that might be unfamiliar to the Western palate, such as crab and caviar. Russian ice cream, distinctively different from its American counterpart, is another must-try.

Fruits and Vegetables

The produce section offers a range of fruits and vegetables, with prices quoted per kilogram. From oranges and lemons to unique items like white pumpkins, the variety ensures that shoppers have access to both local and imported goods.

Cost Of Living in Russia

As an American, I decided to share my firsthand experience of the living costs in Russia in 2023. Here are the main takeaways from my journey:

Medical and Dental Costs While living in russia

One of the most striking differences I noticed was the medical costs between the US and Russia. Back home, I’ve seen many of my friends and family burdened with medical debts for years. While Living In Russia, I underwent several medical tests, including a hormone test and an EKG, and was pleasantly surprised when it cost me just $50 in total. Dental work, which I’ve always found notoriously expensive in the US, was much more affordable here. I got two of my front teeth fixed and a basic cleaning for only $90.

Travel and Accommodation While Living in russia

I took a trip to St. Petersburg, spending two and a half days exploring the city. My hotel, perfectly located in the heart of downtown, set me back only $115 for two nights. The 12-hour train journey to St. Petersburg was priced at a reasonable $120 for two people. Dining out was also a treat, with my most expensive meal at a decent restaurant costing around $30.

Miscellaneous Expenses

During my stay, I indulged in some self-care, getting pedicures and cosmetic fixes for around $80 in total. I also visited local cafes where delightful desserts were priced at about 60-70 cents each. All in all, I estimate that my entire trip, including medical tests, travel, dining, and other activities, amounted to approximately $500.

Safety and Perception

One thing I must emphasize is how safe I felt while living in Russia. I rarely saw any homeless individuals and felt completely at ease walking the streets, even late at night. This was a stark contrast to my experiences in the US, where just recently, a colleague of mine was tragically shot. I’ve come to realize that the negative perceptions many Americans have about Russia are often based solely on media portrayals. It’s essential to experience a place firsthand before forming an opinion.

Considering Relocation

Given the affordable cost of living and the sense of safety I experienced, I’m genuinely considering making Russia my home in the future. I think about the expenses back in the US, like the $1,000 I spend monthly on daycare for my child, and compare it to the minimal costs here. Just to give you an idea, an in-home doctor’s visit for my sick child here cost a mere $7.

Is Living in Russia Safe? My Perspective

This journey has been an eye-opener for me, challenging many preconceived notions and highlighting the importance of firsthand experiences in understanding a place.

During my time in St. Petersburg, I’ve been able to immerse myself in Russian culture and compare it to my experiences back home in the United States. Here are some of my key takeaways:

Transportation and Infrastructure of Living in Russia

St. Petersburg is incredibly pedestrian-friendly. The city’s infrastructure is designed in such a way that you can comfortably walk from point A to point B. In the US, I often felt the need for a car, but here, walking or taking a taxi is both convenient and affordable. For instance, a 45-minute taxi ride to a popular attraction cost me less than $20.

Cultural Values and Interactions

The cultural values living in Russia are distinct. People here tend to keep to themselves, and there’s no pressure to engage in insincere small talk. When you do form a connection, it feels genuine. Unlike some encounters in the US where plans are often canceled last minute, here, when someone commits to meeting up, they usually follow through.

Cost of Living and Currency Value

The value of the US dollar goes a long way while living in Russia. I’ve dined at upscale restaurants in the heart of St. Petersburg, and the total bill was around $25, including tip. Groceries are also incredibly affordable. I often wonder how I could even spend $2,000 in a month here unless I was living extravagantly.

Food Quality and Health while living in Russia

Most countries outside the US, including Russia, have stricter regulations on food quality. The result? The food here tastes fresher and more natural. This difference in food quality also reflects in the general health of the population. Most people I’ve observed are in good shape, and there’s a noticeable absence of obesity.

Beauty Standards and Authenticity

While walking the streets of St. Petersburg, I couldn’t help but notice the natural beauty of the people here. Unlike some trends in the US, where heavy makeup is the norm, Russian women often embrace a more natural look. This authenticity in appearance extends to clothing choices as well, with most opting for more formal attire even for casual outings.

Architectural Marvels

St. Petersburg is home to some breathtaking architectural wonders. The Cathedral of St. Isaac’s, the fourth largest cathedral in the world, is a testament to this. The intricate designs and grandeur of these structures, like the Heritage Museum, are a sight to behold.

During my recent visit to Russia, I’ve had the opportunity to observe firsthand how the country has adapted to the sanctions imposed on them. Here are some of my key insights:

Resourcefulness Amidst Sanctions

The way Russia has adapted to the sanctions, which essentially shut down many of the country’s external resources, is truly remarkable. Instead of struggling due to a lack of resources, the country has become more resourceful. Despite the sanctions, Russia is in a good spot. They have an abundance of food, gas, and oil. It reminded me of how Texas, with its vast resources, could potentially sustain itself independently if it ever needed to.

Replacement of International Brands

Many international brands like Adidas and McDonald’s have left Russia due to the sanctions. However, in their place, local entrepreneurs have stepped up, launching businesses that directly compete with these global giants. For instance, a local store named “Likus Toka” has emerged as a replacement for McDonald’s, and it’s just as good. Similarly, brands like H&M and TJ Maxx have been replaced by “Gloria Jeans” and “Familia” respectively. The quality of products in these local stores is comparable, if not better, and often at a more affordable price.

How is Russia Handling Sanctions?

Grocery Stores and Consumer Goods While living in Russia

Contrary to some beliefs, Russian grocery stores are well-stocked. During my visit to a local grocery store, I noticed shelves overflowing with products, from chocolates to beverages. Even popular drinks like Coca-Cola have local counterparts, such as “Do Cola.” The quality of these local products is on par with international brands, and often, they’re more affordable.

Economic Independence and Future Prospects

Given Russia’s ability to produce most of its essential goods in-house, I believe the country is on a path to economic independence. While they might still maintain alliances with countries like China, their reliance on external resources seems to be diminishing. In contrast, the US heavily relies on imports for many goods, making it vulnerable if those supply chains were ever disrupted.

Resilience and Perception of Living in Russia

Walking through the streets and visiting various stores, I noticed that businesses were thriving. The only significant change was the inflation, a phenomenon occurring globally. Russia, in my observation, is a resilient country that’s adapting impressively to the challenges thrown its way. I feel that the nation deserves more credit than it currently receives and certainly doesn’t warrant the negative perceptions held by many.

My time living in Russia has been enlightening. The resilience and adaptability of the Russian people in the face of global sanctions are commendable. I hope my observations provide a fresh perspective on the situation and challenge some of the prevailing narratives.

Final Thoughts of Living in russia as the trip winds down

I reflect on the resilience and adaptability of the Russian people. Despite the challenges they face, they’ve built a life that’s both comfortable and fulfilling. The convenience of city life, combined with the warmth of the people, makes me seriously consider the possibility of settling here in the future.

While there is surely a culture shock coming here, I have been nothing short of blown away with the Russian Culture and quality of life here. More updates to come down the road as we progress on our path to financial freedom.

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