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/)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Renting a flat in Moscow (for a long or short period)

For any new "long-term" Muscovite who doesn't have a flat provided by his company, looking for it will represent a very important step of the installation. But it's not that easy to find a great deal. Indeed, you can find a wide range of prices (for the rent as for the percentage fee) for the same kind of flat depending on which agency or website you look at. Besides the price, choosing the right location is fundamental if you don't want to spend one hour and a half in the public transportation just to go to work!! So it's sometimes better to pay a bit more to leave closer from work.
First let's see what's the right price! It is acknowledge that rents in Moscow are quite expensive, but it doesn't mean that you have to pay 3000€ to leave in the center. According to what I've seen, you can find one-bedroom apartments starting 24 000 rubles (600€) if you want to be close to the center, and more 30-35 000 rubles (750-800€) in the very center of Moscow. Prices can of course get much more expensive. If you don't mind having a flatmate, then it will be less expensive, count between 50 000 et 80 000 rubles (1250-2000€) for a two-three bedrooms flat in the center. If you look for an apartment a bit outside the city, you can also find much cheaper prices.

If you are here as a tourist, renting a flat can also be a good thing. There are lots of proposals for one-week rents and the prices are quite good compared to hotels.

I advise you several websites to look for a flat, first http://www.cian.ru, its database is substantial for Moscow and Moscow region. A minus for foreigners is that everything is in Russian, but you can still ask some Russian friends to help you. For each flat, the percentage fee is written, from 0% to 100% (one month rent), and the advanced search is powerful (metro station, how far from the metro, price range, ...). You can find rentals of various length.

For the non-russian speaking, expat forums can be very useful, I can advise you http://expat.ru/ where you have a section "Real Estate". You can find some flats to be rented or even to be sold (a bit more expensive than "cian" according to me), but the most interesting part is if you want to find flatmates. If through these websites you didn't find the perfect match, you still can contact some real-estate agencies. I advise you to ask several of them and to call for competition, they will offer you lower rents and lower percentage fee!
As regards to the required papers to rent a flat, there is only one, cash! The owners will often ask for one month deposit and then to pay one or two months in advance. Have in mind that you will need lots of cash at the beginning and that you won't be able to withdraw as many as you want in a short period of time, so bring some with you.

Thank you for reading this article and do not hesitate to put comments or ask questions!

French version: http://regards-sur-la-russie.blogspot.com/2011/03/la-location-dun-appartement-courte-ou.html

Saturday, June 30, 2012

What you should do… or not do while invited by a Russian!

As we can’t deny Russian hospitality, we can say that it’s very common to be invited by Russians in their home! As a foreigner, it’s not always easy to know what you should do and what might offend your host. Of course because you are a foreigner they will be much more understandable towards your inappropriate behaviour when the case! But if you get to respect the local traditions and habits, it’s way better. In order to do that, I did my best to list a maximum of rules and traditions it’s good to apply when you are invited as well as when you invite Russians.

I’ll try to list everything in a logical order, from your arrival to your departure! First of all and like in many countries, it’s better to bring a gift (flowers, wine, chocolate …). Once you arrived at the door, you knock of course, but then you must be careful to not shake hands in the doorway, you must first enter and only then you can kiss or shake hands with your host. When you invite Russians it’s the same, invite them to enter before saying hello. And in most cases, you will have to take off your shoes, don’t make them ask you!

Once inside, you will be offered to sit in the dining room (or often in the living room or the kitchen since most of the flats/houses are not big enough to have a dining room) if you come for lunch or dinner, otherwise in most cases you will be offered a cup of tea. It’s not very polite to refuse the drink, but you can ask for something else. Especially in Moscow, you can ask for a coffee as it’s becoming very popular, if you really don’t like coffee and tea you still can ask for a juice. But keep in mind that drinking tea in Russia is a “must do” (unfortunately for me)! And you never drink tea alone, there are always small cakes or candies to go with it, if you have guests, buy some (and don’t forget like me!). 

If you come for a meal, you’ll realize that all the “закуски” are already set on the table. It’s all kind of appetizers and cold dishes such as ham, sausage, salads, caviar (red) … . If you have Russian guests home it’s good to do the same, bring every cold dishes at once. Warm dishes will come one after another (soup, fish or meat). Concerning cheese (I’m French!), it will always come as an appetizer, never like in France between the main dish and the desert. If you need bread to go with your cheese, you should cut it facing you, if you cut it the other way, you will make wealth go away! (I’m not sure it’s like that everywhere in Russia but it does exist).   

During the meal, you’ll realize soon enough that drinking alcohol can be a big part of it, even if habits already tend to change, drinking vodka during the whole dinner is still very common. And for foreigners very hard!! Wine is becoming popular but it’s more expensive and not always of quality so vodka is still N°1. The first rule to fulfil when you are with Russians is that someone has to give a toast each time the group drinks. And when we say drink, for vodka, it means to clean your glass!! The toast must be for something (French-Russian friendship for example) or someone and the third one is always for all the women that are around the table. The tradition also wants that when someone’s late, he has to drink a “penalty drink”, usually a full shot of vodka, to keep up with the others! Each time there is a toast, you “need” to drink your glass, it can’t be one time you drink and the next time not anymore. If you don’t want to drink alcohol it’s possible, but it should be from the beginning to the end. If you drink only for part of the toasts, there is a great risk that you will hurt the persons who did a toast where you didn’t drink.

Some other rules to respect are that when a bottle is empty you should take it off the table and of course replace it with a new one! As well, you should never pour alcohol in your own glass, someone has to do it for you. Finally, when you pour a drink you should always do it your hand turned inward, to do it with your hand turned outward is like a gesture of denial discordant with the symbolical gesture of pouring a glass.

Regarding other Russian traditions, we can mention the fact that you shouldn’t whistle inside a house, otherwise there won’t be any money ; you shouldn’t open your umbrella inside the house and you should never wish in advance someone’s birthday or any other celebration, it brings bad luck. So for example, if it’s your friend’s birthday tomorrow and that you have to leave somewhere today for several days, don’t call him to wish him a happy birthday one day before. Finally I identified two more traditions, less applied but interesting to know. When some guests or family members leave for a long trip, everyone seats two-three minutes in front of the door, inside, chat and say goodbye in order to bring luck for the trip. At last, when you go out and you come back immediately inside the house because you forgot something, you have to look in the mirror.

I almost forgot one of the most important traditions in Russia, gallantry. It’s very common to see a man open the door for a woman, offer his seat in the metro and hold the door, or to greet a woman by kissing her hand. And without speaking about offering flowers!! (Always an impair number).

I guess there are many other traditions in Russia, I shared the one I know regarding the house and the meal. If you know any other habits and traditions do not hesitate to share them in the comments!! And if you like my papers, do not hesitate to click on the Google+1 button and to share them, thanks!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Do you have your “Propusk”?

In Russia, you need a specific document to enter many places. If you go to the university or to your office for example, you have to show, most of the time, a paper named Propusk that allows you to get in. This is quite normal, even if it’s a bit more extended than in France.

What is more unusual for me is that you need this document to enter the city centre of Moscow! Of course not all the time but during the celebrations in May, I couldn’t access the streets I wanted to go to, lacking this precious paper! For the rehearsals of the 9th May’s parade many streets were closed during five half-days!! 4 half days for the rehearsals of the parade and the last one for the parade itself. The Red Square was closed almost all the time from the 1st till the 9th of May. So to get in the city centre, you needed a special “propusk”!
I think most of the newcomers in Moscow are surprised that a whole part of the city can be closed so often and so easily. In France when a road is closed, there are secondary itinerary planned for cars and usually pedestrians can always go through. In Moscow (and I guess in Russia) there are no such plans. It’s closed, that’s it! You have to find another way yourself (also for pedestrians) and sometimes you simply can’t reach the place you want to go, you have to wait till they reopen the road. This fact is very representative of the Russian administration mentality, they do what they have to do and they don’t take into consideration the consequences for their fellow citizens! It looks quite rude for non-Russian and it’s one of the things that you might hate about living in Moscow.

Even tough it was my second 9th of May celebrations, I wasn’t very careful to the fact some parts of the city were closed and I got tricked two times. The first time, the 5th of May, I had to meet with some friends in Mayakovskaya, I was a little early so I decided to go by foot part of the way. I stopped at Kitai-gorod and from there I was told that I couldn’t get anyway near Mayakovskaya by foot, and that I had to take the metro again. Cost of the operation a metro ticket and half an hour, the time to try to find another way that doesn’t exist!!

The second time I got tricked, this time with friends, was on the 9th of May, we wanted to go see the fireworks from “Vorobiovie gori”, one of the best view points of Moscow. We had the choice to stop at the metro station “Vorobiovie gori” or “Universitet”. Despite the advices of a Russian friend who told us to stop at “Universitet” because the first one was crowded, we chose the other option. The fact that there are a lot of people doesn’t bother me! But what I must have understood was that because it was crowded, it was impossible to get to the view point directly and that policemen would make us take another path. We reached the wanted place in 40 minutes instead of 15 (using the direct way) and almost missed the beginning of the fireworks!

You get used to it of course, but here are some tips to (try to) avoid getting tricked. Look on Internet first for information and try to go to the closest metro station of the place you want to go. If you hesitate between two, ask your Russian friends for advises, they are already used to it! And remember, sometimes you just can’t go to the wanted place of the city…