Welcome all!

First I would like to thank you for visiting my blog, I hope you will enjoy reading it! Do not hesitate to follow me!

This blog has three main objects. First, it allows me to share my impressions and to provide useful informations to people who visit or leave in Moscow.

Than across this blog, I would like to exchange on Russia and more specifically on Moscow, to discuss everyone's outlook and eventually correct some stereotypes!

At last but not least, I would like to publish contributions of foreigners and Russians living in Moscow in order to have a multitude of glance on this wonderful city

I wish you all a good reading!! (There is also a French version of this blog: http://regards-sur-la-russie.blogspot.com/)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Interview for Expat Arrivals

Hello everyone,

I recently gave an interview to Stephanie Katz, the editor of the website Expat Arrivals.

Expat Arrivals is a website that offers on one side travel guides (not free) for various destinations, but moreover it provides lots of useful information and stories for free. You can find info about accommodation, visas, banking, money and taxes, education and schools ... . 

I invite you to have a look at their website and to read my interview! If you are interested, you can also contribute to develop Expat Arrivals website by participating actively on the forum or by providing useful contents.


I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

French version: http://regards-sur-la-russie.blogspot.com/2011/12/interview-pour-expat-arrivals.html 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Expat Forums, Interesting blogs and communities for expatriates

When I landed in Moscow one month and a half ago, I wasn't part of any expatiate forums, I had never looked for blogs talking about Russia and I wasn't a member of any community for expatriates.

The first day I arrived, I had to search for a flat and I started looking around on the net for advices, helpful websites, ... . Across my researches I found some interesting blogs, forums and websites to look for informations. During these last weeks I also came across several communities for expatriates, some of them well-developed worldwide and in Russia, some of them only in Russia and others well-developed worldwide but not so much in Russia.

There are also many groups of interests on every social networks concerning Russia or more specifically Moscow (Facebook, LinkedIn, ...).

Through this article I want to share with you the websites or groups that I consider interesting. I invite you to share your "good" links as well in the comments. This list is of course non exhaustive and some people might disagree with the choice of some websites, but I'll let you judge by yourself !!

First an overview of the different websites aiming to promote blogs written by expats or expats communities:

http://www.blogexpat.com/ : blog portal for expatriates and people living abroad. Anyone can register its blog and share it on this website, you can search by country or city.

Blog Expat is only for blogs but it's linked to the site http://www.easyexpat.com/ that is more a "guide for expatriates", you can become a member and post in the forum, you'll also find some useful informations about each country.

A similar site to Easy Expat is http://www.expat-blog.com : "the living abroad participative website, by expatriates".

For the French speaking people there is also http://www.expatunited.com/ It's another website that aims to gather expatriates together, with the slogan "be expat, be united"!

There is also http://expat.ru/ The virtual community for English-speaking expats and Russians, I already talked about it if you need to look for a flatmate or to rent a flat. While I'm on the flat sharing topic, I found two more websites that can help, http://moscow.craigslist.org/ and http://www.easyroommate.ru/.

Another great site according to me is http://www.internations.org: "expatriate community from expats for expats". There are regular events where you can meet other expatriates or Russians, I was at their last event on Thursday (14th April) and there was more than 200 persons, it was very nice! I really recommend you to become a member wherever you are, since it's a worldwide community!

InterNations is for people from all around the world, but you can also find specific organizations for each community. For example http://www.ufe.org/ for the French community, I didn't look for other countries but it should be easy to find.

I'm sure you can find other interesting websites, but it's all for today! I will of course share any new "discovery"!

I just want to add a few words on hubs and groups that you can find on Facebook or LinkedIn. In some cases when you join, you will have to wait for an agreement, it's usually to prevent the "pollution" of the group by robots or users that have nothing to do with it. But within 24 hours you usually get accepted (so far so good!!).

I'm gonna share here some of the groups I belong to on LinkedIn and Facebook, up to you to join!


I'm sure there are other interesting groups on these social networks but I don't know all of them!! So it's now up to you to share your favorite groups or websites!!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Russia through the eyes of a Latin-American

As promised in my blog introduction, I will publish outlook of other people about their life in Moscow, or in this case about their short stay here! A Colombian friend of a friend (and now friend of mine!) also an expat but in Mexico, came last month in Russia for 3 weeks and he stayed at our place for 10 days, I asked him if he could give me his thoughts about his stay in Moscow!

Here is the first “glance” from Carlos, Russia through the eyes of a Latin-American, enjoy!

“When I chose to visit Russia, the first reason was because it’s not a traditional touristic destination for Latin-Americans and because I knew it was going to be a quite challenging experience. First because of the language barrier (I don’t speak Russian), and of course because it’s cold (and it was)!! The language barrier makes it interesting because you have to improve your communication skills (or let’s say gestures skills, since you can’t use any words), you will have to deal with situations in a different way and being creative is a necessity.

This time I tried something different. I wanted to live and experience Russia as “local people” (meaning Russians and Expats living here) do and get to know them, in order to do that I didn't stay at any hotel. In Moscow I was hosted by two expats, a Mexican (Fernando) and a French (Laurent, the author of this blog). In St. Petersburg I was hosted by two Russian girls from Magadan (a port town on the Sea of Okhotsk and gateway to the Kolyma region). All of them were really nice to me and helpful.

I landed at Sheremetyevo airport and things looked very easy, I had no problem to reach Moscow in 40 minutes with the express train (it costs 320 rub on April 2011, around 11$). From the express train station you can take the Metro, Belorusskaya station (in the circle line or brown line). At the airport, almost everything is in English and Russian, but when you arrive inside the metro, you realise that everything is in Russian. It’s nice and scary at the same time to find out that you don’t understand anything of what the signs say and when someone asks you a question, you really don’t know what to say, and you wonder what he might have asked!

For a rookie tourist, at the very beginning, Moscow can be challenging if he/she is on its own, but after 2-3 days you get used to do the basic things. A “must do” when you arrive is to buy a cell phone chip, the rates are very cheap (compared to Mexico's and most of the countries in the world), and like that you will stay easily in touch with your new friends without paying expensive roaming. If you have a Smartphone you can also get Internet for less than 1$ a day on your phone and you can use it to get lots of information, believe me, this is going to help you a lot if you don’t speak Russian.

One thing I did in advance that I advise you to do is to connect with local people and read about where to go and how things work. For this, I would recommend you to use www.couchsurfing.org. If you are new to couchsurfing, I would describe it briefly as a social network focused in sharing experiences with local people when you are traveling abroad. There are a lot of specific groups, depends on what you are looking for (party, cultural exchange, activities, etc.). If you want to live the experience of Russia meeting local people you can ask for a couch to stay or just ask somebody to go for a walk or drink something. I was impressed by the amount of Russians that were open to show me the city and to exchange Spanish for Russian, mostly of them were girls. Visiting with Russians allows you to discover interesting places and stories that are difficult to know being a "traditional" tourist. I did a lot of good friends there and they helped me out in order to deal with Russia’s challenges.

I was really impressed by people in Russia! Every day that I met a new Russian, I remembered what I read once while doing a small research about doing business in Russia: "Westerners are like peaches; Russians are like oranges. In America, people smile and hold doors for each other. We stop and ask how things are going. But then we close our blinds, tint our windows and lock up our secrets. It is not polite to try and dive too deeply into someone's personal life in America. Americans (also applies to Latin Americans) are sweet to a point, but then you hit the pit of the peach. On the other hand, Russians, have a 'hard rind' like an orange. They are cold as the weather in public and with strangers. They like to cut to the point to avoid chit-chat. But once you break through that tough exterior, they are soft and sweet to the core like an orange". Russians were amazingly nice to me, helpful and worried about my health (I got a simple flu). The nice Russian hospitality should be part of the stereotype!! I would say that people are more straightforward than we are used to, and don't feel offended if  they don't hold the door or because of the physical contact in the Metro, it’s something normal and it’s not rude at all.

Before finishing this outlook on Russia, I want to talk about a last highlight of my trip, buying tickets to visit St. Petersburg (which is also a very nice city). I got there using the Sapsan train (fast train), it is very comfortable and you reach "Peter" in 4 hours spending 100 USD approximately for a single way ticket (You can also travel by night train which is way cheaper but takes 8 hours). I would recommend you to get some help from a local friend to buy the train ticket because it can be quite challenging if you just go alone to the train station!
You can buy the ticket in four ways:

Train station counters: be ready to queue for quite a long time, and arrive in front of a Russian women (usually) who speaks only Russian and who won’t do much to help you! Even with the help of Google translate, it’s quite hard. You need to give all your basic information in Cyrillic (name, last name …) so the people in the counters can complete the process. Unfortunately I didn’t know how to write my name in Cyrillic and it was written nowhere since as a Colombian I don’t need a visa to enter in Russia. It finally took me 2 hours to buy my tickets (I use the next option thanks to the help of other travelers that speak Russian), so trust me, go with some Russian speaking friends!

Train station machines: If you don’t want to queue at the counter, these machines are inside the train station and allow you to buy your train tickets as well. But they are only in Russian, so be prepared and be patient buying the tickets. They accept credit cards.

Internet: It is possible to buy tickets online, it’s all in Russian but you can try to use a translator or again get some help. I couldn’t use this because my credit card didn't work in Sapsan website so I needed to buy the tickets in the train station.

Travel Agency: In different places in the city you will also find agencies to buy train tickets, in some of them they will speak English!

To me Russia has been an amazing experience; I made very good friends and experienced Russia as a "local". It is still hard for me to get disconnected from Russia, I spend really good days there, enjoyed the architecture, the mystique that still prevails, its history, the uncommon places and improved my ability to communicate even if my counterpart does not speak any of the languages I speak. Traveling this way allowed me to create a bond with local people and it’s really hard to get over it. I already want to be here again and I will definitely come back to Russia.”

French version: http://regards-sur-la-russie.blogspot.com/2011/05/la-russie-travers-les-yeux-dun-latino.html

Monday, April 11, 2011

Why do I like Moscow!

I'm writing this blog about Russia, but so far I didn't explain why I'm here, why I chose to be here, and what I like or dislike in Moscow and Russia in general, let me change that!

During my fourth year of university in France (2008-2009), I had the opportunity to go abroad as an exchange student for one year, I chose Moscow State University, Faculty of Public Administration! I started to learn Russian in 7th grade and continued to study it at the university, so Russia was the natural choice for me. I enjoyed a lot my year as a student in Moscow and after my graduation in September 2010 I decided to look for a job in Moscow.

After three months I found a job in a French company, LIPPI (http://www.lippi.fr/UK/index.php), which designs and manufactures fencing systems for the safety of people, property and infrastructures. I'm responsible for the company's business development in Russia. I started to work in Moscow the 1st of March for at least 18 months!

Since I arrived, almost every Russian I knew asked me "Why the hell did you chose Moscow?", and most of them want to leave Russia to work abroad! They told me, why do you come here, the climate is awful (true!), people in the street in Moscow are not nice (true!), the city is really too big with traffic jams and pollution (true again!), and many other defaults (corruption, lack of political competition ...).

What they say is true, everything is not great in Russia, far from it. There are of course some things I don't like about Moscow, like the weather (it was snowing this weekend and today we can see some snowflakes from time to time), the pollution and the traffic jams or the fact that the metro is crowded and that people don't pay attention when they bump into you. But it's the same in a lot of big cities and for me it's far from being a big matter. This is of course a very personal opinion and I understand pretty well that some people don't like this city!

But I have good reasons to come. First I didn't want to lose my Russian, and the only way for that was to go live in a Russian speaking country and in that case the easiest place to find a work was Moscow! The second reason is that while living abroad when I was young, I got severely addicted to traveling and after lots of years in France, I "needed" to go abroad. Working in Moscow is also a great opportunity in terms of responsibilities, I couldn't have such a job in France with my age and experience. I also knew that very good friends were waiting for me in Moscow, so I didn't have to start a new social life, just to extend it! And this is very important.

And last but not least, I like Moscow as a city! There are great places to go out (day and night!), lots of exhibitions, forums, concerts, theater plays or operas! You can find great restaurants that are not so expensive (10-20€), and very cool bars and night clubs. In Paris, most shops and places are open a maximum of 12 hours a day, 6 days out of 7, while in Moscow it's 24 hours a day and 7 days a week!! I talked about people not being very friendly in the street, it's really true, but once you know them, Russians are great people, very sympathetic and they would try to help you as much as they can. I didn't talk about women yet, but it's true that a lot of them are very pretty and charming, it's another good part of Russia, but not why I came here!!

It's now your turn to tell me why you like or dislike Moscow! You can comment this article or contact me if you want me to publish an article with your testimonial.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

142.9 million, 1.6 percent, 2.2 million!

Looking at this title you might ask yourself "what the hell"! these figures represent the last statistics on Russian population. There are 142.9 million inhabitants in Russia, down 1.6 percent, or 2.2 million, from 2002 (145.1 million).

Russia's population is shrinking and women still outnumber men by millions. The male population is 66.2 million, or 46.3 percent, while female is 76.7 million, or 53.7 percent. It shows that there are 10.5 million more women than men. But if you look closer to the figures, before 35 years old there are more men then women, after that it changes due to a lower life expectancy of Russian men.

The report also shows that the urbanization trend persisted, with 73.7 percent of the population concentrated in cities and towns, marking an increase of 0.4 percent since 2002.

In Moscow, the population grew 10.9 percent, bringing the number of officially counted Muscovites to 11.5 million. It's important to point out that the real population in Moscow is closer to 14.5 million inhabitants if you take into account everyone who has temporary residency (like me!) or the ones that are not properly registered. The local authorities have the right to not register some persons (delivery or non delivery of a paper you must be able to show whenever asked by authorities), after which they are theoretically not allowed to live in Moscow, and they are not shown in statistics. Indeed, the official population of Moscow is taken from those holding "permanent residency".

This report points up the still very high mortality rate in Russia, especially for men as their life expectancy is 61 years and 73 years for women. As a comparison the life expectancy at birth in France is 78.1 year for men and 84.8 for women!! We won't discuss the reasons why, but alcohol consumption is most certainly part of it, especially for men.

Furthermore Russia's population would be much lower without a massive immigration from ex-Soviet republics. Indeed the fertility rate is only 1.54 (2009) so it's far away from 2.1 children per woman (the approximate minimum required to ensure population replacement). We can observe that for already several years the Russian government adopted a pro-birth policy that starts to pay off. Indeed, the fertility rate is regularly increasing and it's already much higher than in 1999 when it was only 1.16!

The new demographic policy for 2011-2015 has an objective of maintaining Russia's population at 142 million inhabitants and to increase average life expectancy to 70 years old.

A 2009 report done jointly by the United Nations and Moscow's Higher School of Economics predicted that Russia's population would keep falling, reaching 116 million people by 2050.

Will it come true...

Monday, March 28, 2011

A change in registration's legislation!

The 15th February 2011, a new law required foreigners to be registered by their landlords at their factual addresses, instead of registering at the employer's address.
Confronted to this law, the Association of European Business, the French-Russian chamber of commerce and several other associations told Russian authorities that foreign residents had great difficulties making their landlords register them. They asked for the law to be canceled and they even wrote a letter to Dimitri Medvedev himself!
Less than 45 days after the date when the first law came into force, a new law was just signed by the president Dimitri Medvedev that cancels the first one and eases by the same time the registration process. The new law extends the period that foreigners can be in the country without notifying the authorities from three to seven working days. It also ends the requirement that landlords register foreign tenants at their factual addresses, reinstating instead the previous rule of registering at the employer's address.
In concrete terms, it means that any tourist can stay 10 days on Russian territory (including the weekend) without being registered! For foreign residents, it means that they don't have to rush in to be registered.

The new law also forbids police from collecting fines from foreigners carrying invalid or missing registration papers. Instead, the organization that issued the foreigner's visa invitation will be held responsible for violations. This change is aimed at preventing extortion from corrupt police officers who could otherwise demand money on the street.
We have to say here that it's the first time in Russia that a new law passed so quickly in favor of foreigners. The speed at which the government overturned the harsher rules has even stunned the foreign business community. In my opinion, it shows that foreign companies start to be well considered in Russia, and it's a great thing for the future. 

Let's just hope now that instead of easing the registration process, they will cancel it for good, and that they will do the same for visas! I think we'll have to wait a bit for that, even if things are going on the good way! And I want to say that for the moment it's more the European Union than Russia that doesn't want a free-visa policy between EU and Russia.

French version: http://regards-sur-la-russie.blogspot.com/2011/03/changement-de-la-procedure.html

This is Russia!

I've watched recently a nice video that a russian company made to promote its products. It explains (partly) what is Russia. I find it quite relevant so I decided to share it!
If you can't watch the video directly on this blog, here is the link on YouTube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOPuvTMndIs

Enjoy it!

French version: http://regards-sur-la-russie.blogspot.com/2011/03/this-is-russia.html