Moscow, Russia Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Moscow, Russia

Moscow, Russia 03/04/19

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. I've also lived in other European posts.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington DC. There is a direct flight on Delta/Aeroflot parts of the year, which is about 9.5 hours, great. Otherwise about 13 hours with connection time.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Lived in Moscow for two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We lived in an apartment in the city. It was 3 bedrooms and plenty big for our family. There were various types of homes throughout Moscow, from people living in city apartments to living near the American school (townhomes).

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Grocery stores had a lot more than I was expecting. Basics were always available, and in the summer produce was wonderful with green markets throughout town. In the winter the fruit selection was seasonal. You could buy berries in December, but you would pay. There are many grocery stores throughout town. I wouldn't talk to anyone who hasn't been to Moscow recently as the selection in grocery stores now is fantastic whereas ten years ago it wasn't; so outdated information should be avoided.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I think the only food items we shipped to post or had family send us were bulk items like Kind bars or things from Trader Joes/Whole Foods that we missed instead of needed. There wasn't really anything that you couldn't find, even tortillas!

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Food delivery is available for pretty much all types of cuisine. Moscow has a vibrant food scene, which is only growing. The things I missed, were fast casual options that weren't fast food. In Moscow it seemed to me that it was either fast food or you were sitting down at a restaurant. I sense that will change in the coming years. There are great food options in Moscow, from Georgian food, which is very popular to Thai, Indian, etc, etc.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

We had no issues with bugs in our home and were in an old building.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

US Embassy mail.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

We had a housekeeper and I believe we paid US$9-10 an hour.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are gyms available on the local economy. There is a Golds Gym, Crossfit gyms throughout town, many options for working out.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Yes, widely available usage of credit cards. I used credit cards at larger locations; if the store was a tiny, one off, I would use cash.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are religious services available for different faiths. I would think this comes down to a persons comfort level in seeking out and attending.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

For as large of a city as Moscow is, I think having even basic Russian is extremely helpful. Many times no one spoke English. All restaurants in the city center have english menus (for the most part). I would suggest learning the Cyrillic alphabet.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Moscow would be a difficult city for persons with limited mobility or with a physical disability. Many times to cross the streets, you have to go down and up stairs to cross beneath the roads (which is handy, but not with physical limitations). The Metro system is fantastic, but again, often have to use stairs.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

There is Uber, Yandex, and taxis. The bus system is great and the Metro is amazing.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

We had a large SUV and had no issues with it being too big. You will see cars of all sizes. While the winters are very snowy, the Moscow metro areas is very well cleared.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet works well, was fast enough for us to do whatever we wanted. We didn't have any sort of outage issues. We used Yota, which was a small portable wifi device we used to home; purchased at the mall and paid for six months at a time. Ended up going this route bc getting it set up through a company was a huge pain. This worked well for us and I know many others who went this route.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

We got MTC sim cards and so easy. You can pay your bill around town at kiosks. A fraction of what cell phone plans cost in the states for wifi plans. Can use any unlocked cell phone.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

The vet care was wonderful in Moscow (do your research to find a recommended vet), and much cheaper than the States.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Street wear in Moscow was much more casual than I was expecting. There are definitely fashion forward areas and venues but I never felt like I needed to dress up to feel like I didn't stick out. If you go out to dinner you will see a wide range of casual to very dressy.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

I think it is always important to be aware of your surroundings. I was not more concerned about my safety in Moscow than I would be in any large US city. I felt safer walking around in Moscow than most large cities.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The European Medical Center has great medical care. I believe there are tick-borne illnesses in Russia. I would seek this advice from a travel center before arriving.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

I didn't notice any air quality issues I would let others know about before traveling. We used a humidifier throughout the winter, which was many months.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

We did not have any food limitations, but I did notice gluten-free products as well as dairy free offerings at super markets.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

There is definitely a lack of sunlight many months of the year. We were not impacted in my home, but I know the winter blues were discussed. Seasonal lamps can be used.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Winter is long. The city is beautiful during the winter, with lights adorning many of the city streets. For me, when it is cold, you just layer and go on with life, which was what my experience was throughout the city. Families are still out and about during the winter and parks are used all year. It wasn't so much the cold that impacted me but the lack of light that I think has more of an impact. Be prepared for darkness.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

No experience personally, but the American school (from what I saw and heard) was wonderful.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

We were with the embassy community, which was wonderful. I imagine one of the strongest across the world.

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2. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

We enjoyed Moscow. We tried to get out and see as much of the city as we could. It is a huge city, and more, Russia is a vast country with many different, wonderful, amazing gems of cities. Get out and explore. The history is endless and the architecture is beautiful. Culture is rich and you will never run out of museums, cathedrals and estates to visit.

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3. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

If you like to shop you won't be disappointed. Moscow offers a wide array of shopping from everyday brands to every high end luxury brand you can think of.

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4. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Easy public transportation.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Get out and see the city. I was intimidated to go to Moscow based on what other people told me and once I arrived that went away. You can find whatever you need at grocery stores, shopping in available, there are big nice movie theaters with english language, and the every day people were very friendly. Enjoy the city, explore outside of the city center!!

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Bathing suits; just kidding, take them on vacation.

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4. But don't forget your:

Good winter coats and boots, but don't go crazy. No need for shoes spikes or any other weird accessory.

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Moscow, Russia 11/03/18

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I have served at nine overseas posts.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

My home country is the USA, and I live on the East Coast. The trip is roughly 16 hours; it's eight or so hours from the East Coast to Europe, then another three plus to post (plus in-between time).

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3. How long have you lived here?

About 15 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic posting.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is good and well-maintained. There are two primary areas of housing. One is on the embassy compound and/or city apartments relatively close to the embassy (anywhere from 15-45 minute walk or 20 or fewer via the wonderful metro) and the other is near the Anglo-American School (AAS) in the Pokrovskoye-Streshnevo District in the north-west of Moscow (without traffic 20 minutes or less up to 45-60 minutes during high traffic). Note due to the great bus, taxi, Uber/Gett/Yandex, metro system getting around Moscow is easy, even for those without Russian.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Almost everything is available generally at lower than US prices, except (for me) good cheese, though some is available. The US commissary does a good job in filling in any gaps.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Not a thing, except maybe cheese (:-)

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are many many many good bars, restaurants, and food take out/delivery services available. Great!

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

No.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Most embassy employees use the embassy mailroom via unclassified pouch. Great service and transit times of fewer than two weeks to a bit more than during peak (Christmas holiday) periods.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

I do not have any personal insight but I do know many folks here use both Russian and expat (Filipino, etc) help. I understand the prices are reasonable. The embassy can also assist with work visas and contracts as needed.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

US Embassy gym/pool is fine and easy to use. I also see several other facilities around town but don't really know much about hem.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit card use at the large/main shops and restaurants is fine. I would not use them at the small mom-and-pop stores. Many use local ATMs but the standard recommendation is only use the two ATMs on the embassy compound. I don't use ATMs but cash a check at the embassy cashier.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

On compound has a small Catholic service. I know the CLO knows of more but must admit I'm not sure what other English-language services are available, though suspect they are minimal.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

The more the better as always, but here in Moscow I am Russian-illiterate and if I can make it around here; if I can, anyone can. Between Google translate, a few words of directions and numbers, and learning how to read the Cyrillic alphabet you can and will do fine here. Trust me, if I can do it anyone can.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Getting around on the streets could be a challenge. For example the tremendous metro system relies upon stairs that for those with physical disabilities can be a challenge.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, yes, yes! Best metro in the world.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

One doesn't really need a car just for Moscow, though it can be helpful when shopping at one of the larger bulk stores (Metro, Ashan). In general, normal around-town cars are appropriate. Theft is not an issue, but because I don't have one here I cannot comment on services/parts. I should add that I haven't heard of this being an issue here.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. The worst case is typically two-three weeks to get Internet access. Speeds are generally good.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

For employees using the embassy's provided local cell phones you can call anywhere around the world; it's a great service! I understand for those that provide their own cell service prices are reasonable for local and International calling.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Yes and great service; even as needed on call and visiting you!

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

On embassy jobs are plentiful. The CLO will know more about outside expat jobs and I have heard of several working for one of the schools, in particular AAS.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many, they are only limited by your outgoingness and energy.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Standard business dress, but nothing overbearing or too informal.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

In my opinion, not much other than feeling the occasional security presence, as well as some of the concerns found in any big city if you are not smart. Moscow is in my opinion safer than most large US cities.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

No particular health concerns of which I am aware. There are several good European medical facilities available.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Decent. No particular concerns.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

You can increasingly find gluten-free products at the embassy commissary as well as locally.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Nothing of which I am aware, though the winter can be long cloudy and damp.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

This last summer (2018) was spectacular: warm, long, dry, and wonderful though that was, I understand, a bit unusual. It is generally cool here and not unusual to have a fair bit of rain with of course cold and snowy winters.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The Anglo-American School (AAS) has an outstanding reputation, and everyone I spoke with loved it.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I do not know but have heard about some accommodations managed.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Expat community is relatively large and form what I know (limited) morale is generally good. People like it here.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

The embassy has plenty of ways to socialize as well as the natural communities near AAS.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes for both. For those with kids the school is a natural draw. It's a good school, and a good community.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Not great, but seems to be some progress.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There are issues here but again the situation seems to be gradually improving.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The embassy community is great and supportive. Just walking around and enjoying the shops and restaurants and bars of Moscow has been a pleasure.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There are great city and regional trips which only limited by your energy, time, and willingness to get out and try things There are amazingly interesting monasteries and cities and buildings and sites in Moscow and in the region.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Ismailovo (Izmaylovo) market is amazing. You'll love it (plus great shashlik = kabobs).

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Great metro to get anywhere; reasonable pricing and everything is available.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Nothing in particular but be sure to bring warm gear.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes!

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Lots of hot weather gear/wear.

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4. But don't forget your:

Cold weather gear.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Though outdated "Bears in the Caviar." It's a great and hilarious book.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

The work at the embassy in incredibly meaningful and impactful and living and working in Moscow is simply GREAT! I wasn't sure what to expect before I came here, but my Moscow experience has been much much much better than I could have or did expect. Enjoy it!

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Moscow, Russia 10/31/17

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, is is our third post.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Canada. No direct flights from Moscow. The length of travel depends on where you live in Canada.

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3. How long have you lived here?

This is our third year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We live outside the city in a gated community beside the Anglo American school called Pokrovsky Hills. Great for families. They are very sizable duplexes with a common area and small playground. Transportation is offered by the management of community to the subway system. The subway is very safe and reliable.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

We brought our favorites. However you can find many European brands. Many grocery stores to chose from. They have Metro which is very comparable to Costco at home. The cost of groceries can be high for certain products.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Chocolate chips, pizza sauce, Kraft peanut butter.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All is available and as well some very good Georgian/Uzbek restaurants. Delivery of groceries is widely available.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Embassy mail.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

It is widely available. Mostly Filipinos and some Russian help. Cost is approximately $10USD per hour.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

We use the gym at the school that is included in our housing fee. There are local gyms as well: the cost varies.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

We use our credit card all the time with no problems as of yet. We also use local ATMs but the fees are high with limits on how much you can take out. Citibank is here and one is available at AAS school.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are three Catholic (English) masses available. There is also a French church in Moscow. There is also a non-denominational church and services for the Mormon community.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

One should try to learn the Russian alphabet before coming. English is not widely used. There are language classes available.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes perhaps, but getting better with construction for FIFA World cup

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, very affordable.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Any vehicle. Snow removal in Moscow is very, very good.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

We use a local provider but through our embassy.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Yes. We have a dog. Our vet makes home visits. Very cheap. Our dog had a lump removed and cost less than 200CDN. Follow up care is good as well. I have been told that they will assist in importing and exporting of pets. Ticks are prevalent here but so are the drops. There are many choices available for dog food but it can be very expensive.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

None. However, the Anglo-American school offers teaching positions (as available) and substitute positions.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

American Women's association, International Women's. There are many. One can be as involved as they like at the school.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Formal dress would be necessary if one attends many events. Formal wear is widely offered in the shops. Dress code would be business attire.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Sure. Just exercise caution as you would at home.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Allergies in spring.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Lack of sun. Vitamin D drops are available.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Yes, the lack of sun can be depressing in fall/winter months.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Summers are nice. Winters are not as cold as in Ottawa.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The Anglo-American school is exceptional, offering many extra-curricular activities for both the young and old. It is equipped with three pools, a fantastic music and drama department, two gyms, three theaters and three playing fields as well as a tennis court. The two cafeterias offer a wide range of choices. The teachers are very hands-on and engaging. IB curriculum in the elementary and high school. School uniforms for the elementary and middle school.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There is a Montessori inside Pokrovsky Hills. The school offers a wide range of after school activities.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Many clubs to choose from within the expatriate community.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes on all accounts.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Probably not.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

None that I am aware of.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Travel. Aeroflot is cheap. Learning the history, museum trips.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Banyas, travelling locally to smaller towns, such as the Golden Ring.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Yes you can purchase all sorts of local handiwork. On weekends and Wednesdays one can shop at Ismalova for these types of things...but don't forget to go hungry so you can enjoy the sheeslak(sp?) and a shot of Russian vodka.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Travel.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

To learn more of Russian language. The Russians appreciate it and are more accommodating if they see you trying.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Winter clothing.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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Moscow, Russia 09/26/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, not my first post. This is number 8.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Nashville, TN. 2 stops. About a 15 hour trip.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Over 1 year

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

I live in an apartment 1.5 miles to the embassy.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Not like the US but you can find most staple items here. Commissary has US goods at higher cost.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I can get the basics here

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Plenty of restaurants including McDonald's, Burger King, KFC and the like. There are plenty of Russian, Georgian and sushi places too.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None that I have seen.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

No local post. No DPO. Incoming personal pouch averages about 10 days. Outgoing takes about 3 weeks because of bottleneck in Dulles.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Mainly Filipinos with some Russians mixed in. Not sure of the cost as I don't use them, but it is cheaper than DC.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Embassy has a good gym. Not sure about outside.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Yes they are accepted but I don't use them much. I cash check at embassy.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Catholic service at the embassy. Mormon and non-denominational close to the embassy.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Yes, you will need some Russian when shopping. But I have very low level and have few problems. Many food delivery sites are in English and there are English menus in many places.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Maybe a little but most metros and stairwells have elevators or ramps.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, they are safe and affordable. Very efficient. MUCH better than DC

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Any car is fine. They keep the snow off the roads in the winter. Outside of Moscow is another deal.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

You can have it installed once you get your dip credentials. But it is slow. You can get a 4G modem and it is faster but reliability will depend upon signal. It is cheap as well. Not more than US$50 monthly.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Embassy does provide a phone. Most people use those. No limitations on calls. Can call US for free. Few use local phones but the prepaid ones here are cheap.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Yes, there are and they are cheaper than the US. Good service and even in-home service if needed.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Plenty of jobs for EFM's in the embassy. None really outside that I know of.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Depends on your position. Mostly business attire.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None if you behave yourself. Being out late at night and being drunk can make you a target.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Not really. We have a good MED unit at the embassy and more serious things get you medevaced to London or US.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

It is good.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Nothing unless you are allergic to the cold.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

SAD may be something to consider. Winter time can be dark for long periods of time but it is the opposite in the summer. There is plenty to do in and around Moscow so keep yourself busy. It is also cheap to travel to many parts of Europe and Asia.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Extremely cold in the winter with snow and mild in the summer.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Plenty but I have no experience with them.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Not sure, no kids here

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Embassy AECA has preschool.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Plenty

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

HUGE. I think morale is good. The CLO does a great job with plenty of activities. There is a good support structure at the embassy.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Plenty in and out of the embassy.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I think it is good for everyone.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Not really. Russian are not known for their support of LGBT.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not that I have seen.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The history is amazing here. Moscow is a safe and organized city.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Russian art and festivals. Great concerts all the time.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Russian handicrafts are great. Plenty of historical and USSR items here.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Easy to get around. Not terribly expensive. COLA and differential is great.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I knew what I was coming to.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, you get great money here and there is plenty of support.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Beachwear.

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4. But don't forget your:

Heavy coats and hats.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Too many to mention.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This is a great post. For some reason it gets a bad rap and not as many bidders as there should be. But the money is good and the work is exciting.

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Moscow, Russia 05/17/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, DC. DC to Amsterdam then to Moscow usually. Very limited direct flights from the U.S.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

For embassy housing: on the compound, in a city apartment (singles and couples without children), two housing complexes outside of the city center - Pokrovsky Hills and Rosinka. Each has their pros and cons. Those with kids at the Anglo-American School of Moscow seem to enjoy living in Pokrovsky as it is next door to the school but the commute from there to the embassy is difficult.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Plenty of grocery stores - shopping is a hassle because of traffic and crowds. Many people use a grocery delivery service.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

More liquids.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Lots. Many of the standard U.S. chains are here plus many European chains and Russian restaurants. You will not go hungry here.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Maybe some mosquitoes in the summer, but, honestly we rarely encounter any insects.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Diplomatic pouch.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Plenty of help available. Cost varies greatly.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Gym available at the U.S. Embassy compound.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

We use the ATM at the Embassy and at the school without problems. Depending on your bank, your card may not work here. You can write checks at the embassy cashier as well.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

A few. Catholic, a couple of non-denominational churches and an Latter Day Saints (Mormon) church that I know of.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You can get by with little Russian but it will limit your ability to get things done.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

We took regional trains without any problem. For taxi, we use GetTaxi or Yandex Taxi.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

You will see any and every type of car here. Traffic and parking is difficult, so a small car is nice for that. But having a 4WD or AWD is helpful with the many potholes and wet weather. There are no hills in Moscow but if you plan to go outside of the city at all, you might want something that can handle rough roads.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. The cost varies based on location and speed. Reliability is sketchy.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Bring an unlocked phone. A sim card and month to month plan here are readily available and inexpensive.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Some work with refugees, animal shelters.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes.

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2. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Not great. Better outside of the city than in it. Spring time brings horrible pollen that causes many to suffer.

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3. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Horrible spring allergy season here. Eating out with food allergies would be very difficult, especially if you do not speak Russian.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Beautiful, mild summer. Short fall and spring. Long winter - but not as cold as I had anticipated.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

We had our child at AAS and had a good experience overall. The school has amazing facilities (indoor swimming pool, multiple gyms, state of the art theater, etc.). As with any school, some teachers are better than others but overall we were pleased.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

The school has made some accommodations. It all depends on the child and their needs.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes. There are lots of sports available through the school, the expatriate community and the embassy.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large but shrinking each year. Morale is mixed. It is what you make of it. Some people really enjoy Moscow and others are counting down the days until the end of their tour.

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2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Good for families. I would assume good for singles and couples as well.

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3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Probably not - at least not if you want to live openly.

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4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Travel in Russia and around Europe.

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6. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Ability to travel in Europe relatively easily.

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7. Can you save money?

Not really.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Need for privacy.

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3. But don't forget your:

Warm clothes - good quality boots and a long down coat are essential.

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Moscow, Russia 09/11/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Brazil. A long 15-hour haul from there to Moscow, connecting in any major European airport.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Spent 6 months there in 2007-2008

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Grad student when I lived in Moscow

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Everything is available - this is Europe's largest metropolis. Most expats live in modern and renovated apartments in downtown, but I, as a grad student at the time, stayed in a student dorm (obschezhitie) in Yugozapadnie district, a calm if isolated area.

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2. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Yes, available and ubiquitous, including all major Western chains as well as Russian alternatives such as Teremok. Slightly pricier than in the US.

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3. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Only occasional mosquitoes.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Regular mail is usually fine, but not if you must be absolutely sure your package will arrive on time - use DHL or similar services.

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2. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

I went to the gym at my university (MGIMO) and costs were really low - only a few thousand rubles per semester.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit cards can be used in most places, except for local grocery stores and small markets. ATMs are almost ubiquitous and usually safe.

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4. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Yes, it's possible to survive in Moscow with only basic Russian skills - I did it - but you'll enjoy the city far more if you have a stronger grasp of the language. Warning: understanding the cyrillic alphabet is absolutely essential, or you won't even be able to read street signs and find your way home.

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5. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, definitely. The metro is entirely suitable for people with disabilities, and very few buildings and public areas are adapted to their needs.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Moscow has probably the world's best metro system, with fast, safe and frequent trains, a very modern comprehensive network of lines and (cherry on top!) some gorgeous and highly photogenic stations. Taxis are safe, but a bit expensive - it's cheaper to stop any random car (gypsy cab), but this will require a reasonable command of Russian. Buses are good and cheap, but mind the heavy traffic.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

You can easily survive without a car in Moscow, where the metro system is second to none in efficiency, but I would recommend an SUV if you want to be respected by rowdy Russian drivers and navigate countryside roads with ease.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Few. Excellent Russian skills are required, and red tape is a considerable issue in Russia.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Formal. Russians tend to dress up, especially women.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

In spite of its reputation as an aggressive city, Moscow is actually quite safe, provided you take some elementary security precaution.

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2. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate - not ideal, but still far better than Beijing or Delhi, for instance.

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3. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Long, harsh and dark winters add up to half the year (October to April), but spring, summer and fall are very mild and pleasant.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Quite large, with over a hundred embassies plus many journalists and tens of thousands of foreign businessmen and students, but it's not a very cohesive community, since this is a huge city. Morale tends to be good, albeit less so in winter. Major exception: those who moved to Russia with strong prejudices against the country aren't usually in a good mood!

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Enjoying music concerts, house parties, clubs, university classes, fine restaurants... Moscow is not cheap but offers something for everyone, literally. Again, speaking Russian with confidence helps but is not indispensable.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is an excellent posting for single men and women. Also great for couples, as long as both have the right spirit, and works very well for families with young kids too, provided they are ready to meet the considerable expenses involved in raising a child in Moscow. If you have a grown-up child, bear in mind the need for him or her to have basic Russian skills to enjoy Moscow.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes and no. There is a lively LGBT scene, as would be expected of a city this large and varied, but many Russians are homophobic these days.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Few religious or gender prejudices, but racism is a real issue in Moscow, sadly. Anyone who does not look white/caucasian will often be treated differently - varying from mild derision to downright hostile attitudes.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Taking the Transsiberian from Moscow all the way to Beijing, visiting about 12 cities and the Baikal on the way.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

This is one of the world's great cities, with a cultural, social and entertainment scene to match. From ballets at the Bolshoi to glitzy nightclubs, from jazz clubs and classical concerts to picnics at Gorky park, you can do pretty much anything you want in Moscow.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Experiencing Russia's uniquely rich and complex culture, traveling across the country all the way to Siberia), enjoying Moscow's musical scene and meeting Russian friends.

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9. Can you save money?

It's possible, but you need some discipline, as there are many ways to live extravagantly in Moscow!

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I wish I had a stronger command of Russian before moving there!

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, definitely!

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Prejudices about Russia. At first you may be bothered by the fact that almost nobody smiles in public in Moscow, but learn to break the ice and you'll find out than Russians can be extremely warm, friendly and loyal friends.

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4. But don't forget your:

Warm clothes! Obviously they can be bought in Moscow, but prices are considerably higher than in most Western capitals.

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Moscow, Russia 06/30/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No; Madrid, Budapest, Tirana, and Bangkok.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, DC - about 14 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

4 months into a 2-year assignment

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

government; posted at the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Throughout the city, housing on compound, outside of the city, closer to the school

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

This is a consumables post, however, you can find pretty much everything you need on the local economy. However, sanctions have been placed against Russia by the EU, U.S., and Canada, so availability of some items can be difficult to find. Fresh fruit and vegetables are available but they do not last long and you really have to look them over because some stores sell rotten fruits and veggies.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

More liquids - laundry detergent, shampoos, cleaners and supplies (the ones that I prefer).

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's, Shake Shack, Starbucks, KFC, Dunkin' Donuts, Krispy Kreme.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

none really

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO at the Embassy.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

It is available, however, you have to be responsible for health insurance and paid vacations if they are employed full-time.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The Embassy has a gym and indoor pool. Fitness classes are also available.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

The Embassy has two ATMs. Foreign credit cards can be difficult to use here as not all places can process them.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You need to have basic Russian at the least and learn the alphabet. Post does offer language classes.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes - the sidewalks can be narrow and uneven. Also, there are no elevators in the metros and no ramps into buildings or for the buses and trams.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Most people bring a car but you can live without it. Public transportation is really great and easy.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes - it depends on the company but anywhere from US$8-50 a month.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No quarantine needed but do use a pet freight forwarding company to get your pet into the country. It is difficult to bring them here because of the flights meaning the airline might have restrictions. Getting your pet out is much easier. Valeria and Yuri are the vets used by the expat community. They speak English, come to your home, and will help with delivery of your pet and getting your pet into/out of the country.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business; women wear heels with everything.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes; your agency will inform you and RSO will brief you upon your arrival.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Embassy has a med unit with nurses and doctors.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Pollen count can be high, especially in June when the trees pollinate so bring your Benadryl, Claritin, Allegra. Vegetarians will have a hard time but it can be done.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It's pretty mild and comparable to northeast U.S.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Embassy has a daycare facility and nannies are available for hire

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes; tennis, water polo, swim lessons, soccer.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Very large community and morale is moderate. Like any post, it is what you make of it. I would recommend living off-compound because it is too easy to stay on compound your entire tour - everything is offered there.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Movies, museums, parks, ballet, opera, concerts.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It isn't the greatest assignment for a single person - male or female. However, there are a lot of activities at the Embassy and within the community.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No - Russia is homophobic

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

African-Americans are viewed as thugs, rappers, and drug dealers but are often stopped by young people and asked to have their photos taken with them. Most Central Asian people have menial jobs, and Filipinos are often seen housekeeping or in the service industry.

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Eating out is a bit of an adventure - sometimes what you want and see on the menu will be gone for the day. Moscow has a bit of everything, especially in terms of Central Asian food. Ride the metro and check out the stations. Each is designed differently and be sure to do the "prairie dog pop up." Depending on which exit you take, you can find yourself in a completely different area than you originally intended to be. Best time to really explore the metro is on the weekends. It won't be as crowded.

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Matroyshka dolls, icons.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It is easy to get around on the metro or by bus. CLO does a lot of trips within the city and outside the city. Cost of living is still a bit high but the ruble is fluctuating and it's not nearly as bad as it had been. So with that said, you can save money if you shop wisely in the city and not spend your money at the commissary. It is expensive to eat out, but that can also be done pretty cheap, it just depends where you go. Summer is mild; it snows into April, then switches to rain in May.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes and no - travel can be cheap, local cost of living is a bit high.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Russian! You really do need the basics.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes I would.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Sunscreen!

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4. But don't forget your:

Your patience, sense of humor, and sense of adventure. Snow shoes, winter wardrobe.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Check out the documentaries from NatGeo.

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The Moscow Times is online and in English.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Don't be afraid of Russia. It's an incredible experience and there are a lot of opportunities to experience Russia while you are posted here.

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Moscow, Russia 10/14/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, DC. We used the direct United flight which was about 10 hours one way.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2012-2014.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government -Spouse of first tour FS specialist.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

There are four sort of housing areas: the Embassy compound, the City apartments, Pokrovsky Hills (next door to the Anglo-American School AAS) and Rosinka. We lived on the compound and while the convenience is definitely nice in the cold snowy weather, I would have preferred one of the city apartments. I used to joke that I felt we lived on an old MGM backstage lot because at times you would never see a soul outside even though all the housing units were occupied. The City apartments were all accessible by bus/metro same with Pokrovsky. Rosinka supposedly had gorgeous houses by a lake, but the commute was terrible sometimes up to 2+ hours in traffic.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

For our family of two, we would spend an average of US$60/$75 per week on groceries from the Embassy Liberty Store or the local supermarkets. I will say that unlike in the U.S. you do have to "shop around" for everything you need. For example, Billa had better fruits and veggies, but was always out of chicken so we needed to go to Perekrestok. I used to think Moscow was expensive until I got to our new post and it's double that for our grocery bill each week!

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I would send any liquids over 16oz, nail polish and peanut butter (also surprising classified as a liquid).

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Fast food prices are definitely higher than the U.S. I think we went to McDonald's and spent close to US$15 for what would be US$7 in the States. They do have a ton of options to choose from but we preferred going to Khacapuri for yummy Georgian cuisine for less than US$30 for two people.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None that I am aware of.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Everything was received through pouch. I only once had something rejected (nail polish).

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

A lot of people on the compound had a nanny and/or a part-time housekeeper to help around their residences. We didn't just because our apartment was so small.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is a decent size gym at the Embassy with a swimming pool. The cost depends on the size of the family. There were also a few fitness classes, but they were mostly held during the day and I wasn't able to participate since I worked.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

We primarily used cash to pay for everything (there are two cashiers at the Embassy for personnel) but the few times my spouse used his credit card, nothing happened.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

The compound had a regular Catholic mass each week and there were a few Catholic churches in town and there is a Protestant church as well. I'm not sure of any other faiths except Greek Orthodox.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You definitely need basic Russian and understanding of the Cyrillic alphabet to get by. The Embassy does offer classes starting with survival Russian, but a simple trip to the grocery will require some comprehension even if you can't think of the right words!

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Moscow is not very ADA compliant.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

The Metro is amazing, probably the best I have ever been on and historical on top of it! We also took the streetcars from outside the Embassy up to Gorky Park. The nice thing about the employee association was that they had drivers for hire if you couldn't use Motorpool (official business only) and the prices were very reasonable.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

The great thing about Moscow is that if you don't need to, don't bring a car. If we had to bring a car, I would suggest an SUV. The drivers are craaaaazy!

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

High-speed internet access is available for all of the housing areas, but it depends on where you live as to what you purchase. Since we lived on the compound, we were able to purchase it through the employee association for around US$30/month. If you lived off compound, you needed to sign-up with an internet provider such as Yota.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

My spouse got his cell phone through the Embassy but I purchased an unlocked phone from Beeline and loved the fact that I could pay-as-go (then a foreign concept in the U.S.) for unlimited talk/text/data for 1000 rubles a month (US$33). You could also get plans through MTS and Megafon. It was really easy to reload the minutes except you had to find a Beeline store; the street kiosks charge a fee.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No quarantine necessary and there is a vet who makes house calls to the Embassy. We used their services when we had to get our dog's health certificate for flying back to the States. The only problem was that we got the certificate at the 11th hour, otherwise they were very helpful and even picked us up in their vehicle to transport our dog to the hospital.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

You really aren't able to work on the local economy as a spouse since there isn't a bilateral work agreement in place between the U.S. and Russia and spouses are forbidden to give up their diplomatic privileges. The Embassy has about 50 eligible family member (EFM) jobs and some of the spouses had home businesses or taught exercise classes.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are opportunities if you know where to look. A local dog shelter "Call of the Wild" is always looking for volunteers.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Depending on the section you work in, it can range from suit/tie to business casual. Most women dressed in skirts/pants/cardigans. In public, it was anything goes, sometimes you would see men with a girlfriend half their age walking around in freezing weather wearing stiletto heels, a short fur coat and a miniskirt.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

It's Russia and as people have noted before don't expect any privacy. We never experienced anything out of the ordinary but you were always unconsciously on guard and at least in our case "a need to know basis only."

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

TB is definitely a concern and you are tested at the end of your tour. Most people were satisfied with the Med Unit, but I still find it funny that it took them 6 months to get a vaccination back in stock. The old RMO was actually pleased that they had Medevac'd over 60 people the year before. I know some people preferred going to the European Medical Center for treatment although not all of the doctors spoke English.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Unhealthy, but somehow you get used to it. I wouldn't recommend going to Russia for anyone with severe allergies and/or asthma.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

The air quality will affect you initially, but you just adapt. I would say there are options for probably every diet food-wise or you can ship it in. While Russia is very much a meat-centric country, I was able to find a number of vegetarian options at the restaurants we went to.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Beautiful summers, very cold snowy winters. Our first winter there the temperatures were negative Farenheit and you definitely appreciate wearing tall boots and long goosedown coats. Funny enough, the 2013-2014 winter was warmer than Washington DC and it only started snowing again when we left.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Most parents sent there children to the Anglo-American School (AAS) which has a fantastic cafeteria (sushi for lunch!) and an IB program for high school students. During our time in Moscow, some parents were concerned that their children weren't getting into top U.S. colleges, but in my opinion the IB program sounded more rigorous than your standard AP classes. Some parents sent their children to a French school as well.

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There actually is a daycare on the compound run through the employee association, AECP, although a lot of the families had nannies.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

I think the school had after-school activities and they had karate classes in the gym at the Embassy.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

I think the expat community was pretty substantial among all of the different missions in Moscow, but the morale at least at the Embassy ebbed and flowed. There definitely were different groups which stuck together and given the weather (it was dark early in the evening from October-April), you could definitely feel a little depressed. I kind of wished that we had taken more trips while were there just to get away.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

A lot of the Embassy community hung out at Uncle Sam's (the bar on compound) or at the Marine House (they usually had one or two events per month). We preferred to get out and walk around the city, trying new restaurants, seeing plays (we saw a ghost story play entirely in Russian!) or going to any number of events happening that weekend. The CLO has a number of newspapers/magazines which list what is going on in the city for that week/month.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

In my opinion it's a great city for all three demographics. The single men certainly were able to find dates each weekend and as a couple, there were so many entertainment options. The CLO was always trying to put things together for couples and families including the puppet theater and circus.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Nope and getting worse.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I never felt any prejudice but then again I looked like most of the local population. I know one gentleman who was on TDY was sort of snubbed at his hotel because he looked like some from the Caucasus region (dark features and a beard).

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

We really enjoyed going to the Tatu Military Band festival held in Red Square each September. They had a fantastic fireworks display at the end both times we attended. Also, there is a Mexican restaurant not far from Red Square, which hosts a Day of the Dead celebration each November, plus they have the best guacamole in town! We also really liked watching the Victory Day parade in May from the Consular building and later attending the Victory Day celebrations in Victory Park.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

As mentioned above, the Tatu Military band festival each September, the Festival of Lights at the end of September, skating in Gorky Park and Red Square, and New Years Eve.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

There is a great outdoor market, Izmaylova, that sells all of the traditional Russian items such as hats, matrioska dolls, lacquer boxes, etc. Also, the embassy association sponsors vendor weeks a few times a year when the vendors come to the Embassy. The prices are higher than if you just metro out there, but you're paying for convenience.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

There really is a lot to do in Moscow from strolling through Gorky Park on a beautiful summer afternoon to touring the countless museums and seeing wonderful theater productions. We were also able to take the bullet train to St. Petersburg over one of the long weekends and took a few short bus tours to small quaint cities within the Ring.

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10. Can you save money?

It depends. We certainly were able to save money, but we had two incomes and didn't travel or go out every weekend. It might be a little tight with a family.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Honestly, it was a my first experience living overseas and once I was able to get over the culture shock and homesickness, I was able to enjoy my surroundings. Also, it helped a lot to have a job and be able to get out of the house every day.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

It's funny, we were so ready to leave in January (a lot of the personnel working in the Embassy are Type As), but now I really miss Moscow. I miss having seasons and the countless amounts of activities available and green places/parks to take our dog.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Beach clothes, flip flops, desire for privacy.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor, sense of exploring, patience, and desire to learn and interact with locals.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol
(for the Kremlin screens), The Russia House.

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Any of the DK travel guides, The Master and Margarita.

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Moscow, Russia 02/17/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. I have also lived in Surabaya, Indonesia.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Salt Lake City, Utah. Moscow-LAX-SCL or connecting in NYC - about 15-16 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

13 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Spouse of Government Employee.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Lots of options. Pokrovsky Hills is adjacent to the Anglo-American school and is a great place for families with school-aged kids.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can get almost anything here, but groceries and household supplies are expensive. Moscow is just an expensive city.

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3. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Some mosquitoes in the summer.

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Daily Life:

1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Definitely available.

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2. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

At the U.S. Embassy there is a gym available. Also at the Anglo American school families can use the work-out facilities as well.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

We use the ATM at the Embassy and the school.

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4. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

The more, the better.

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5. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

The Moscow metro system is amazing. Affordable and inexpensive.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

People bring all sorts of cars.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Around US$100 a month.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes.

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2. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate pollution.

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3. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Of course cold winters. Snow beginning in October and stays until April. Summer is absolutely beautiful here. Winter is long, cold and dark.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Everyone I know sends their kids to the Anglo-American School. In my opinion, a great school. We have been very pleased with it.

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2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Plenty of options through the Anglo-American school.

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Expat Life:

1. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Circus,museums, ballet, opera, parks.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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Moscow, Russia 11/13/13

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, we have previously lived in Berlin and St. Petersburg.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

From Washington you can fly direct on Aeroflot in 11-12 hours or via New York on Delta which takes a little longer.

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3. How long have you lived here?

We're 1.5 years into a two year posting.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Assignment at the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

There are 4 housing options: the NEC which is at the Embassy compound (families with children and heads of section are housed there); Pokrovsky which is where the Anglo-American school is located, about a 45-minute commute to the Embassy (families with school-aged children are generally housed there); Rosinka which is "mini-America" but so far away from the Embassy that seemingly only contractors are housed there; and city apartments that are spread throughout the city (for singles, couples, and families with kids who aren't yet school-aged).

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Expensive - you can buy almost anything you want in Moscow but often for a price. There is a small commissary at the Embassy as well but it's also quite expensive compared to U.S. prices.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Liquids that can't be shipped in the pouch or bought locally, such as contact lens solution. Otherwise, Moscow has essentially anything you could want.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Tons - lots of U.S. fast food and restaurant chains but Moscow also offers great Georgian, Central Asian, and Asian cuisine. There is something for every palate here.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None - a perk of the cold climate!

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Diplomatic pouch.

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2. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The Embassy has a gym that is very inexpensive by Moscow standards. It also offers a couple of difficult fitness classes and personal trainers. There are tons of gyms throughout the city but they are available at Moscow prices.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

They are generally safe to use throughout the city although the Embassy has an ATM available. People use credit cards in Moscow but not to the extent that Americans do in the States so make sure you also have cash available.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is a Catholic church that meets at the Embassy as well as a couple of others such as Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy that attracts many English-speaking expats from places other than the U.S. There is information in the CLO welcome materials about religious services.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

The more Russian you know, the easier it is to live here. The street signs and signs on the metro are in Cyrillic only so a basic knowledge of the alphabet is a must. Some spouses who don't know Russian barely ever leave the Embassy compound which is a shame in such an interesting city.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

There are virtually no handicap ramps anywhere in the city and it can take a lot of time for the streets and sidewalks to be cleared of snow. This would be a very difficult city for someone with physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes - one trip on the metro costs under a dollar and you can get almost anywhere in the city on the metro. There is an extensive network of buses and trolleybuses as well.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Anything works although something with high clearance is easier for parking in the snow. We don't have an SUV and were still able to drive all winter with snow tires.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, we use a Yota modem for internet which looks like a thumb drive. It costs about US$30/month although it's not always fast enough to stream movies/TV.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

MTS and Beeline are both good and offer data plans for only US$10/month.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No quarantine necessary. There is an English-speaking vet that many from the Embassy use and I know there are lots of other good vets who are cheaper than U.S. vet care.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

There are lots of great jobs (not just administrative in nature) at the Embassy for spouses. I've never heard of any spouses working on the local economy because of work permit issues and loss of diplomatic privileges.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business dress at work. Russians are much dressier than Americans so no sweatsuits in public here!

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Pick-pocketing is a risk at major tourist sites and on the metro. There is a risk of race-based violence, especially in certain areas of the city.

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2. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate - at times it can be pretty bad because of some of the old cars on the road, but it's mostly okay. It can be very dry in the winter, so pack your humidifier.

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3. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The summer is short, but beautiful with long days and low humidity. The winter is long, cold and dark, but somewhat mitigated by the long January holidays and lots of outdoor activities such as ice skating and cross-country skiing.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I hear good things about AAS but have no personal experience with the school.

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There is a preschool at the Embassy although many families choose to hire nannies instead. If you live on the embassy compound, it's generally not allowed to have your nanny stay after midnight or overnight.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The expat community is huge and morale really varies - some love it and do multiple tours here but I think more dislike it and are counting the days until their departure.

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2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Great city for everyone - there is something for everyone to do here. You'd have to try to be bored.

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3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

There are gay clubs and bars but with the passing of the recent ban of LGBT propaganda, it seems less and less safe to be openly homosexual here.

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4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes - there have been massive round-ups of immigrants recently, primarily targeting Central Asians. People of African descent also sometimes receive unwanted attention from the police.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Broomball - an expat sport played exclusively in Moscow; cultural events; traveling throughout Europe on the many local holidays.

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The Golden Ring cities outside of Moscow are great to visit in the summertime as well as many of Moscow's parks (that goes for the winter as well). Gorky Park, Red Square, etc. all have great ice skating rinks in the winter. A visit to St. Petersburg is an absolute must for anyone based in Russia.

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Matryoshka dolls, amber jewelry, Soviet propaganda posters, etc.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

There's lots to do here - parks, restaurants, museums, theater/concerts, outdoor activities especially in the winter months.

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9. Can you save money?

If you don't always shop at the most expensive grocery stores and eat out that frequently, you can probably save some money.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I wish I had known that it's possible to bike here - not year-round of course, but there are great parks around the city that offer trails.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Definitely not - I was really excited about this assignment but the Embassy is very bureaucratic and that has led to low morale for many people, myself included. Moscow isn't a bad city though.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Flip flops.

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4. But don't forget your:

Winter parkas, hats and gloves!

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Moscow, Russia 07/28/13

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I have lived in Mexico before.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

From New York it's a direct 10-hour flight from Moscow.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Currently at the end of a two-year tour.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Posted with the Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

On compound housing, city apartments (varies from 20 minute walk to 45 minute metro ride), and housing in the suburbs - Pokrovsky and Rosinka - the latter is a bit far from the center.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

The Embassy commissary has a decent stock, though pricey. Most basic products (bread, milk, eggs, etc) are available in Russian grocery stores.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Protein bars/health supplements.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Fast food is about 25% more expensive than the U.S. and more U.S. chains are becoming available. Sit down restaurants have good lunch deals, but become 50% more expensive than the U.S. for dinner. Customer service quality varies greatly, though it's getting better. This is a difficult city for vegetarians.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Not a major issue.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Pouch, it has some restrictions.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

I pay about about US$30 for 4 hours of cleaning, from a Philippina.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Embassy gym is sufficient and decently priced, with a basketball/volleyball court, racquetball court, weight room, cardio machines, pool.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I usually use cash and get money at the Embassy cashier or Embassy ATM. Some vendors only accept Russian credit cards.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Moscow times, Moscow News, expat newsletters.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Russian significantly helps. In tourist areas or diplomatic functions, English is sufficient but knowing Russian makes everything much easier, especially in the regions outside Moscow.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

The Metro isn't very disabled friendly, at least the older stations.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

The Metro is reasonably safe and efficient. Trams also work well. Taxis are inconvenient - you have to call cab services and they tend to take a long time to arrive to pick you up. One can also pick up gypsy cabs on the street but this isn't recommended and you need to speak Russian.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

I barely used my car here - driving is a bit chaotic.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Beeline, about US$40 per month. Fast enough for streaming.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Embassy provides cell phone. With an unlocked smartphone you can transfer the embassy number to it.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Some kennels, there is one vet that most people in the embassy go through.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business dress most of the year.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

RSO will provide more information on security concerns unique to Russia. With the exception of skinheads, violent street crime is probably less common than in most urban areas in the U.S. I don't have a problem walking the streets.

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2. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Seems ok, I don't particularly notice any problems.

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3. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

There is a constant snow cover from early November until April. December to February it's very cold, for weeks on end; it won't get warmer than -10C. Summers are pleasant but short. Days are very short in December with very little sunshine - beware of your psychological health at this time of the year.

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Schools & Children:

1. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Not sure. Lots of embassy folks have Philippina nannies.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Pretty large - there are large diplomatic, student, and professional communities from around the world, though you have to seek them out.

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2. Morale among expats:

Varies significantly depending on one's expectations and reaction to the weather/local culture/work environment/etc.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There's always tons going on, though the nightlife scene can be a hassle due to face control. Lots of diplomatic and cultural events during the week.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Decent for all - CLO makes an effort to create family-friendly events. Fine for couples - lots to do around the city. It can be tough for singles - Russians aren't the most sociable bunch, so it will take work to build a network of friends. Probably harder for single females, who tend to date within the embassy/expat community. Slightly easier for single males, though the foreigner cache is diminished from the 1990's. Speaking Russian helps, but Russians that don't speak English tend to be less interested in meeting foreigners.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Most Russians support recent legislation that makes it a crime to promote homosexuality. Moscow supposedly has a gay scene, though it's not in the open. Gays will not find a very welcoming atmosphere here.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes - lots of tensions between ethnic Russians and people from the Caucuses, so anyone with Middle Eastern/Indian/Latino ancestry will likely receive some hostility. Some black diplomats I know don't travel on the metro at night. Russians are less hostile to those with Oriental features, but still look down on them. Most bars and clubs have "face control," which is blatantly discriminatory. The Embassy is also not very diverse, so you won't find many people that will understand the difficulties of life in Moscow. ender attitudes tend to be pretty chauvinistic.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Sightseeing, museums, decent nightlife.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Sightseeing, museums, art events, going out.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Handicrafts, souvenirs, etc.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Metro makes it easy to get around the city. Moscow is a good base for traveling to Europe and Middle East. There are lots of art and cultural events and tons of sight seeing.

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11. Can you save money?

With the high COLA, yes, but this would mean not traveling, which is necessary, especially during the dark winter. Going out is quite pricey.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No - the work is fascinating, but the people are simply too hostile, and the poor food and weather makes it worse.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Smile and ego.

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3. But don't forget your:

Winter coat, boots and thick skin.

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4. Do you have any other comments?

I know many people who love Moscow, others who are ambivalent, and others who dislike it. It is important to be honest with yourself about what you're looking for out of the expat experience here and whether your personality will jive with the local culture.

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Moscow, Russia 07/18/13

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

We've lived in numerous other countries in Europe and Asia.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington D.C. The direct United flight from Dulles to Moscow was discontinued last summer, which was a disapointment. Now you must connect through Frankfurt, Vienna or Geneva. The entire trip takes around 11 or 12 hours including layovers. However, there are rumors that United will start a direct flight again to/from Moscow, but maybe from Newark. This will certainly make for easier trips to the U.S.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year (halfway through a two-year tour).

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

There are three types of housing: the US Embassy compound, city apartments, and suburban, gated commuwnity living. People with school-aged children live either on the embassy compound or in the 'burbs. The embassy compound makes for a five-minute commute, but it's a bit of a fishbowl. The two suburban communities are really quite far out. Pokrovsky Hills, one of the suburban compounds, is co-located with the Anglo-American School, relatively far from the city center. Rosinka, the other suburban community, is even farther out and as far as I know, not even near a Metro station. The city apartments are located in the center of Moscow, all within an easy commute via public transporation to the embassy. We are in a city apartment and are very happy with our location. Some city apartments are on the older side with funky layouts, but some apartments are new and very nice. Overall, however, wherever you are housed, your housing may be smaller than what you are used to at other posts. Be judicious in what you bring as storage is most likely to be very limited.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Pretty much everything is available, albeit probably not the brands you're used to seeing back home. Groceries are not that much more than in the D.C. area. Go to the big chains (Auchan, Metro) for better prices than at the smaller stores. I haven't been able to find Greek-style yogurt or decent bagels, but pretty much everything else is here.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

We'd probably ship less rather than more. If there's a high-end brand of something you like, bring it (for example, the cost of a small bottle of Aveda shampoo is ridiculous, practically the price of liquid gold). Keep in mind your storage will probably be limited. The U.S. Embassy has a decent commissary for those American essentials you can't live without, but otherwise, we can and do get everything on the local economy.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's, Burger King, Cinnabon, Dunkin Donuts, and Starbucks are all here. I've never eaten fast food here, but it's probably more expensive than back in the U.S. Starbucks is definitely pricier, but there are some good Russian chains that are less expensive. There are lots of Italian restaurants in Moscow. Muscovites seem to be obsessed with Uzbek cuisine and sushi. Russian restaurants abound, and Soviet-nostalgia-themed restaurants seem to be popping up. Anything you want to eat you can probably find. The Volkonsky bakery chain is very good. We've had wonderful, but very expensive, Indian food here. Have I mentioned that restaurants are expensive? Dinner for two at our favorite Indian place (including beer) is well over $100. Lunch can easily run $30 per person if you go out near the embassy. The food here is good, but you certainly pay for it.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

I haven't noticed any in Moscow. Siberia is famous for mosquitoes and ticks. Bring repellent if you plan on doing some hiking in the more rural parts of Russia.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We use DPO. Russian post is very unreliable, but DHL seems to work ok. Pony Express is notoriously bad.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Available and relatively expensive. We have a cleaner from the Phillipines for a half-day every week for $50. That seems to be the going rate for Filipinas. Russian cleaners may be cheaper.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes. The U.S. Embassy has a small gym. Many city apartment buildings have commercial gyms nearby, but they are expensive. Still, we got a deal by signing a contract in August as it was a low time of year for customers. I also go to a wonderful yoga studio. I just heard of an acquaitance who is doing circus training for fitness (trapezes, etc), so aparently that's available in Moscow.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Be very careful. We use a credit card at one of the larger grocery store chains and have not had a problem. My debit card was compromised after using it in an ATM inside of a bank, so use an ATM at your own risk. U.S. Embassy employees typically cash checks or use the ATMs inside the Embassy. Except for large stores and high-end restaurants, this is a cash society.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes. LDS, Catholic, and Protestant. Not sure about synagogues.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

The Moscow Times publishes daily and has a website that is constantly being updated. The Moscow News comes out weekly. Cable TV is available on the embassy compound -- which I'm assuming includes English-language channels. Many people have AFN, and one family we know brought their own satellite dish with them. I don't know how much cable television costs.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Quite a lot. There is not a lot of English here, and navigating the city without knowing how to read Cyrillic would make life very difficult. Russians are good at inferring what you are attempting to say in Russian, but the more Russian you have, the easier your time here will be.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Oh, too many to list here. 90% (or more) of the Metro system is not wheelchair accessible. Curbs aren't cut to accommodate wheelchairs. People park cars on sidewalks, so getting around for even the able bodied can be challenging at times. Sidewalks are icy in the winter. If you have a physical disability think twice about coming here, or else you'll be pretty much embassy-compound-bound. Which would be very dull.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Local transportation is terrific. The Metro system is incredibly huge and efficient. Trolleybuses, regular buses and trams are all available. There are several radio taxi services but I've never taken one. The U.S. Embassy community association offers transportation services if you schedule them in advance. There is fast-train service to all three of Moscow's airports, which is important as traffic here is intense and unpredictable. Take the train to and from the airport whenever possible, avoiding a taxi. Trains within Russia are ok (the fast Sapsan trains are wonderful).

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

No need for four-wheel-drive if you live in the city center. Parking is usually a challenge, so a smaller vehicle might serve better than an SUV. However, Russians are very agressive drivers and there are many many accidents daily, so bring something large enough that you will be protected in a crash. We didn't bring a car to post and have been fine using the excellent public transportation system here. A lot will depend on where your housing is.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes and no. Apparently the internet on the embassy compound is pretty good, and my friends who live at Pokrovsky have been able to contract with MTS to provide internet service which is fast. Those of us in the city apartments have more limited options as the apartments themselves are owned by the Russian government and normal internet providers cannot service them. Beeline wired service is available but speeds are capped at 2.5MB. We, and most of the people we know in city apartments, use Yota, which a 4G wireless connection through either a USB modem or modem+router combination. The speeds vary greatly dpeneding on demand, and the connection is quite volatile. We can only stream through a VPN about half of the time. Streaming on the local internet connection is ok if you can find something that will stream in Russia.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Get one. The U.S. Embassy provides cell phones to all employees. Otherwise get a phone and a SIM card here. If you want to use a smart phone from the U.S. try to bring it unlocked. Otherwise I'm sure you can have it unlocked here for a fee. You may need to bring some kind of documentation to get a SIM card, I'm not sure. Family members can get SIM cards through the U.S. Embassy community association.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There is one vet that most people use who will come to your home to care for your animal. I do not know of any kennels -- most people have their neighbors or housekeepers feed the animals when they go away.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

I don't think so. I'm not sure that there is a bilateral work agreement, and even if there is, anyone would need to be fluent in Russian to work locally. I think there are some substitute teaching slots at the Anglo-American School. Lots of EFMs are employed at the U.S. Embassy.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Dressy. Russian women especially dress up. The U.S. Embassy is formal: suits and ties for men, suits/nice dresses for women.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

In terms of violent crime, no. I don't know of anyone who has been robbed or mugged. There are other concerns that you'll learn about if you are with the U.S. Embassy. I feel very safe here, but I still don't take a lot chances (avoid dark underpasses when alone at night, etc). Crimes tend to be of an opportunistic nature, and if people are victimized, alcohol is usually involved.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Local Russian healthcare is poor. Expect to be medivac'd for anything that can't easily be treated at the Med unit. There is one good local hospital, the European Medical Clinic. It's very expensive, evidently, but they can do xrays and other kinds of imaging. Anyone I know who needed surgery was sent to London. American women who are pregnant do not give birth in Russia.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

I think moderate to good, depending on where you live. I haven't noticed any particularly nasty air quality, so it's probably ok.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Very long and very dark winters, short but beautiful summers. The darkness of the winter for some people is harder than the cold and the snow. Moscow deals with snow fairly well, so moving about during the dead of winter is easy as long as you're dressed appopriately. GSO offers SAD lamps to those who want one (but they run out quickly) and I found it very helpful. In the summer the sun sets very late -- and people are out taking advantage of the sun until late as well. I saw a family with young children playing in a playground at 11:00 pm (dusk) a few weeks ago.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

We don't have kids but our friends all send their children to the Anglo-American School and seem happy enough. There was an issue last fall as parents felt that students weren't getting into prestigous colleges in the U.S. -- so they wanted the academics tightened up. It seems to be fine for the younger grades.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Anglo-American School does make accommodations. I'm not sure of the details, but I believe it is possible.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There is daycare available at the embassy. Many people have nannies, often Filipina.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

I think so, at the Anglo-American School.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Very large. Lots of other embassies and foreign businesses are here.

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2. Morale among expats:

Mixed. It seems to depend on people's jobs and their comfort with the Russian language. Some jobs at the U.S. Embassy are inherently more difficult in Russia right now than others. Some people really get into Russian culture, and there are a number of Russophiles at the embassy who have been here, or in the region, on multiple tours. On the other hand, I also know people who have Google calendars on their smart phones giving them the number of days left until they leave post. The U.S. Embassy is huge and there is not a great deal of community spirit. But it can be cliquish and unfriendly here. We are having a good experience overall, but two years will be enough.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Dining out, some parties at peoples' homes. The distance between the suburban compounds and the center of Moscow means that if you live on the embassy compound or in a city apartment, chances are you won't be hanging out with your friends who live at Prokrovsky or Rosinka after hours. Our city apartment building is quite social. Compared to other posts people don't entertain at home much. There's a bar at the U.S. Embassy but it's small and tends to be the same faces there each time. We only go very occasionally.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Good for everyone in my opinion. The lack of green space may be an issue for families with young children. Most Moscovites live in apartments and take their children to the parks for fresh air.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

NO. Homophobic attitudes have been endorsed by recent legislation outlawing anything that "promotes homosexuality," which can be applied very broadly. There has been violence against gays and lesbians in regional cities in Russia. I would imagine an openly-gay couple in Russia, showing any display of affection in public, might actually be in danger. Of course within the embassy community it's fine and accepted, but in the greater Russians society, not at all.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

YES. Russians seem to be growing increasingly irritated by the influx of immigrants from Central Asia, with the "Russia for Russians" rhetoric really picking up steam. Those of African origin are enough of a novelty that I doubt they'd be targeted in Moscow, but if you are of East or Central Asian decent, you might have problems. Even diplomats from South Asia have felt uneasy at times in Moscow.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Walking around Moscow in the summertime, as there are lovely parts of this city -- but you have to look for them. Spending time in Gorky Park both in summer and in winter -- there's wonderful ice skating at Gorky, along with other parks in Moscow. We've enjoyed the cultural offerings. I've traveled quite a bit around Russia, which is a real must to get a sense of what Russia is really like. The northwestern part of Russia is especially interesting, and everyone who comes to Russia should really head to Siberia and Lake Baikal. Once you get past the often grumpy facade, Russian people are warm and more open than I had expected. Russians really know how to have a good time, that's for sure.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Lots and lots. Concerts, ballet, opera, lots of theater (in Russian). Big-name bands come here and play at a variety of clubs and arenas in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Two movie theaters show movies in their original language, including American releases. The park system here is lovely and extensive. St. Petersburg is great for a weekend getaway as the fast trains run constantly and it's only a four-hour trip. There are lots of restaurants with every kind of cuisine imaginable, but be warned: they are expensive. You can take any kind of class or have lessons of any kind you want -- I have friends who have learned to play musical instruments here -- private lessons are very affordable. Cooking classes are available. If you're with the U.S. Embassy, a local tour agency offers lots and lots of tours and programs. The museums are wonderful, and the contemporary art scene is actually quite active as well. If you like to go to clubs, Moscow has a lot, but usually with face control. Lots of little cafes and bars, many with outdoor seating in the summertime. If you can dream it up, it's probably available here.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Reproductions of icons, paintings by local artists, rugs from the Central Asian Republics, an endless array of matrioshka dolls, linen tablecloths, Ded Moroz and Snegorochka figurines.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Russian history is fascinating. This country is extremely varied with lots to see. Moscow is a wonderful cultural capital with inexpensive access to world-class ballet, opera and symphonic music. The museums here are wonderful, and it seems that most regional cities have outdoor museums of wooden architecture, which are fascinating.

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11. Can you save money?

Many people say no, but we have saved quite a bit. We just don't go out to dinner as often as we have at other posts. If you want to go out to eat a couple of times a week, you'll spend a lot of money.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Probably. But two years will be plenty. Expats from countries other than the U.S. will probably have a different experience here.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

expectations that Russians will smile much--they don't. But it's not personal. And try not to look for logic in the way things work here.

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3. But don't forget your:

Ugg boots for when it's cold and dry; luggy-soled heavy-duty snowboots for when it's cold and wet; coats with various factors of warmth; yak traks; mittens lined with sheepskin; good socks; sense of adventure; the ability to see humor in the absurd.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Anything by Pushkin. Master and Margarita by Bulgakov -- many of the settings in the book are in central Moscow.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

Russia is not for the faint of heart, but it's a fascinating country.

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Moscow, Russia 01/13/13

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington DC. 13 hours with one connection

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3. How long have you lived here?

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

There are four types, the compound, Rosinka (furthest out), Pokrovsky(by AAS), and city apartments (15-60 min from the Embassy). Families of school aged children do not get placed in city apartments due to the school bus routes.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are very high. We buy whatever we can through Amazon. We have to get anything liquid or alcoholic locally due to the shipping rules. The Embassy has a commissary you can use with a membership. It has a pretty good variety considering its size but it is also expensive.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Extra medicine, especially things like NyQuil, exta virgin olive oil, nail polish, kids' clothes in bigger sizes. You can get all of these things here but they are soooooo much more expensive or just inconvenient to get.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Every possible fast food place except for Arby's and Taco Bell. Old Arbat has 2 Cinnabon's for some reason. The cost is higher than in the US, but the price for everything is higher here.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Mail comes through the pouch and there are a TON of restrictions. It is a total pain, but like anything else you make do and adapt. It also takes 3-4 weeks to get anything, so you have to be patient.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Very plentiful Filipino and Russian domestic help, charging US$8-10 per hour. They range from fantastic to awful. You have to be thorough when you are hiring.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The Embassy has a small, kind of run down gym. AAS has a nicer gym that Pokrovsky residents can use. There are others on the economy but they are super-expensive.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

We have become a cash family, using the ATMs at the embassy to replenish when needed. From the stories we have heard, cash is the safest way to go.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, not sure what denominations, but definitely Catholic and Jewish.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Moscow Times is in English. All embassy housing gets access to AFN.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

I know the alphabet and a few dozen words. I get by just fine.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

A lot of difficulties. The city is not made for the disabled in any way. It is hard to get around with strollers too.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

There are express trains to the airports and the metro is awesome. Both are very cheap and reliable. The metro is the best deal in the city, plus they are beautiful. I would not take a taxi or a bus, for safety reasons.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

I was worried that we'd need a big SUV, but just about every car you can imagine is here. They really do an excellent job of clearing the roads, and I have seen all types of cars do just fine on the roads.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, for about US$30 a month. Usually pretty good. We stream a lot of videos. There are also free wifi hotspots throughout the city.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I have an embassy-issued phone that works great.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No, but they do need the proper documentation from the States to avoid any issues at the airport.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Moscow appears to be a very pet-friendly city with lots of access to vets and large pet stores.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Nope.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Dress code is regular business attire: same as DC.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Um, yes....those are all things you get briefed on prior to coming and once you are here. Using the most basic common sense, I have always felt safe walking around the city, even on my own.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

We have a med unit at the Embassy and the staff is amazing. Fortunately we haven't needed to use it yet.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Awful. The air is usually a challenge year-round.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The weather is beautiful six months out of the year (May-Oct), which was a pleasant surprise. We were expecting nine months of winter before we got here. Now that we have experienced a winter, I can say it is really cold but very manageable with the proper gear.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I have two kids in the elementary school, and they really love it. It is both challenging and fun for them and the school lunches are excellent!

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

From what I heard, they really don't have the resources to accommodate special needs.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There's daycare and preschool on the NEC, but there are families who have also used local Russian options and the Montessori school near AAS.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

AAS offers great after-school activities. Others have signed up for soccer and baseball on expat teams for kids.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Very large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Unfortunately, it seems a lot of the community hates it, or at least dislikes it enough to be counting the days left. We have enjoyed our time here, but I think that is mostly because of how we managed our attitudes and expectations. If you don't give this place a chance and keep an open mind, you will be miserable.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There is no shortage of things to do in the city. Just about anything you can imagine is here.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Great for families...rough for singles, especially men, who suddenly become 10 times better looking when they get off the plane.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I have heard that it is not a gay-friendly place.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Very much so. Still lots of xenophobia.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Cheap flights to Europe. We are able to get away every couple of months quite affordably and see various cities.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

All the typical touristy things like Red Square, gum, etc. There are lots of good places to eat and you can actually find some good deals.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Nesting dolls, artwork, or a fur coat, if you'd like one.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Tons of culture and history. It is amazing to just walk around the city center.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes. We save a ton of money by not eating out very often and shopping on Amazon for cheap staples. Even with the occasional trips, we can save money.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Bad attitude. If you want to keep all of the conveniences you get in the States, you need to live in the States!

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3. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor, common sense, and warm weather gear because the summers are beautiful and beaches are just a short flight away!

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Nicholas and Alexandra (Modern Library)

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This is a hardship post. It is a challenging, difficult place to live but there is also a lot of good here. The people at work have been great, the sights are beautiful, and it is unlike anywhere else. I feel very lucky I had the chance to live here for a short while.

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Moscow, Russia 03/14/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. Cairo, Manila, Athens.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

10 hr non-stop flights to Washington.

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3. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

There are four housing types: NEC, Pokrovsky, Rosinka and city apartments. NEC: Apartments on the compound. Agency heads get townhouses, everyone else gets an apartment based on their family size. Not fancy, but you literally could do an entire tour here without leaving the compound. Not that I recommend that, but all the conveniences are here. Gym, commissary, the commute to work is no more than five minutes door-to-door. There's a bus that takes the kids to school with multiple return times to accommodate after-school activities. The NEC gets AFN and has internet wired to each apartment (bring your own router). NEC dwellers really don't need to bring a car unless you plan on a lot of day-trips, and with the construction, many personal vehicles will be parked in a garage about 3/4 of a mile away. What the apartments have in convenience, they give up in size, especially if you're of a higher rank. The washer/dryer will be either American sized or European, so if this is important to you, be sure to tell housing. Euro washers take twice as long. Construction is starting on the new annex and will last a few years so there will be some noise and dust during working hours and for part of the day on Saturday. OBO is making a strong effort to keep the community aware of the plans and have shown willingness to be flexible. There are two metro stations near-by and two trolley routes. There are a couple of grocery stores and pharmacies within walking distance.

Pokrovsky: Out next to the Anglo-American School. Housing is multi-story townhouses. A good option if you have kids. There's a shuttle that runs occasionally between the compound and the two closest metro stations. Those stations are walkable but not close and there is no shuttle to the embassy.

Rosinka: Way the heck out on the outskirts of town, the commute is the thing most people complain about and can take hours if traffic is bad. Sort of like living in West VA and commuting into DC. Very nice housing and area otherwise though. There's a shuttle that runs between the compound and the embassy and a bus that runs to the school and back.

City Apts: Apartments in the city will vary widely. Some are in newer buildings and are designed as a single unit with upgraded (for Russia) amenities and others are older and combine what used to be two apartments into one. Some will be quieter, others will be noisier. There is no transportation to the school. Local amenities will vary depending on where you are. You will have the hot water turned off for a couple of weeks during the summer for some sort of maintenance and GSO is typically very bad about keeping apartment dwellers aware of things like building access card changes and water outages. The commissary will deliver orders.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

The embassy commissary gets stuff from Germany and doubles the cost to account for expenses. Stuff costs more in the local grocery stores as well. You can save money if you have good language skills and shop like a Russian, but that isn't 95% of the people working here.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing unusual. About the only stuff I really wanted shipped, and did, was comfort food that couldn't be gotten locally or through the commissary.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King are all near the embassy, there are a lot of decent restaurants as well. The general rule of thumb here is that the cost ofa meal/drink will be double the U.S. cost.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Get to know where the local farmers markets are. You can get a lot of fresh food here in places that are the size of a warehouse. Grocery stores also tend to have a lot of fresh goods available, although it's a bit hit and miss in winter.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Very few, but there are some when it's warm. If you have screens, keep them closed when the windows are open.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Post is moving to pouch-only which means restricted liquids and no lithium batteries. They do have an exception for the size of package that can leave.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Available, yes. Cost, unknown.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Each of the major housing areas has a gym. The gym at the embassy is okay. It has a pool, rowing machines, four ellipticals, four treadmills and four bikes (two sitting, two leaning forward). The weight area is somewhat extensive, but small and disorganized. There are several benches, a smith machine, a squat rack, and various machines (leg press, lat pull down, etc.).

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Lots of skimmers, but the embassy has four ATMs on compound. Credit cards are used a lot by locals.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

AFN is available, except in city apartments and there's English language news/local-doings magazines.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Little. Take the survival course at the embassy and you'll get the basics. Just about every restaurant that isn't a mom-and-pop shop will have an English menu if you ask.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Depends on the disability. If you can walk and see, you'll be fine. In Moscow, Russian drivers now largely obey crosswalks, but it's always best to be wary.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, sort of. Metro and trains are perfectly safe. Metro and trolleys will cost about $1 per ride. You can go one-way to the airport on the express train for an additional $10. Taxis are fine, just stay away from gypsy-cabs. Also, be sure to know what the cost is for taxis. There's a group of cabs that park at elite hotels that will charge $50 to go a mile.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Front-wheel drive for the snow. Tires are available locally. Tires can't be shipped in by pouch. You can hire association drivers to go out and buy whatever car parts you need. Ship the make/model specific ones in via the pouch.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, but it varies. For the NEC, 2-5 MB (depends on what ISC has it set to that day) runs $35 per month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

The association will be happy to sign you up for a personal plan with various features, whether it's a cell plan, data plan, or both. For the Apple users, ISC has a device that cuts SIM cards do to the mini size used by Apple products.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Several English-speaking vets, some will come to your home.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

It's difficult if you don't work in education.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Political types in suits, computer guys in jeans and a polo and management in a tie and sometimes a blazer.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

RSO & ISSO will discuss.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

TB if you ride the metro a lot. Decent medical care through the health unit and the local Euro-clinic.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Typically, pretty good. But there are peat bog fires that smolder and can flare up so summer may be hit or miss. One summer it could be as bad as days in Cairo or Beijing and the next summer it would be beautiful.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

There are seasons. Fall and spring are pretty good. Summer is very nice (unless there's smoke) and winter can be brutal. A typical ski jacket will not be enough, you will want snow pants and a long thick coat.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are a couple of schools available. The Anglo-American School is the one that most parents send their child to. Overall a good school, I'd say that it's not as good as some others my child has attended. Be aware that while high schoolers all take a trip, seniors take a different trip at the beginning of the year, so a child arriving at the beginning of their senior year may not have their passport back from the MFA with their multi-entry visa in time to go on this trip. Parents with children in this situation should find out from the school if the senior trip will still be in Sept. and plan accordingly.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Unknown, but there is a regional psychiatrist based at post and CLO will also have more information.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Nannies are available and the embassy association has a day-care center onsite.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

There are after school sporting programs and some that are done at the embassy. Since those vary, check with the association for the latest info.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Pretty big. Lots of business people.

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2. Morale among expats:

Varies, it's typically a love-it-or-hate-it post.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Limited by your imagination. The NEC has a lively social community with lots of events taking place at Uncle Sam's (the bar) and once in a while, the Marine House.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes to all. Single guys fare better than single women (there's a Russian saying that "if he loves her he will beat her" which might dissuade expat women from dating locally too much), but there's a lot to do and explore for everyone. Visa-seekers are a well-known phenomenon.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Probably not. Russians lean toward xenophobia and later in the evening, it's not unusual to see groups of people sitting around drinking. Drunk young people are more likely to show intolerance.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Many Russians look down on several groups, including those from the Caucasus and central Asian areas. There's always prejudice regarding English speakers, whether pro or con. Most harassment will be subtle.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Guidebooks are best for this.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Russian cultural kitsch.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Culture. And if you're coming from multiple 3rd-world postings, it's cleaner and more organized, although a Russian will laugh to hear it.

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11. Can you save money?

Depends, I did, but I can see where some people wouldn't.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Sure. I might consider it again after the construction is done.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Sense of privacy.

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3. But don't forget your:

Ultra-heavy winter coat.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?



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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Moscow, Russia 05/29/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

First

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

US, nine hours to Dulles, on a direct flight

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3. How long have you lived here?

10 months

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Embassy

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Embassy people live in one of four places -- the compound, one of two suburban enclaves, or the city apartments. Currently, the city apartments aren't allowed if you have school-age children. One of the enclaves has a shuttle to the Embassy, the other has a shuttle to the metro. We live in the one w/ the shuttle to the metro. You can also walk around a kilometer to the nearest metro. My commute, without a car, is about 50 min, with a combination of walking and metro. Driving is about 45 min, but I don't have a car, so it's usually walk/metro for me. The commute from the city apartments is around 20 min, I think. In the compound, it's nothing, of course. The compound is apartments, the two enclaves are town houses. Ours is three stories, three bedroom/three bath. We like it.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

There are several types of grocery stores -- tiny produkti, huge 'gypermarkets', and the prices vary a lot. You can get good produce in the markets scattered around, for a good price. We order a few things from Amazon or Drugstore.com, but mostly buy local stuff. We're not trying to recreate our US kitchen, though. If you are, it's much more expensive. You can find most things you need here, though. Peanut butter has been the only real challenge, and that's available at the Embassy commissary, it's just a bit costly.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

vitamins, peanut butter. Really we get anything we want either by ordering online or buying it locally. We put some things in our HHE that we feel a little silly for shipping, now. But there are restrictions on liquids, I guess anything that is liquid or liquid-like, it's better to ship it in with your HHE, because you won't be able to get it mailed in later.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

We have most fast food here. McD's, Burger King, KFC, even a Chili's and Dunkin Donuts. There's also Baskin Robbins, and a Wendy's is supposed to open soon. Fast food is more expensive here than in the States. A Burger King lunch for three is about 800 rubles, so about $28. There are lots of expensive restaurants and some pretty affordable places. MyMy (moo moo) is a chain of inexpensive, cafeteria-style home-cooking that we like. Shockoladitza is a good coffee house/lunch place (around $15 for a lunch). Sushi is VERY popular for some reason, and there's a sushi place on every corner. You can also find Thai, Indian, Georgian, etc.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Produce is very widely available, and nothing seems to have high fructose corn syrup in it. I don't really look for any of the rest though, gluten-free, etc. But I also don't really remember seeing it in passing, either.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Haven't noticed much. Some mosquitoes in summer/spring.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO and pouch

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

We have a Russian house-keeper who comes 3x a week for about four hours, and who cooks and cleans. We pay her about $7 an hour (the ruble equivalent). You can also hire Filipina help, but they charge more and you have to make sure their visa allows them to work. Lots of people have full-time nannies.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The embassy has a gym, and if your kid goes to AAS you can use their facility. I've seen ads on the metro for gyms, but don't know anything more about them.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I only use the ATMs at the embassy or AAS. There are skimmers and fake ATMs out there, and a lot of places don't take credit cards, anyway. We live on cash.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

I don't really know. We go to the Jewish Community Center events occasionally, but they're in Russian. There's a Reform congregation that has their services in English, but we haven't gone.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

The Moscow Times is in English. There are a few English language stations on cable. Ours comes with our house, so I don't know how much it would cost otherwise. I mainly get my news online.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

As much as possible! Most Russians don't speak English, most signs aren't translated. It's best if you can at least shop in Russian and at least be able to decipher Cyrillic.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Many. There aren't any curbcuts or ramps or anything you'd need to get along in a wheelchair. The streets and sidewalks are uneven, potholed, and crowded. You see an occasional wheelchair, and I've seen bystander help someone out but I often wonder how they manage. No handicap parking spaces, either.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Metro, bus, trolley, trams -- all easy to use and inexpensive. There are also 'marschrutkas', little vans that go on set routes, for about 85 cents, we use them all the time with no problems. No seat belts, but I just hope for the best on that. There are cabs that can be ordered, and real cabs that you flag down, and gypsy cabs which are just people who pull over when flagged. I don't use them, normally, but I have a couple of times and had no problems. Just get the fare agreed upon ahead of time, and use some sense. Don't do it alone, for instance, if you're female. And better not to choose a young man or a pair of men. Probably better to stick with the more official things like the metro, really.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

We don't have a car, but most of my friends who have them have either a small beater car or a small-ish SUV. Traffic is bad, finding parking is bad, there are lots of wrecks. So don't bring anything you'll be heartbroken to ding up.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

I have MTS, it's about $36 a month, and is fast enough to stream, if you can find something that will stream to Russia.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I got mine from work, my husband bought his at the embassy. But there are kiosks and stores where you can buy pay-as-you go phones.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No, but there's a protocol to follow that includes a rabies shot at least 30 days but less than a year before you arrive and a health check 10 days before, and a certificate from the USDA. Plan ahead!!!

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There is a good house-call vet that nearly everyone uses. Our cat developed diabetes and he's getting good care.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No. It's difficult to get permission to work in Russia.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

At the embassy, suits required for both men and women. On the street, you see a variety. It's ok to wear jeans, etc. Women tend to dress up, but the fashions seem more like 1989 than now, and are very tight and revealing and include outrageously high heels. Don't even try to keep up, just dress neatly and comfortably.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Pickpockets, especially on the metro. If you're US Embassy, there are other things the RSO will talk to you about.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

We haven't had any real problems, although falls are common in winter. The embassy med unit is good, and they'll send you to the European Medical Center for anything that requires X-rays, etc. People are medevac'd for anything even slightly complex, though.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Supposedly bad, but it seems ok most of the time. Last summer, there were forest/peat bog fires and the air got unbreathable. You couldn't see across the street, it was so bad. The US Embassy allowed family members and employees to go to back to the US until it improved. Hopefully, we won't have a repeat this summer.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Cold winters, lots of snow. It started snowing in early November, and didn't stop until April. I think our coldest week it got down to about -27C. But once the snow melted, it warmed up quickly. Summer can be hot -last year it was around 40C quite a bit of July/August. Right now, it's Spring, and it's beautiful out. Sunny most days and the temps are around 24C. Fall was nice, too. We arrived in late summer, so I haven't seen June yet.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Anglo-American School of Moscow is within the gate/fence of one enclave. There's a British American school out at the other enclave, but I don't know much about it. The AAS is good, they use the PYP and International Baccalaureate programs. We've had good luck so far, but we only have experience with 3rd grade. But the teachers are very communicative and the curriculum seems good. There are good afterschool activities at no charge, our daughter has enjoyed that a lot. They have ice-skating in winter for PE, and swimming at other times during the year (indoor pool) and a great library. It's also wonderful that our daughter can walk or ride her bike to/from school all on her own. The facility is new, and very affluent, with everything you can think of. The cafeteria serves real meals -- things like grilled salmon, rather than chicken nuggets like you might see in the US. They have a lot of visiting artists, etc and other events. The only thing we could complain about is the Russian language program. Don't expect your child to actually learn to speak the language, if they come in without it. They put native speakers, legacy speakers, and kids with no experience at all together in one class. The kids get one half-hour class per week for K and 1st grade, two for 2nd, 3 for third, 4 for 4th, and then five for subsequent years. But they don't teach much grammar, etc until at least 4th grade. My daughter has fun, but it's a good thing she doesn't really need the language to get by. The school is going to start requiring uniforms for the next school year. They're supposed to be available at The Gap and Marks and Spencer, but they haven't gotten it all figured out yet. There is a PE uniform, too, but they've had that all along. Tee shirts for PE are available at the school, but the other uniform pieces won't be.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I've heard there aren't many.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

AAS has sports, the Embassy has some, and I know a few people who have enrolled their kids in programs in the city.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Pretty large. There are lots of Embassies and US companies here.

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2. Morale among expats:

Mixed. Some of us love it, some hate it, some have a love/hate relationship. I think it would be hardest for a single woman.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Mostly we do things with other people from my work. A lot of neighborhood parties, etc.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

We've found it to be good for our family, and my single and couple friends seem to like it, too. There are a lot of clubs and restaurants, but they're expensive. We do a lot things in our neighborhood, and that's very family friendly.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I haven't heard anything specific, but I've heard it's not that great. There is prejudice, etc and we've never seen an openly gay couple in public.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I'd say yes, some, especially if you have a dark complexion. There are skinheads and I've heard of some people having problems. And if you look like you're from the Caucasus or Central Asia, that can be an issue, too. Russian men tend to be sort of sexist and there's a phrase "If he loves you, he hits you", but if you're not dating Russians, it will manifest itself in things like opening doors or holding your coat for you, which isn't terrible.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The metro! I know it sounds weird, but it is cheap and efficient and you can get around without a car. We've also taken advantage of cheap airfare to Europe to take several trips. Good street food. Interesting work

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Just walking around and absorbing the culture is fun. But we also like the touristy things like Red Square, the Moscow river boat cruise, Ismailovo Market, etc. There are several circuses, lots of theaters, a Cat Circus. One movie theater that shows English-language movies. Parks, restaurants, malls.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Matrushka dolls, amethyst, enameled trays and boxes

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Living in a culture so different from US culture, the sights, foods, opportunities to travel

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you do not eat out frequently and if you are willing to shop for local items and forgo pre-packaged food.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

YES!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

fears of long lines to buy a loaf of bread, your Soviet-era mental image, and your smile when on the street.

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3. But don't forget your:

sense of the absurd, your patience, your fur hat, good strong boots with luggy soles, your ice skates and cross-country skis. Also don't forget your open mind.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Moscow, Russia 01/01/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This is my 7th overseas experience.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

10 hours to New York on Delta or Aeroflot.

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3. How long have you lived here?

This is my 2nd tour here.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

US diplomats live on several compounds, including near the embassy and near the school; others live far away in Rosinka, a 60-90 min 1-way commute.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are expensive, as is everything else.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Cold-weather gear.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Tons. Street food is tasy and good (e.g. shashlik, doner kebab, grilled chicken) as well McD's, etc. Restaurants are plentiful and very expensive.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes during the summer.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO and diplomatic pouch.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Available but pricey.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes. Private gyms are expensive.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Be careful using credit-cards and ATMs w/r to scams.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Moscow Times

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

To get around safely and efficiently, you really need some Russian --- more is better. People with no Russian struggle here, although more younger people speak English than before.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Plenty! This city is not equipped for disabled persons.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Metro is very reliable but signs are in Russian. Safety --- sort of like NYC.Gypsy cabs are safe if one speaks Russian and has street-smarts.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

A reliable vehicle is helpful. The mud and grime will ruin the car's body, so frequent car-washes are necessary especially in the winter. Driving here is a nightmare.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

You need one.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Variable. There are numerous EFM jobs within the US Embassy.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Formal

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

There are several concerns: 1. high crime; 2. racial/hate crimes, driven by xenophobia towards persons of color (even diplomats are not immune); 3. Soviet attitudes (ex: FSB) and police corruption remain problematic.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Local care varies. People with serious medical and mental-health issues generally require medical evacuation to western Erurope or the US, where there is a higher standard of care.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Fair to poor. I have lived in worse places.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Winter is harsh. The Russian winter defeated both Napoleon's and Hitler's armies. That speaks for itself.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

AAS is an excellent school, with a demanding IB program.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Minimal. AAS can only accomodate kids with mild needs, for a maximum of 5 hours/week.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Numerous pre-schools are available near the embassy and downtown.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, both through the school and via sports clubs for youth.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge.

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2. Morale among expats:

It varies. People who speak Russian, who have lived in - and enjoyed - HUGE cities (ex: New York, Chicago), and who are interested in Russian history/culture love this place. But many expats struggle; it is a very challenging post to live and work in.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Plentiful

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Singles and couples can do fine. For families with school-age kids, activities center around the school and its extra-curricular offerings.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

See above comments. Huge problems with racism, xenophobia, and hate crimes (including violent assualts, murders).

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

I have delighted in visiting the Kremlin, Red Square, St. Basil's Cathedral, and numerous art museums and cathedrals.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Cultural attractions, historical attractions, and restaurants.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Artifacts, art, and travel within Russia and outside of Russia for those much-needed 'respite' breaks.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Russia offers a historic, great, and rich culture; Moscow has so much to offer in this regard. Further afield, one can visit St. Petersburg, Sergiev Posad, etc.

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11. Can you save money?

No. It's even more expensive than large cities in western Europe.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely. This is a fascinating city and country, and there is much to experience here.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Russia is not for the weak or faint of heart. Realistic expectations are a necessity. People with lousy attitudes do poorly here; people who hate long winters should NOT come here.

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3. But don't forget your:

Good cheer, curiosity, and open-minded attitudes. Clothing from companies such as Patagonia, LL Bean, REI, and Eddie Bauer is a must.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Andrew Meier's Black Earth; Orlando Figes' Natasha's Dance; The Russia Reader; Anthony Beevor's Stalingrad; works by Tolstoy, Andrei Makine, Joseph Brodsky, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Pushkin, and Gogol.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Gorky Park; Dr. Zhivago; The Russia House; Enemy at the Gates; The Hunt for Red October.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Russia is unique; while its relations with the west (including the US) are much improved, it is NOT Europe --- understanding this point is key to adapting here. Learn from the locals, and they will teach one what is needed to adapt and survive here.

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Moscow, Russia 07/31/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. Have lived in the Persian Gulf and Western Europe.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

It's approximately a 10-hour flight from Moscow to Washington, DC.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years (2008-2010).

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

The US Embassy has apartments within the compound. In addition, it rents apartments from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs within the city and rents townhouses at two distant compounds (Pokrovsky and Rosinka.) Having lived in a city apartment, I can say that it was the best option out of all three. It was close to two Metro stations and was within walking distance to grocery stores, restaurants, and the Kremlin. The apartment itself was brand new and spacious with a beautiful view of a wooded area just across the street.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries and household supplies are available but expensive. Moscow does offer Auchan (the French hypermarket chain), Metro (a German version of Costco), and Ikea. Prices are usually dramatically higher for all except local goods.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

More favorite foods and ethnic foods. English-language books are also more expensive here.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All of the fast food brands are represented here. McDonalds is particularly cheap. Other fast food options include hot dog stands (Star Dogs), baked potato stands, blini (crepes) stands, etc. As a major world city, Moscow does boast some fine dining (an example is Nobu) but at high prices. An average meal without alcohol at a moderate restaurant can run as high as $100 USD per person.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Usually via work.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Domestic help is available and reasonable.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes. There are many private gyms throughout the city. In addition, the U.S. Embassy, British Embassy, and German Embassy all have gyms and swimming pools.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Russia, for the most part, is a cash society. Higher-end restaurants and stores do accept credit cards, but everyone accepts cash. ATMs are ubiquitous, but the usual warnings about scams apply.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, for the major ones.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

The Moscow Times is a decent expat newspaper. Cable TV is available in a multitude of languages. Cable (for me) was a bit pricey but worth it.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Depends. For basic survival you need some but not much. Obviously, the more Russian you have, the more life becomes easier and enjoyable.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Moscow does not offer any accommodations for the disabled. High street curbs and stairs (with no elevator alternative) are the norm. People with physical disabilities are treated either with pity or as children. In 2008, a Russian domestic airline required disabled passengers to bring a note from their physician giving that person permission to fly.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

The public transportation system here is not pretty, but it runs like a dream. While everyone has accolades for the Metro system, the bus, tram, and trolleybus system is just as convenient and accessible, but it requires a bit more Russian language skill to use. Public transport is cheap (less than 1 USD a ride) and usually safe. Most Muscovites use gypsy cabs, and almost any car on the road is a possible taxi. Some Russian-language ability is required, and the usual caveats about gypsy cabs apply. As a foreigner, you will undoubtedly pay more than a local, so just get used to it.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Local roads vary. Most foreign brands are available in Moscow. As a major metro area, almost any car can be driven here.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. Internet access is readily available but more expensive than in the U.S.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cell phones are plentiful and reasonable. There are no contracts here - phone service here is pay-as-you-go. Muscovites pay for their phone service via computerized kiosks, which are everywhere and will accept your phone payment for a commission (rates vary among the machines.) There is no reason why you should not have a cell phone (either work-supplied or private).

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Some skills, usually technical or professional, are eagerly hired. Russian language is either a must or a definite bonus.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Suit and tie.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes. While street crimes and the infamous Russian mob get most of the attention, the real problem here is police corruption and Russian xenophobia. The police are poorly paid and have no motivation except to extort what they can from whom they can. Usually Westerners (read white people) are safe unless they look like obvious tourists and/or are drunk. The xenophobia is particularly problematic here. Anyone of "non-Slavic appearance" (read "not white") runs the risk of being insulted, poorly treated, assaulted or worse. While most of these crimes happen at the outer edge of the city and are usually against guest workers from Central Asia and people from the Caucasus, no one is immune. Diplomats have been assaulted in the city center and in broad daylight. Many in the police harbor silent (or not so silent) sympathy for skinheads and racists, and are thus just as dangerous as the skinheads themselves.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The air quality is a problem. Most Russians with the means seek medical care at private clinics or abroad. Tuberculosis is a definite problem here.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Unhealthy. Moscow has more cars than the city can possibly handle (even with a world-class public transportation system). Russian concern for the environment is also low compared to European (or even American) standards.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Well, it's Russia! Winters are cold, but the snow can cover a multitude of sins (for a time) and make almost anything seem pretty. Summer is fine - warm but usually not too hot -- except for this year, apparently.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Ummm..., sure?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Tremendous.

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2. Morale among expats:

On the whole, middling to low. Russia, and Moscow in particular, is a tough place to live. The culture, the attitudes of people, and the difficulty to get simple things done can wear on people. The reign of official stamps and forms is strong here, and most people find it easier to say "no," usually in a brusque manner. Travel outside Russia (or at least outside Moscow) is a must to maintaining sanity.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

I think I've covered this one in detail. See above.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This city is a paradise for single men. The gender roles here are very traditional, and Russian women have very traditional ideas about marriage (earlier is better), work (she cooks/cleans/raises kids; he works), and social dynamics. Combine this with a "unique" sense of fashion, and most expat men have a good time. Couples can enjoy the city, provided they can find friends and activities. It's not that the city is unfriendly to couples, but single men tend to have the most fun. As for families, I understand that the Anglo-American school is good.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Russian attitudes toward homosexuality are reminiscent of American attitudes from forty years ago. The current mayor of Moscow is an avowed opponent of equal (or any) rights for gays and lesbians. That having been said, there is a gay and lesbian scene here, and as this is the biggest city in Russia, you will probably find more Russians who are tolerant of homosexuality here than anywhere else in the country.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I think I covered race in the crime part. Russian identity is very much tied to Russian Orthodoxy - views of other "traditional" faiths (Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, western Christianity; as defined by the Constitution) are anywhere from neutral (Buddhism) to openly hostile (Islam). Other religious beliefs are usually not met with understanding. As mentioned earlier, gender roles are very traditional here. Stereotypes about women (and men) abound and are treated as fact by both sexes (e.g., women are emotional and not rational).

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The nightlife, the young professional expat community, the ability to travel throughout Russia and the former Soviet Union.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Sightseeing (Red Square/the Kremlin, the Bolshoi theater, the museums, etc.) abounds. Most guide books cover all the major and minor sites well. High culture (opera, ballet, classical music) is well represented here as well. Major pop music acts regularly visit Moscow, as do a number of other musicians from around the world. And as noted before, almost any kind of entertainment possibility can be found here.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

The usual tourist tchochkes: wooden dolls, icons, samovars, Soviet kitsch.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

You live in one of the major world capitals and a true "big city" in every sense of the word. Every kind of entertainment, restaurant, etc., is available - for a price.

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11. Can you save money?

Not really. I understand it's possible, but you take a serious quality-of-life hit.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Not for a while.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

expectation of prompt and friendly service.

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3. But don't forget your:

money, sense of humor, passport and plane ticket out of Russia.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

To really understand why Russia is the way it is (and what to expect), knowing Russian history is vital. Good authors/books include Robert Conquest's The Great Terror, Anthony Beevor's Stalingrad, W. Bruce Lincoln's The Romanovs, Orlando Figes' Natasha's Dance (about the history and impact of Russian culture). Russian literature is also world class and almost all Russians know enough about the country's literary heritage to discuss (and quote) it -- Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, etc. I would strongly recommend Mikhail Bulgakov as well. While most usually mention his "Master and Margarita", in my opinion the short story "Heart of a Dog" is more enlightening on the Russian condition.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

"Burnt by the Sun" is a masterful film about the Stalinist purges. Anything by film genius Sergei Eisenstein should also be seen.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Moscow exhibits all the best and worst tendencies of a big city and multiplies them by a factor of ten. If you enjoy going out, big-city attractions, and the allure of the bright lights, you can have a wonderful time. Those looking for something quieter or calmer should look elsewhere. Even so, the culture, attitudes, and behavior of Muscovites can be wearing on the most party-hardy of souls. Caveat emptor.

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Moscow, Russia 05/22/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Second. Asuncion, Paraguay.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

DC - about 11 hours direct flight with UA.

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3. How long have you lived here?

22 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U S Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

On compound: city apartments, near the school, then Rosinka. Rosinka is a minimum of 1-hour commute time each way!

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Again, everything is very expensive here. There is a small commissary at the embassy.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Anything you can't live without and don't want to pay 10 times the price for.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's, Burger King and Dunkin Donuts just opened; KFC. Everything is EXPENSIVE here.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

No real insect problems except tiny ants that don't bite, they are just bothersome.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

The numbers are here, but the quality is not. About $40 for 1/2 day.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is a gym at the embassy.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

We have not used them here. You can cash checks at the embassy branch of a local bank.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Limited AFN channels are available in some housing areas. Cosmos has a cable offering that is okay.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

The more you can get the better. Cyrillic is difficult to learn, and the words are very long.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Lots. Nothing is set up for physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

The metro is great. Have not used taxis or buses here.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

We felt safe with our large SUV. Any kind would be appropriate, though, as they keep the streets well cleaned.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Cost is about $40 per month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I had a cell phone issued by the embassy.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Vets will come to your home, but you pay premium for this service.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business suits at work.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Beware of Turkey Drops, and the driving will try the patience of a saint.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

There is a good Med Unit at the embassy. A local German dental clinic is great.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate; too many vehicles and lots of exhaust. Allergy sufferers have a hard time.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

You get all the seasons: spring (about a month), summer (about a month), fall (another month), then you have winter.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

On compound.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

HUGE!

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2. Morale among expats:

At Rosinka, very low.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Better if you live in town.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I know some of each type that have enjoyed it.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Have not heard.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Local people here are very racist.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

St. Basil's and Red Square.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Museums, ballet, opera.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Nesting dolls, laquer items, Fabrege eggs, birch artwork.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Cultural events, museums.

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11. Can you save money?

Only if you stay home and don't eat out.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No, never again.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

summer items.

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3. But don't forget your:

patience.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

I don't want to influence anyone away from Moscow. We had a very tough time there, but a great deal of it was associated to living at Rosinka. It increases the difficulty of living here when transportation is so difficult.

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Moscow, Russia 05/05/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes, first expat experience.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, DC

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years - from 2006-2008

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Plenty. There is embassy compound housing, which a lot of people love, but it's a fish bowl kind of living. Everyone who lives on compound sees and hears what you do or what you are up to. Many folks who reside on the embassy compound never leave the compound - which is a shame. There are several apartment buildings around the city, which vary from a 10-45 minute commute via the metro and walking. The embassy owns two building areas further out called Hines and Rosinka. Hines is modern apartment-style living, very nice. Rosinka is WAY further out, but it is built like American -style town homes with HUGE two-car garages. Because of the limited transportation to the embassy from Rosinka, it's not a favorable place to live, because you either have to drive to get to work, or rely on the embassy bus with limited service.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

I shopped at places like Auchan at the Mega Mall, Ramstore, and a few other small grocery stores locally. The food was relatively cheap and decent. Most dairy and milk products are pasteurized, and you get used to yogurt starting at 5% fat. If you want certain American products, or hard to find produce (like pineapples, mangoes, etc., then I would shop at Stockmann's and Globus Gourmet. I preferred them because most of the clerks speak English and they have great customer service. The embassy has a small commissary that stocks American supplies, like laundry detergent and decent toilet paper, but it's limited to the shipment times. Good things run out fast!

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Lots and lots of toilet paper and paper towels. More feminine supplies. Everything else is available locally.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonalds in Moscow is the BEST I've had. No joke. The food actually looks like the picture. It's cheap too. Papa John's just opened up, although it's a pain to get to. A Euromall opened up near the K7 and K14 buildings, and very easy to get to by metro. It's a huge, modern shopping center with plenty of restaurants. The Georgian restaurants are some of the best, too. Plenty to eat and do on the Starry Arbat (near the embassy) and on Noviy Arbat. The embassy community really loves to eat out in Moscow. Many of the menus are printed in English and Russian. A word of advice: don't expect great service, and the food often comes out very slowly.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None that I was aware of.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The embassy has an FPO. You can ship literally anything there. Only problem is it will take anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months to get your package in the mail (or back to the States). Mail only comes once a week.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

I paid about 700 rubles for a once-a-week cleaning. It was plenty for me. There is a HUGE Filipino community in Moscow, and recommendations are plentiful. Some people prefer to hire a Russian housekeeper, as they are a bit cheaper, but many don't speak English.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The gym in the embassy compound is huge. There is a full-sized pool, weight room, elliptical machines, running machines, racketball court, and basketball court. They even have two tanning machines.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I used the ATM in the embassy and sometimes one out in the city and NEVER had any issues. Not all places take credit cards, so I mostly relied on cash to make purchases, except for larger stores like IKEA or Stockmann's.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes. I didn't go to church, but you could find almost any denomination there. The Mormon church is huge in Moscow as well.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

The embassy offers a cable package. Most of the channels are British imports, which is just fine. There are a few English papers you can get.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Some is nice. At least be able to read Cyrillic to get around. I picked up some language here and there, but I wish I had more language training, even just 3 months' worth.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Lots. Beside the large amounts of ice and snow in the winter, there are loads of 'perihods' or underground walkways. Some have ramps - which are nice - but many are stairs. Expect stairs to get into the metro.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Metro is perfectly fine and, frankly, fast and cheap. I only took a trolley/bus once, and I didn't care for it. If you have the language skills, you can hail a 'gypsy cab', which means anyone will pick you up, barter with you for a price to take you to your destination, and drop you off. It's a way for the locals to make extra money, but some people have been ripped off with this. There ARE legit cabs out there, and there is even a Pink Lady cab service for women only.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Bring something you don't mind getting dirty, and possibly dented. Most people go without a car or buy one from someone who is leaving. Bring replacement supplies, like windshield wipers, spare tires, and oil filters. The embassy GSO garage will do repairs for you - if you have the parts. Driving is something else, and many drivers do illegal moves on a regular basis. If you are pulled over, don't give the guy a money bribe. Instead, pretend that you don't understand him and he will wave you off. There are hardly any left turns, so be prepared for some very creative driving.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Depends on your building. I had dial-up at first, but a tenant in our building fought to have high-speed internet and won. The only deal was the 'dish' had to be in his apartment window.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cheap - you can buy one here.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

The vets make house calls. There are plenty of pet stores in the area if you can find their location.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not that I know of.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business to business casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes. As long as you have good security awareness, like you would in ANY city, you'll be okay. These things called 'turkey drops' are very common in the touristy areas. It is not safe for some people if they are non-white or non-european looking. Many of my friends who were black or hispanic were often badgered or chased. The Russians are very racist.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Good medical staff in the embassy. There is also a European medical center close by for things like x-rays. The Medical Staff is always on call. Dental care is cheaper than in the States. I recommend going to the German dentist rather than the American dentist in the area, though. The German dentist speaks British-English.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate to unhealthy. During the season when I could open my windows without freezing, there was always a grey film on the window sills at the end of the day. People smoke EVERYWHERE! Even in the baggage claim of the Sheremetyevo airport. A lot of cars don't have good pollution control either. Very dirty.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Winter is long -- very long and very cold. During my time there I saw -20 for two winters in a row. Sometimes it snows just about everyday, but people drive and go out just the same. The snow becomes a way of life after a bit. Spring and Fall -- even though they are about a month long each -- are very pleasant. In the summer, especially nearing August, it gets incredibly hot. Many public places don't have air conditioning, so you sweat a lot for about a month.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The American School is located in the Hines complex. Just because you have kids who attend it, doesn't mean you will be located in Hines. I've heard mixed reviews about it from parents. They say it's a very mediocre school.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes - thru the school.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

HUGE. Besides the embassy, there are many American expats doing business here.

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2. Morale among expats:

Iffy. Depends really. If you are a single female, your morale might be a little bit lower. The embassy caters first to people living on the compound - the CLO could care less if you live off compound. If you have a family, then you are second in the ranking. Those who live further out in the city, and Rosinka, are generally left out of events because of their location.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Many people throw house parties or get-togethers in their area. Because of Rosinka's location, they are well known for their block parties. Single people either go out once or twice a week, or many times a week. A lot of adults go to the embassy bar (service is slow, and food is okay) before heading home for the evening. You can be as social as you want to be.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

For single men - yes. For families - yes. For single women - eh, it was okay. Don't come here if your marriage is shaky. I personally saw several marriages and gay couples broken-up during this tour. It is very easy for men and lesbian women to find one-night stands with the Russian women.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Strangely, the Russian mentality is very anti-gay, but there are known nightclubs. Russian men and women don't mind women just fooling around with other women, but they look down on lesbian relationships.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

YES. Russians in general are very racist, even towards former Republics (like Kazakhs, Armenians, etc.). They generally dislike anyone with non-white skin.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Visiting Sergeviy Posad, Gzhel, and some of the 'ring cities'. The ability to walk and see so much in a small area.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Tons - even more if you can read Cyrillic and speak the language. I had next to no language training, and I did pretty well without it. The museums are plentiful, and many street vendors can speak a lick or two of English...although they may pretend not to understand you.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

The Izmailova market. The true artisans don't really bargain much on their prices. There is a decent store on the Starry Arbat selling local Russian crafts.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The culture is extremely interesting, and the museums are phenomenal - if you can understand the language. Otherwise, hire an English-speaking guide.

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11. Can you save money?

No. If you buy things to live your normal day-to-day life, there is no chance. Flights to places like Sharm El-Sheik, Istanbul, Prague, etc., are very cheap sometimes and are short flights. One often spends a lot of their money on weekend travel. Also, be prepared to spend a lot of money on food.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes - it was a good experience.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Shorts.

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3. But don't forget your:

Fur coat, or buy one there. I wish I did. Even though your coat may say it's built for -20 weather, it won't be. Trust me, you will freeze your butt off during some months.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

It is hard for a single female with next to no language experience, but I did it because I made great friends there and kept busy with a semi-social life. Beware though, a LOT of people leave their tours here as heavy drinkers, because vodka, beer, and wine are so cheap and abundant and considered part of the culture.

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Moscow, Russia 02/13/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

no. Dubai, Riyadh, Vienna, Tashkent, Blagoveschensk, Kabul,

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington DC. Direct flights are possible on flights for about 9 hours. More often I connect through a Western European hub, which ads about 2 hours to the total travel time. Getting to/from the Moscow airports can take 2 hours+ in traffic, so I strongly recommend the express trains.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Since 2007

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

corporate

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

You can either live in an apartment in the center, or one of several developments and neighborhoods on the outskirts. Anything in the middle will cost far less, but be removed from the most interesting areas, and nicest housings. New construction exists on the outskirts, but in the center your best bet is to look for a "evroremont"-type place, i.e. European standard renovation. It won't be, not really, but it will be nice enough. You can also do what I did, which is buy a place and then rennovate it to exactly how I wanted, but that is unrealistic for most.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

There are three levels; nice and expensive, on the lower side of acceptable, which is OK, and cheap, which is cheap, but probably better to avoid. It takes a little time to find places like the market mentioned above, but it is really worth it (and fun to shop at).Processed foods are the staple, even in grocery stores; its possible to shop well, but it takes some effort/knowledge.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Spices! Store likes to sell spice mixes, e.g. "poultry spices," but its hard getting a full array of plain spices.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Fast food chains are there, and street kiosks. Expensive dining is also freely available, but true fine dining, with high quality food and service, is available only at a few places. I love fresh fruit and vegetables from a market near me. I can even get live lobster there, although, like anything nice in Moscow, its very expensive.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None. I don't think I ever saw an insect within city limits, even in parks

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Sent to my home address. Packages I send using a signature-only service such as USPS express mail and UPS where they call me to make sure that I am home first. This is because, as in many buildings, the delivery guy can't access my floor and hallway unless I am there.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Many options, and costs are low. It helps a lot if you can speak Russian though.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are four within walking distance of my apartment.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Not every place takes credit cards, although all major stores do. ATMs are everywhere.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is a German Catholic church, and probably others.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

I buy the Economist, and read the free Moscow Times. My TV has English-language news. I could pay fro more channels, but I find that I watch more on my computer than my TV anyway, and there I can get whatever I want.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

The ability to read Cyrillic letters is a must. Basic Russian makes things much, much easier, and more enjoyable.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

There are no handicap entrances, and most buildings have stairs, even a just a few, to raise them above the slow and slush level.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

The metro is wonderful, and always comes within 1.5 minutes after the last train departed. Taxis are everywhere - just put out your hand and negotiate a price with the random car that stopped. You can call a real taxi as well for only a little less, although that entails waiting.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Some brands dominate (Ford, Audi, Mercedes), while others are seen less often (Jaguar, Cadillac), so check your specific make to be sure that parts and service will be available. The real thing to watch out for though in import duties; they can be very high (more than 10,000 USD).Your car registration is also only as long as your visa's, which is a pain.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. its cheaper than the US , and I can pay my bill at the payment kiosk at the grocery store closest to my house.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cell phones are easy - automated payment kiosks are easy to find in grocery stores and by metro stations.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Lots of English language teachers and nanny positions. professional and higher-level positions are also available, but require some insider knowledge to find/obtain.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Fashionable for women, high-quality for men. My taste differs form the Russian at times, but I find that as long as I focus on high-quality classics with the occasional fun piece, I fit in and look good.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

I feel more comfortable in Moscow than in the US, since the roads are almost always full of people (living in the center helps).That said, my door (and all doors in Russia), is steel, with multiple locks.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

There are some Western clinics that appear OK, but for anything really serious I would go to Western Europe or the US.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Its OK, although in the winter grit spread on roads and sidewalks to provide traction can stick to one's shoes and car, coating them. Car exhaust can be bad in traffic.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Summers are perfect, if not too long. Cold in winter, with snow. Its on;y really cold for a few weeks (less than two last winter) though, the rest of the time it is a little over freezing, which is manageable, once you accept the cold and dress appropriately (good shoes, wool coat, scarf, gloves, hat)

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I don't have children, and my dog has no opinion. Don't rule out the better Russian schools though; a friend raised his daughter bilingual and she is currently at an excellent Russian school (she had to pass a test to get there).

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

I know horseback riding and ballet is, but I do not have children, so there may be more.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large, although segregated.

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2. Morale among expats:

Varies widely. if you learn Russia and get beyond the expat-only circle, you will probably enjoy it. if not, you may end up frustrated and a little bored.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

My only complaint is that it can get a little wild for my taste. There is no end of options, things to do, people to meet, etc.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, although better I think for families, people already in relationships, and single men. The last often date Russian women, but the attractive local male options for foreign women are limited.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

A small gay and lesbian scene exists, but there is some prejudice against openly gay people.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. Being black, brown, tan, Asian, South American, Caucasian, Central Asian or really anything other than white will cause you problems at some point. A black friend visiting Russia reported that he felt hostility everywhere he went. Central Asian, Caucasian and African migrants have it the worst though; wealth insulates to a certain degree.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Discovering the live music scene, learning Russian, museums,

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There is so much to do! The top-level club scene is limited, but good, and lesser known quirky clubs abound. Museums are good, and the theater/ballet (the latter is particularly good for those new to Moscow who do not speak Russian). I like the more random things, like ice skating in Gorky Park and learning to play polo. If you can stand the outrages prices, there is a helicopter school.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Russian handicrafts like painted wood items, embroidery and artworks (make sure the gallery helps you with export permits, or contact one of the many services to arrange this before you leave).

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

While bad for Russia as a whole, uneven development means that Moscow is the true center of the country; almost everything interesting, fun, exiting, etc. is happening here.

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11. Can you save money?

You can, on daily items, but the high cost of imported items tends to cancel them out. It is easier for women, since men pay for all social outing costs, and not just on dates.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

yes!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

sandals. Any time spent walking outside will destroy them. The same goes for any white-colored outerwear and shoes.

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3. But don't forget your:

good winter coat (there are a lot here, but the high, high prices for high quality goods and lower quality of the other options means it is easier to get one at home).

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The Internet - many regions have homepages, even my street has a website dedicated to landmarks and history. Most of it is in Russian, but Google language tools do an adequate job.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Living in Moscow is a challenge, and a puzzle to be solved. Once you work it all out and figure out how to live, where to shop, where to go, what to do, etc, it can be a grand adventure and a pleasant place to live.

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Moscow, Russia 01/23/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

New Delhi, Bergen

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington DC, about a 10 hour flight; there are now several direct flights to WDC and NYC

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Foreign Service

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

generous. There are many choices for Embassy staff: on-compound, city apartments or the distant gated communities of Rosinka and Pokrovsky Hills. Commute from the far communities can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hrs, depending on traffic (the Embassy runs free shuttle buses at peak hours)City apts have metro commutes of 20-40 mins. If you drive in the city, early morning is a quick commute, the evening is a nightmare; can take up to 2 hrs to cover 1 mile of distance.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Good. Many supermarket chains abound in Moscow, starting with the discount chain Perekrostock, then the mid-level Sedmoy Kontinent, and finally the upscale (and expensive) Azbuka Vkusa chain. For the times when you really want to spoil yourself, go to a gourmet store like Eliseevskiy's (at Pushkin square) or Gastronom Nr. 1 inside GUM department store on Red Square. Perekrostok prices are slightly higher thanin the U.S. and all the other options are considerably more; Azbuka Vkusa prices are roughly equivalent to Whole Foods. You will have trouble finding good cuts of beef, but you will find much fresh veal, fish, pork, etc. This is a really tough town for a vegetarian, Russians have little experience with or tolerance for vegetarianism.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

We planned ahead and bought two years worth of non-perishable household supplies at Costco and added those to our household shipment beforehand. We highly recommend this as you can't find most U.S. brands of anything in the grocery stores here and the local products are invariably far inferior to American quality.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Many U.S. fast food chains are here: McDonalds, KFC (called Rostiks here) Pizza hut, TGIF.Cheap Russian options include streetside kiosks such as StarDogs (hot-dogs), Kroshka Kartoshka (baked potatoes with choice of topping) Chudo Bliny (crepes with your choice of stuffing) Shawarma (chicken gyro rolls, but they're nasty here) and my personal favorite - kury grill - rotisserie chicken, available in half or a whole bird for less than $5

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

none

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The embassy has both a DPO and an unclass pouch address for packages and mail.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

We don't need it, but there is a small community of Filipino housekeepers and nannies that service the Embassy community for a reasonable cost.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Plenty. The embassy has its own excellent gym, featuring a pool, full basketball court, weightlifting room, cardio machines, a racquetball and squash court. Though the membership is not exactly cheap, it's still less than the city clubs.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

It's strongly advised to NOT use the free-standing ATM machines located usually inside or near metro stations - many of these have devices attached that steal your credit card PINsWe regularly use our debit card to pay at grocery stores and restaurants and so far have had no serious problems.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

We have been here a year and haven't seen any english language newspapers or magazines for sale anywhere - so you'll need an internet connection asap!Likewise, is only a very small selection of (mostly British) english language TV channels, and those only available if you pay for cable/sat TV.Most Embassy people either depend on AFN, a slingbox, or order TV shows over the internet.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

A lot - Moscow is not very accessible for non-Russian speakers. You should at least take a survival Russian course before you come or else you will be totally lost here. Only the highly educated can speak English dependably, so most basic transactions are conducted solely in Russian.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Many -Moscow is not a very friendly city for disabled, mostly due to the fact that the streets are covered with ice and snow for much of the year. There are no elevators for the metro, only escalators. Most of the underground passages (Perekhod) to cross streets have wheelchair ramps, though.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

The Moscow metro is the best in the world hands-down. I commute every day to and from work - you never wait more than 20 seconds for a new train at rush hour (though every train is crowded). Most stations are as pretty a museum lobby and graffiti-free. Roving packs of police officers ensure that the stations are safe and free of trouble. It's also affordable -I pay $35 for my monthly metro pass. There aren't many real taxis in Moscow, for the simple reason that they aren't needed. You can stick your thumb out and hail a "gypsy" taxi anywhere in the city at any hour, and get a quick and cheap ride to your next destination, about $6.50 will get you most anywhere in the city - but you have to haggle for the price, or it will be a lot higher!

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

If you absolutely must bring a car, don't bring a nice one - winter ice and salt will strip the gloss right off. Bring a beater, or better yet, wait and buy a hand-me-down here. We didn't bring one and have few regrets.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, but pricey - like everything else in this town - are you beginning to see a trend?about $60/month for the connection (that's without any other bundles services)

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Moscow has a great cell network, many phones can be used inside the metro stations (though not in the tunnels).For local cell phones, there are no subscriptions, they have a pay-as-you-go system, and there are payment ATM machines all over the city where you can go to top off your phone. Embassy phones are subscription based, though.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

no, with the possible exception of birds due to avian flu concerns

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

yes

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Yes, but only if you have solid, in-demand skill sets; business, real estate, finance, banking, or oil-industry knowledge. You won't get far at all without excellent Russian skills.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Same as in America - suits and ties for men, office attire for women. Russian women favor skirts, stockings and high-heels.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

not so much, however, major concerns if you have ethnic Asian or African appearance.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

not as good as can be expected in a city this size. Embassy staff who develop serious medical problems or need operations are whenever possible airlifted to Western Europe for treatment.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

about what you'd expect in a city of 15 million people and millions of cars on the roads - smog and vehicle exhaust.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Brutally cold in winter - expect months of bitter cold around zero fahrenheit starting in Dec, and only a few hours of sunlight a month. Summer is quite nice, warm and sunny, though.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, but mostly indoor sports such as volleyball. If the kids speak Russian, they could join hockey or soccer leagues in the city, or take tennis lessons.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large, but strangely scattered. We notice that expats don't mix together here as well in other cities like New Delhi - probably because there are so many entertainment options in the city.

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2. Morale among expats:

Huge mood swings, depending on the season. Everyone is miserable and trying to keep spirits up during the long, dark and frigid winter - try to fly south, to keep warm!The summers are gorgeous, and everyone is smiling and content

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Abundant. There are thousands of bars, cafes, restaurants and nightclubs in this city of varying styles and price ranges but none of them very cheap by American standards. Many clubs are open all night long, and there is little concern about drinking age here. Hash harriers are here, as are many other social clubs. There are a few movie theaters that feature English language films. Since Moscow is a major world city, it gets as many touring popular musical artists and groups coming through as any major American city, so you can probably see your favorite concert here if you stay long enough. The Embassy community has Broomball league in winter and Softball in summer, both co-ed; there are also volleyball, indoor soccer and racquetball clubs

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

good for all. For families with small children, the conventional wisdom is that it is much better to live on the Embassy compound or the distant living communities of Rosinka and Pokrovsky hills for safety's sake.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

no

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

YES. Moscow is notorious for isolated skinhead random violent attacks against Blacks and Asians. Also, homosexuality is not tolerated by the average Russian; the gay pride parade is broken up every year by hostile security forces.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

ice-skating on Red Square bathed in the Christmas lights of GUM, at the foot of St. Basil's and the Kremlin; clubbing until dawn

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Catch a ballet performance at the Bolshoi or an opera at Stan&Dan theatre; go for walk on Sparrow hills for a panoramic view of the city; visit any one of the dozens of fine museums; take a day trip to Suzdal or one of the other Golden Ring cities nearby; travel to St. Petersburg and much more.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

caviar, vodka, fur hats. One winter here and you find yourself craving those three things. Other good collectibles here are Samovars, kitschy Soviet knick-knacks, silver teaglass holders, lace.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

amazing cultural events; arguably the world's best city for ballet, opera, musicals, plays, orchestral and symphonic concerts, etc. Huge number and selection of restaurants, bars and nightclubs - though the high prices keep away all but the big spenders. Is a good hub for traveling to Egypt, eastern Europe and the Baltics.

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11. Can you save money?

Only if you have a very good salary and limit going out for entertainment and shopping. About the only inexpensive things in this city are vodka and potatoes. However, the COLA and differentials are high, and if you economize you can save serious money.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Hell no, says the wife who doesn't speak Russian. Sure, says the husband who does.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

downhill skis and snowboard - the nearest decent slopes are a 3 hour flight away in Sochi.

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3. But don't forget your:

ice skates, cross country skis. And many, many pairs of thick boot socks and long underwear.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Master and Margarita by Bulgakov; The Nightwatch, by Sergey Lukyanenko

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Nightwatch and Daywatch; 12 (by Mikhailkov)

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Moscow, though ostensibly a European city, offers many more challenges to the foreigner than most European cities. The dearth of affordable hotels, restaurants and bars, and the extreme language barrier are just a few. Added to this is that Muscovites don't smile in public and all seem to be simmering with deep resentment towards life, coupled with a long, hard winter, make some expats get a bit blue. But there is a lot to love in this city, from its amazingly rich cultural life to its heady, top-shelf style. It's definitely not for everyone, and it demands a lot of adapting from those who would live here and enjoy it.

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Moscow, Russia 11/06/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This is our 5th expat experience.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Our home base is Maine. We travel from Portland to DC then DC to Moscow. Took about 13 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

4 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

My husband is with the State Dept. I teach at the Anglo American School in Moscow.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

In town either in apartments in the city or on the Embassy compound, in Pokrovsky Hills, or in Rosinka. I have not been to Rosinka. They say the housing there is nice, but it's in Siberia and people say the commute is horrific. I would not recommend it. We are in Pokrovsky. I would prefer to be in the city and have all of that great Moscow life at my doorstep, but I prefer to be at the school where I work, where my two kids spend most of their lives, and where they have friends who are easy to get to and from all different nationalisties. I've only seen a few Embassy Compound apartments, and they really are kind of tacky. Remind me of Oakwood, though bigger of course. Kind of dingy, dull layouts, dark in those rooms. And the kids can only play with other Americans when they play on the compound, so their experience is very non-foreign. But, if you have no kids, if you work like a dog till all hours and want to make your life about your work, then that's exactly where you want to be! The convenience is unrivaled.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

A littel higher than back home, but not by much. There is a Metro for bulk buying and slightly better prices. And there is another chain like it (Ashan) that is a Darwinian survival contest, but cheaper prices yet. Metro is more than enough for me! I value my safety! Regular markets are fine too. And the vegetable and fruit markets are great and have good prices and fresh, fresh food (in season only, for the most part, but great food).

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Asian sauces and other exotic flavor options for cooking and perfume-free clothes detergent. Good conditioner for my dry hair in this very dry weather system.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Anything you could want. We even happened upon a Cinnabon the other day, making my son smile bigger than I've seen him smile in weeks! Ahhh, teh allure of sugar and butter! There are the usual and a few surprises (TGIFriday's, for instance)> I have eaten at one McDonald's and that one Cinnabon. But none of the others. So I can't say if they are what you'd expect, but people say they are.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None at all. I had maybe three mosquito bites in August. I saw two or three flies all summer. That's it!

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO. It's slow.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Don't know. We clean our own house.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes. Pokrovsky people have access to all school facilities (and they are extensive -- tennis, swimming pool, ice skating in winter, gym, etc.) and in town, the embassy has facilities if you want to join AECA. We haven't joined it because we rarely go downtown and most of their services are only useful if you live down there, but if you want to work out at work before heading out to the 'burbs and if you want to balance that workout with a Twinkie bought at the commissary, then you might want to join. I haven't missed it even a teeny tiny bit. The school facilities are more than enough for us and I don't like Twinkies.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I use the ATM machine at the school. My husband uses the cashier at the embassy. We rarely use a credit card or the ATM card at any other place. This is habit more than anything from years at some dicier posts, but we have used the ATM on occasion at other locations in town and it was fine. I don't think I've used the credit card in town yet though ... But I will. Just haven't needed to yet.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

We aren't church-goers. Sorry. Can't tell you.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

We get AFN for free in our housing.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You need to learn to decode Cyrrilic at the VERY least. Tourist level Russian would be enough, but you'd notice the difference in your quality of life and your attachment to your surroundings if you learned a bit more than that.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Lots of problems. It's not wheelchair friendly at all. The Metros are packed, so if you have mobility issues, it would be hard.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes! Except for that pesky punching I mentioned above ... Generally good, safe, clean-ish, and fast. I haven't used an inter-city bus or train yet, but we will. Lots go to St. Petersberg by night train and say it's fine. I want to go on the Trans-Siberian before we go!

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

We have a van. It's okay. Hard to park, but not a big deal.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. I don't know what it costs though. It's not very high speed, I have to say. Some days it's utterly sluggish.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I have one. I rarely use it. My kids just got their first ones ever, but not because they needed it, but, rather, because they were starting to feel like social pirranahs because everyone else had one. Seriously though, they go to school a three minute walk from our house and I work at school. What do they need phones for? I haven't gotten a billl yet. I am told that if it cost us as much as $30 per monoth per phone, that would be very high.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Nope. They didn't even ask me for her papers! We just walked right through the passport control and the baggage area wondering when someone would ask us for proof that our cat was healthy, and no one ever did!

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

I have a cat who hasn't needed vet care yet, but I'm told there are good options.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Only the usual dreck at the embassy unless, I suppose, you speak fluent Russian. I am at the school and that's great. But you have to be a certified teacher or be willing to take a low-paying teacher's assistant job if you want to work at school.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Pretty dressy.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

I'm told it's not bad. Although you see disturbing things and wonder why they are in highly populated areas, like three-mile island sorts of places next to the grocery store and a human crematorium spewing whatnot into the air can be seen from the kids' cafeteria at the AAS (a hospital right around the corner is the reason, and not, to my knowlege, anything nefarious, but still ... creepy). Lots of factory smoke stacks spewing other unidentified junk into the air as well. I have a sort of constant something in my throat since I got here. I have to make that vague sort of throat-clearing sound every so often. I've never had that before.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

It's a big city. So yes. But nothing worse than any other big city. I'm a city kid. This isn't weird to me. Maybe if you are new to big city living you could be nervous, but maybe the instinct to be a little nervous, and thus on guard, in a big city is a good thing. Though I have to say, and I'm really not lieing about this, but just yesterday on a Metro ride into town with my two kids, an old-ish woman punched me! In the ribs, from behind and not with a lot of muscle behind it, but it was definitely a closed-fisted punch! We were all trying to get off at a very busy stop and it was packed, and so she did what she felt she had to do to get off the train, I guess. Since I was herding my kids out of the car, I did not defer to her age (maybe, MAYBE she was 10 years older than me!) and what I only later noticed was a walking stick, but still, really? To punch a person?

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The health unit so far has been fine. Local care would be okay in some cases, but people are sent to London for other things. It's not great locally, but it's not hazzardous either.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Cold in winter. Warm in summer. I am still a short timer who has only seen three seasons, but some will tell you there are only two seasons. Though I think that might be hyperbole. I saw a very nice autumn out here just beyond the city with lovely birch leaves turning a vibrant gold. Yes, it was brief, and already winter is here, but it was pretty.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

My kids go to AAS. They are in 6th and 8th grades and they tell me this is their best school ever (and their four USG expat/ international school experience). I have to agree. We came off of 6 months of language in Virginia and my kids went to Virginia public schools and got straight As because it was so easy over there, and my kids, lovely as they are, are not motivated students or gifted, natural scholars. Here they struggle a bit to keep up, but they do keep up and they are challenged. I teach 4th grade. I read the reports of a non-rigorous curriculum from others who have posted here, and I can't speak to previous years as this is my first year teaching here, but they have just instituted a much more rigorous math curriculum with many additional benchmarks that the kids have to meet and the teachers, obviously, have to teach. It's still an IB program, but we have two "masters:" the IB program and the benchmarks, and there is not time enough in a day to teach them more than what is being taught now. I assure you. Not unless you made the day longer, which actually wouldn't be a bad thing. Between PYP and benchmarks, there really isn't enough time to get it all done. Science seems to suffer for it a bit, in my opinion. But I do think the kids get a really good education, even with that.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

At AAS there is differentiated education. They have a Differentiation Specialist hired at the school (a full-time position), so they are obviously serious about wanting to do well by their special needs kids (both gifted and talented as well as for those who need academic supports). That said, I'm not sure that if my child had more than mild to medium special needs or support needs, I'd come to Moscow. But then, I'd probably just stay in the US where the systems are simply easier to navigate because it's my home country. So maybe I'm not the best one to ask on that. International schools can only do so much. Period. But AAS has excellent intentions and puts their money where their mouth is on the subject.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There is preschool at AAS. I don't know about it. I'm sure it's expensive and State won't pay, as everywhere. People with young kids really seem to like to be at the compound at the embassy, and I don't blame them. There's a preschool there and they can come home at lunch to eat with their young kids or check in on them. If my kids were pre-school aged, I'd probably want to be down there at that school and in such close proximity (even if the apartments are tacky and dark). It'd be a trade off worth making.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes. Lots.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Out here it's too big of a pain to get into town, so we rarely do. But if you were in town, it'd be a cornucopia of cool stuff to do! Out here it's hanging out with friends, which we like. But we are happy with a quiet life.

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3. Morale among expats:

Pretty good. There's a blend of outlooks on life in Russia among embassy folks, as with any place.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I am cut off from Moscow life out here in the 'burbs. I can see that a lot of family rarely go into Moscow at all who live in Pokrovsky or Rosinka. But, there is a small town feel out here that's nice. So no Moscow life stuff. But great neighborhood stuff. Depends what you want. Me? I want it all! But I'm okay with the compromise. No, my husband and I have not got good restaurants to choose from (a few, but not nearly what you'd have downtown) and my kids are just old enough to be left alone for a few hours, but no more than that, but they are too old to have a babysitter. It's the dark zone of child care needs when they are in middle school! Since a Moscow dinner would take four hours minimum, so we don't have Moscow in-town date nights.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I'm sorry. I don't know. I would think so. But it won't be easy to find at first.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. Definitely. Especially Asians and dark-skinned people. A girl I know showed me what it meant to be black in Russia. She said, "Come on, I'll go in there and you watch the way the register lady treats me." And I did, and she was right. Other kids walked around no problem, but the register lady watched the darker girl (she was half black) like a hawk -- sure, I suppose, that she was a thief. It was very, very obvious, and very unpleasant. And there are beatings. I've heard about them, but only third hand.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Whatever you could possibly imagine, and a few things you can't yet imagine. This city has it all.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Matryoshkas, carpets, linens, the usual.

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9. Can you save money?

Not really. I mean, if you are dilligent and do little for entertainment, then yes. But it's a pricey city and the dark winter will make vacations to warmer, sunnier places seem critical. There goes your savings!

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Sure. It's great. But I'd wait till my kids were in college and live downtown to get a real Russian experience. This compound out here could be practically anywhere!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

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3. But don't forget your:

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Really? The usual Russian literary giants will keep you busy for quite a while, I'm sure!

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

The film "Burned By the Sun" is fantastic and really itneresting historically. Our Russian teacher said of it, however, that it made it all seem much too easy and pretty. That it was MUCH worse than that.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Moscow, Russia 10/24/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This is our second overseas posting.

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2. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This is our second overseas posting.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year into a three-year tour.

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4. How long have you lived here?

One year into a three-year tour.

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5. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Daily flights to the East Coast or Atlanta, 8-10 hours.

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6. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

State Department employee family.

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7. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Daily flights to the East Coast or Atlanta, 8-10 hours.

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8. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

State Department employee family.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Houses outside of town with garages and fireplaces. Houses in a gated community next to the American School with a half-hour to 45-minute (?) commute, or the New Embassy Compound (NEC). I can only express an opinion about the NEC housing. Standard 1980's not very creatively done (why not orient the housing to the south so the places could have some light?) but livable. Like living in the 1950's with kids, they can live in the middle of the huge city, but be outside running around, riding bikes, skateboards, playing in the embassy gym, buying candy at the commissary. It's idyllic in that respect. Five minute walk to two metro stops, fruit and vegetable kiosks, and a 10 minute walk to a grocery store and many other conveniences.

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2. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Houses outside of town with garages and fireplaces. Houses in a gated community next to the American School with a half-hour to 45-minute (?) commute, or the New Embassy Compound (NEC). I can only express an opinion about the NEC housing. Standard 1980's not very creatively done (why not orient the housing to the south so the places could have some light?) but livable. Like living in the 1950's with kids, they can live in the middle of the huge city, but be outside running around, riding bikes, skateboards, playing in the embassy gym, buying candy at the commissary. It's idyllic in that respect. Five minute walk to two metro stops, fruit and vegetable kiosks, and a 10 minute walk to a grocery store and many other conveniences.

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3. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can get everything here. Except maybe certain high-end brands of shampoo. Everything else, from L'occitan to Yves Rocher is available. Raspberries in winter at a fancy grocery store will cost $15, or you can get wonderful seasonal produce at the rynoks on every corner. Diet Pepsi, every kind of dairy product ever conceived...some items may not be quality you are use to...but you can probably find a nicer one somewhere, if you are willing to shop around and pay more...just like at home.

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4. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can get everything here. Except maybe certain high-end brands of shampoo. Everything else, from L'occitan to Yves Rocher is available. Raspberries in winter at a fancy grocery store will cost $15, or you can get wonderful seasonal produce at the rynoks on every corner. Diet Pepsi, every kind of dairy product ever conceived...some items may not be quality you are use to...but you can probably find a nicer one somewhere, if you are willing to shop around and pay more...just like at home.

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5. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Liquids you are fond of-- Method Cleaning products, favorite shampoos.

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6. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Liquids you are fond of-- Method Cleaning products, favorite shampoos.

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7. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Tons. From a church that serves the best pyidoshshki ever for less than adollar to a really nice $15 lunch, to an outrageously priced dinner, it's all here. High end: think maybe not NYC, but maybe Las Vegas.

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8. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Tons. From a church that serves the best pyidoshshki ever for less than adollar to a really nice $15 lunch, to an outrageously priced dinner, it's all here. High end: think maybe not NYC, but maybe Las Vegas.

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9. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

I hardly ever see a bug. Sort of exciting to see a spider in the bathtub once a year.

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10. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

I hardly ever see a bug. Sort of exciting to see a spider in the bathtub once a year.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO takes 10 days--why is Amazon so fast? to two months. Two weeks with the pouch is normal

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2. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO takes 10 days--why is Amazon so fast? to two months. Two weeks with the pouch is normal

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3. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

We pay someone 1000 (around $33) rubles a day to clean our house. And she's amazing. There is a Filipino contingent at the NEC that will help you out. Russian help also very nice and helpful at the same price.

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4. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

We pay someone 1000 (around $33) rubles a day to clean our house. And she's amazing. There is a Filipino contingent at the NEC that will help you out. Russian help also very nice and helpful at the same price.

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5. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Really nice gym, I mean really nice, at the embassy. Also at the gated community housing I think. Other gyms throughout town if you want to pay more.

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6. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Really nice gym, I mean really nice, at the embassy. Also at the gated community housing I think. Other gyms throughout town if you want to pay more.

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7. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Debit cards work at stores about 90% of the time. There is a Citibank at the embassy. Cash is easier, if you remember to get it.

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8. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Debit cards work at stores about 90% of the time. There is a Citibank at the embassy. Cash is easier, if you remember to get it.

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9. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Plenty of Orthodox. Yes, everything.

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10. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Plenty of Orthodox. Yes, everything.

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11. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

IHT available. Some local papers with Russian news and local events in English at www.mnweekly.ru and expat.ru.

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12. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

IHT available. Some local papers with Russian news and local events in English at www.mnweekly.ru and expat.ru.

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13. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

If you stay on the NEC, none! I'm not recommending this however! The language is HARD. And you need to know some. It's not like some countries where everybody speaks English. People who run vegetable stands do not speak English. But you can always point. They will turn the calculator around so you can see the amount of rubles you need to pay. People turn around and stare because you are speaking English with a friend. What year is this? Russia seems so isolated sometimes!

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14. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

If you stay on the NEC, none! I'm not recommending this however! The language is HARD. And you need to know some. It's not like some countries where everybody speaks English. People who run vegetable stands do not speak English. But you can always point. They will turn the calculator around so you can see the amount of rubles you need to pay. People turn around and stare because you are speaking English with a friend. What year is this? Russia seems so isolated sometimes!

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15. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

I don't see any support for the disabled.

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16. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

I don't see any support for the disabled.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes and yes. A little intimidating with the language, but again, that's me not them.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes and yes. A little intimidating with the language, but again, that's me not them.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

We brought a car and haven't used it in a year. The metro is phenomenal. A little intimidating to use trying to read everything in Russian, but that's me not them. It's cheap-- 50 cents!-- to go anywhere in the city. The cars come every 90 seconds, and race from one end of the city to the other. Amazing.

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4. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

We brought a car and haven't used it in a year. The metro is phenomenal. A little intimidating to use trying to read everything in Russian, but that's me not them. It's cheap-- 50 cents!-- to go anywhere in the city. The cars come every 90 seconds, and race from one end of the city to the other. Amazing.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

At the NEC around $60 a month. It's great--when it works. Otherwise pirate off a neighbor!

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2. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

At the NEC around $60 a month. It's great--when it works. Otherwise pirate off a neighbor!

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3. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

157 rubles ($6.50 today) for 30 minutes.

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4. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

157 rubles ($6.50 today) for 30 minutes.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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3. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

We don't have pets, but plenty of Americans do, so I'm pretty sure it's not a problem, the CLO has a list of vets.

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4. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

We don't have pets, but plenty of Americans do, so I'm pretty sure it's not a problem, the CLO has a list of vets.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Maybe, if you speak native-level Russian. Otherwise the regular jobs at the embassy.

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2. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Maybe, if you speak native-level Russian. Otherwise the regular jobs at the embassy.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

At work: dark suits and ties for men, for women, Washington DC and better. On the street, this is your chance to wear leather lace-up pants to the grocery store and you need three-inch heels to walk to the park. At first it will seem crazy, then after a year, you'll notice you are wearing red patent leather shoes and your bag matches perfectly. Even if you are a guy!

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4. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

At work: dark suits and ties for men, for women, Washington DC and better. On the street, this is your chance to wear leather lace-up pants to the grocery store and you need three-inch heels to walk to the park. At first it will seem crazy, then after a year, you'll notice you are wearing red patent leather shoes and your bag matches perfectly. Even if you are a guy!

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Except for walking on the 12-lane wide ring road and feeling like it was taking years off my life, I've never noticed unclean air. Seems surprising, but true. Skies can be gray with bad weather, or bright blue.

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2. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Except for walking on the 12-lane wide ring road and feeling like it was taking years off my life, I've never noticed unclean air. Seems surprising, but true. Skies can be gray with bad weather, or bright blue.

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3. What immunizations are required each year?

None. Thinking of getting the flu shot though.

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4. What immunizations are required each year?

None. Thinking of getting the flu shot though.

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5. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Someone was mugged late at night by the Metro. For a big city, I feel safer here than in the US. As long as people are out and about, which they always are, it seems fine.

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6. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Someone was mugged late at night by the Metro. For a big city, I feel safer here than in the US. As long as people are out and about, which they always are, it seems fine.

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7. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

It's cold. Maybe if you have eczema it will act up. Maybe not. Wash your hands. We haven't been sick in the year we've been here. The well-staffed med unit at the embassy is super.

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8. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

It's cold. Maybe if you have eczema it will act up. Maybe not. Wash your hands. We haven't been sick in the year we've been here. The well-staffed med unit at the embassy is super.

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9. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Four seasons. Last winter was longish, but really not unbearable. The Moscovites know how to live with snow--the sidewalks are swept, the streets are plowed. Snow isn't a big deal. It doesn't close the city down the way it might Washington DC. And now with the mayor manipulating the weather, maybe it won't snow at all!

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10. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Four seasons. Last winter was longish, but really not unbearable. The Moscovites know how to live with snow--the sidewalks are swept, the streets are plowed. Snow isn't a big deal. It doesn't close the city down the way it might Washington DC. And now with the mayor manipulating the weather, maybe it won't snow at all!

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

American Anglo School looks like a country club--probably the nicest facility I have ever seen. They have their own Bolshoi Theater...swimming pool, ice skating rink, huge fields for sports. Middle school is a little fast socially, but the academics are really first rate. There are really good lessons available: swimming, martial arts, and ballet?Also really good piano lessons available. The teachers come to your house, $35/hour and they went to the Moscow Conservatory, the same school Tchaikovsky went to.

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2. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

American Anglo School looks like a country club--probably the nicest facility I have ever seen. They have their own Bolshoi Theater...swimming pool, ice skating rink, huge fields for sports. Middle school is a little fast socially, but the academics are really first rate. There are really good lessons available: swimming, martial arts, and ballet?Also really good piano lessons available. The teachers come to your house, $35/hour and they went to the Moscow Conservatory, the same school Tchaikovsky went to.

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3. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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4. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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5. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Preschool onsite at the embassy, and a ton of really good options locally that no one uses--there is a local Russian Waldorf school!

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6. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Preschool onsite at the embassy, and a ton of really good options locally that no one uses--there is a local Russian Waldorf school!

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7. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

After school.

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8. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

After school.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Thousands.

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2. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Thousands.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

How good are you at making friends? There is certainly no lack of things to do in Moscow, finding people to do them with is up to you.

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4. Morale among expats:

Mixed. If you hang with the half-empty crowd, you'll be complaining about Paris, right? That said, it's a big post with a lot to get done a lot of people trying to get noticed.

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5. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

How good are you at making friends? There is certainly no lack of things to do in Moscow, finding people to do them with is up to you.

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6. Morale among expats:

Mixed. If you hang with the half-empty crowd, you'll be complaining about Paris, right? That said, it's a big post with a lot to get done a lot of people trying to get noticed.

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7. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Families: tons to do--circus, ballet, zoo within walking distance of the NEC, easy life-style. Singles: tons to do, beautiful women, the men? Age fast. Couples, yes, TONS to do, restaurants, the best arts in the world. Like living in a very white NYC, and service with a scowl.

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8. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Families: tons to do--circus, ballet, zoo within walking distance of the NEC, easy life-style. Singles: tons to do, beautiful women, the men? Age fast. Couples, yes, TONS to do, restaurants, the best arts in the world. Like living in a very white NYC, and service with a scowl.

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9. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

It's a little difficult to connect with this community outside the embassy, it's pretty old-fashioned here. But I'm sure once you get clued in, you'll be fine.

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10. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

It's a little difficult to connect with this community outside the embassy, it's pretty old-fashioned here. But I'm sure once you get clued in, you'll be fine.

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11. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

My friend of Filipino ancestry doesn't stand close to the edge of the metro platform. Get it? I can't imagine being black here--I see like, one black person a day. If that doesn't bother you, go for it. I've never lived in such a sexist society, but the men don't let the doors slam in your face, they are sort of old-fashioned.

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12. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

My friend of Filipino ancestry doesn't stand close to the edge of the metro platform. Get it? I can't imagine being black here--I see like, one black person a day. If that doesn't bother you, go for it. I've never lived in such a sexist society, but the men don't let the doors slam in your face, they are sort of old-fashioned.

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13. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

It never stops: the Bolshoi Ballet, Tchikovski Conservatory, Symphony, opera, museums, parks, world class circus, the Kremlin, summer palaces galore, name Russian author/composer/ballerina, visit his or her gravestone/house/dacha.

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14. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

It never stops: the Bolshoi Ballet, Tchikovski Conservatory, Symphony, opera, museums, parks, world class circus, the Kremlin, summer palaces galore, name Russian author/composer/ballerina, visit his or her gravestone/house/dacha.

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15. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Fur hats, which you will wear, beautiful linens, nice wooden items, paintings, knitted items...

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16. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Fur hats, which you will wear, beautiful linens, nice wooden items, paintings, knitted items...

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17. Can you save money?

You'd think you'd be able to, the hardship is what at least 15% and the cola is at least that, but we haven't. Maybe it's us.

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18. Can you save money?

You'd think you'd be able to, the hardship is what at least 15% and the cola is at least that, but we haven't. Maybe it's us.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Oh yeah. This is a culture with the most highly developed arts in the world, but you have to get past being around a people who were oppressed for generations to enjoy them.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Oh yeah. This is a culture with the most highly developed arts in the world, but you have to get past being around a people who were oppressed for generations to enjoy them.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Smiles for strangers--people on the street will think you are crazy, also don't sing with your ipod while walking down Tverskya.

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4. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Smiles for strangers--people on the street will think you are crazy, also don't sing with your ipod while walking down Tverskya.

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5. But don't forget your:

Wool, ability to find Land's End on the internet, manners.

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6. But don't forget your:

Wool, ability to find Land's End on the internet, manners.

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7. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

All the usual Russian stuff. Read a Chekov play then visit his house! Listen to Stravinsky and go visit his grave at Novidivichy cemetery. moscowinyourpocket.com

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8. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

All the usual Russian stuff. Read a Chekov play then visit his house! Listen to Stravinsky and go visit his grave at Novidivichy cemetery. moscowinyourpocket.com

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9. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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10. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

All the usual Russian stuff. Read a Chekov play then visit his house! Listen to Stravinsky and go visit his grave at Novidivichy cemetery. moscowinyourpocket.com

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11. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

All the usual Russian stuff. Read a Chekov play then visit his house! Listen to Stravinsky and go visit his grave at Novidivichy cemetery. moscowinyourpocket.com

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12. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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13. Do you have any other comments?

Once you get past the hard exterior, the Russians are usually pretty chocolate-y inside.

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14. Do you have any other comments?

Once you get past the hard exterior, the Russians are usually pretty chocolate-y inside.

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Moscow, Russia 08/29/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, 3rd expat experience.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Came one year ago.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Foreign Service Officer halfway through a 2-year tour.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Direct routes from DC, NYC, Chicago (seasonal), Atlanta (seasonal), taking ~10 hours.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Rosinka provides nice townhouses way outside the city (long commute). Pokrovsky Hills is by the school, so most families are there (moderate commute). There are also city apartments in the center, as well as the NEC (compound).

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are almost all imported, and are generally more expensive than in the states. Lots of European brands, but you pay for the quality.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's, TGI Fridays, Sabarro's etc. They're all here. There is also an American-style diner.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None really.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO at post.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Available, around $10 per hour for a housekeeper

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There's a gym on the compound that many use, as well as more expensive gyms around the city.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

VISA is taken everywhere. There's a Citibank office on the compound.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy has a nice service Sunday afternoons. There are also Anglican and other Protestant services.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

There is the M-F Moscow Times which is mostly business and political news.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

The city is not designed for people with physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Trains, buses, Moscow Metro, all fine. A little expensive to take a cabbie, but the Metro is great.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

It's nice to have a 4x4 in the winter, but we manage with our compact car in the winter just by driving carefully.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

We get internet for $60 a month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No. You'll spend 5 hours at the airport, though, jumping through bureaucratic hoops if your pet flew as cargo.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There is a good vet who works with lots of expats, and I believe you can find temporary housing for pets if you are going out of town.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate; the air is cleaner in summer; in winter constant clouds hang over the city. The winter morning snow can be coagulated vapor from nearby factories.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Drivers are very aggressive. Being out late at night is not safe, but nothing too much worse than any big U.S. city.

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Good health care at the embassy. I have also heard good things about the American and European Medical Centers here. I received adequate dental care at one of the dental clinics marketed to expats.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Short, moderate summer, long winter. Last winter didn't get too cold, but the one before saw many much colder days.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

No school-aged kids, but have heard the school is great.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There's a daycare/preschool on the compound.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge. The embassy must have at least 1000 people, including all spouses and Members of household. Lots of business people, too.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

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3. Morale among expats:

Ok. It's a long winter, and the host country government and people can be unnecessarily mean.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

There is something for everyone here, but it is easier for single men than women.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

There's a growing community here, but it is not quite at U.S. comfort level yet.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Russians do not like people with darker skin. People from the Caucuses have a rough time here, and people of even darker complexions get stared at and sometimes hassled by the police.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Moscow is a huge city with lots going on; in summer there is an expat softball league, and in winter a broomball league. There are parks, concerts, museums, etc.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Martyoshka nesting dolls, nice linens (not expensive when buying at Izmailova market), painted wooden santas and angels for Christmas

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't go to restaurants or shop locally for clothes or anything else but food... most everything is more expensive here.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I didn't have the choice, but no I would not choose it. Russians are reflexively cold, and it's difficult to meet them except at work. They instinctively distrust us and blame us for many of the ills affecting their country. The younger generation is a little more pro-American, but it's hard to meet the locals.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

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3. But don't forget your:

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Moscow, Russia 08/22/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Second expat experience.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Lived there for two years from 2007-2009.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Working with the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Best routes are non-stop flights from the States. American Airlines has one from Chicago. United has one from Washington D.C. that's about 10 1/2 hours. Delta has one from JFK and one from Atlanta that are about 9 hours and 11 hours respectively. I've also heard there's a great flight on Singapore Air direct from Houston.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

The embassy has four different types of housing.1. NEC - on compound housing for singles, couples and families of varying sizes. Pros:no commute, located in the city center and a great starting point to explore the city. Cons: some people talked about the embassy fishbowl (some don't agree).The housing is drab, industrial and can be depressing, though some people did a good job of making it homey. Some people complained of never being able to truly get away from work since work is always right there. 2. City apartments for singles and couples with no children. I really never heard too many cons about these apartments. Some are fixed up better than others, but overall I didn't hear too many complaints.3. Pokrovskiy Hills - townhomes for families. It is located near the school. Pros: great for families that have school-aged children. A good expat community, with a mini market (though it's expensive). Cons:about a 40 minute commute to work, and some people don't feel part of the embassy community when they're out there.4. Rosinka - townhomes for singles, couples and families located in the outskirts of Moscow. Pros:Probably the best housing and neighborhood with a good gym, restaurant and mini market. You get fireplaces and garages which are very helpful in the winter. Air quality is much better. Cons:The biggest and ONLY con is the commute which can be anywhere from 1hr and 10 minutes to 3 hours on a bad day. One night the traffic was so bad that people got home at 10 pm, though that is not the norm, just more of a horror story. The commute is enough to make people not want to live out there anymore and it really wears on you after a few months. If we were to get posted in Moscow again we would not choose to live in Rosinka. Having a two hour commute both ways affects your quality of life in Moscow.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can get almost all fruits and vegetables you need. Good meat is harder to find, though we got better at it. If possible, avoid going to big mega markets on Saturday because the crowds and lines are huge.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Contact solution, nice shampoo and conditioner and some baking goods.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

I know of MacDonald's, KFC, and Subway in terms of American chains. There is a good food-stand chain called Stardog, which has Russian-style hotdogs, and it's on every corner, practically. Restaurants are plentiful with lots of selection, though they are very expensive. We hardly ever ate out because we ended up dropping $80 without even ordering a beer, dessert or appetizer. There are some great restaurants, but not many. Most aren't bad, but few are exceptional. We usually felt like we could make something better at home for much less.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Hardly any. We had ants but got rid of them easily with ant spray and traps.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO and Pouch.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

I'm really unsure of this because we didn't use domestic help. Many people do and it's readily available.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

I only know of the gym in Rosinka and the gym in the embassy. The Rosinka gym is quite nice, though it doesn't open early enough for people who work in the embassy.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

We mostly used cash, but sometimes used our ATM card. Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere. I felt safer using cash.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are English-language services available in almost all religions.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

There's Moscow Times in English. We got AFN, and there's also Russian basic cable, although we got rid of that after a few months. We used a slingbox and watched Direct TV from the States.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

At the very, very least learn the Cyrillic alphabet. Russian is a difficult language, but it's worth it to learn some basics because there are not many Russians out in town that speak English.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

This city is not friendly for the physically disabled. We were in Moscow for a year before we realized we hardly ever saw physically disabled people, except some who beg on the street or in the metro. The physically disabled are confined to their homes. It is quite sad.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

I didn't use the public buses because they are very confusing, but the metro is great. it's cheap and one of the best in the world. You can't hail a yellow cab in the city, those are official taxis that you have to arrange for ahead of time. You can take gypsy cabs, which is paid hitchhiking. You put your arm out and a car can stop if they want to make extra money. You figure out the sum before the ride. You can take these but definitely avoid them if you are alone.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

I think any kind of car is fine. Moscow is really good at clearing out the snow and ice, so you don't need an SUV or 4w drive. Just know that your car will get extremely dirty in the winter, and it's kind of hard to wash it, especially when you don't live on the embassy compound. People drive crazy here and it's a hard town to learn how to get around.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

It's available. We paid about $60 a month for our Internet and it was pretty reliable and fast.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

You can bring your cell from the States and buy SIM cards.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are some good US-trained vets that can do all basic care and spaying/neutering. They come to your house. I don't know of any kennels, but most people get someone to cat/dog sit for them when they are on vacation.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

I don't think so, and if you did you would have to know excellent Russian. I only heard of people getting EFM jobs in the Embassy.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Russian women dress more provocatively, and they mostly wear heels. It seems like Russians dress like Western Europeans did about 15 years ago.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Unhealthy. We never had problems but some people had allergy and breathing problems because of the pollution.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

Nothing different than you would get in the States.

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3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Pickpocketing and street scams are the most popular. Don't EVER pick up a wallet if someone drops it and don't try to pick up money on the ground. You may think you're being helpful, but it's a popular scam, so just walk on by. Violent crime isn't much of a concern but is on the rise, especially against darker-skinned minorities. There's a growing neo-Nazi and skinhead element in the city, so be aware. Basically, for everyone, if you don't walk alone at night, you should be fine. People should avoid taking gypsy cabs if possible, but if you do use them, don't ride in them by yourself.

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is pretty good. There's a medical clinic in the embassy. For x-rays and ultrasounds there's a European hospital and an American hospital that give good care, though anyone who needs surgery or serious medical treatment will get medevac'd to London.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Cold, long winters with not many hours of daylight. It's best to get a UV lamp or what we call a "happy lamp."

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I don't have much experience with them, I can only tell you what I've heard. Most people took their children to the Ango-American School. I heard the highschool is excellent, but haven't heard great things about the elementary school. Parents of elementary school children would be able to tell you better information.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There's a daycare on the embassy and also nannies that are readily available.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Fairly large. There are many expat organizations, though I didn't run into many foreigners on the street. There are many things to get involved in, though.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Lots of things to do. Clubs, restaurants...it just won't be cheap.

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3. Morale among expats:

I would say middle. Some people love it and some people can't wait to leave. Some people will hate every place they go, so don't let their negativity affect you. Just try to make the best of it and don't let the winter get you down. Get out and accept invitations when people invite you to dinner. I do find that two years in Moscow is enough, and most people are ready to leave when it's their time, but some people choose to extend.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I think it's a good place for families, but just beware of the commute you (or your kids going to school) may have because it might cut into family time. Otherwise, families seem to be doing well there. It's a good place for couples. Moscow is a playground for single men because the women are gorgeous. Single women don't seem to gain much from being there in terms of dating.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Probably not. Russians are not very accepting of homosexuality.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

My friends that are of Asian, African, Arab descent complained that people stared at them and treated them with distrust. I think Russia is used to being fairly isolated so they are pretty suspicious of other races or nationalities. That being said, Russians (at least Muscovites) are not the most outgoing, friendly people. Those with darker skin should avoid walking alone at night (as should everyone) since there are some skinheads that have committedviolent crimes against some minorities in the last several months. But overall, if you stay in a group and don't walk alone at night, you should be fine.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Lots of interesting tourist things to do. Red Square, Novodevitchy Convent, and some of the cities on the Golden Ring. There's lots of concerts, ballet and theater. Also, make a trip to St. Petersburg. To see the real Russia, GET OUT OF MOSCOW, though it can be difficult.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Matroshka (nesting) dolls, enamel boxes, wooden Santa Clauses, vodka, vodka and more vodka.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, things are expensive, but we managed to save quite a bit of money in Moscow.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, it was such a learning experience, but as of now I don't want to come back. I might feel differently in a few years. If we do ever come back I will NOT live in Rosinka. That is one thing that kept me from enjoying Moscow as much.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Idea that Moscow is easy to get around. It's very difficult to find your way at first and then it gets easier. The traffic and crowds and people can make everything, even the smallest things difficult. It is not a tourist-friendly city.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sweaters, scarves, gloves, heavy winter coat. And definitely bring your umbrella, because it rains a lot in the spring and summer months. It's not Seattle by any stretch, but it still rains quite a bit.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Many. My favorites are War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (long but SO good), The Mask and Margarita by Bulgakov and We The Living by Ayn Rand.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Many. My favorites are War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (long but SO good), The Mask and Margarita by Bulgakov and We The Living by Ayn Rand.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

The Borne Supremacy, The Saint (cheesy but was filmed in Moscow), Nightwatch, Transsiberian (not filmed in Moscow, but in Russia).

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7. Do you have any other comments?

I think if you go in with a good understanding of Russian history you will appreciate the opportunity to live in Moscow and what a neat experience it can be.

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Moscow, Russia 07/12/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Second.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Currently in Moscow; arrived summer 2008.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy employee.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

10 hours from the U.S.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

City apartments: 20-minute commute; Pokrovsky Hills: 1 hour door-to-door; Rosinka: an extremely painful commute.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can buy everything, but good fruit in the winter is very expensive.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Pricey.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

$8-10 per hour.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Fine.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You can get by with numbers and basics, but it is a challenge.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, and they are excellent.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

You wont drive much, as traffic is a nightmare. Bring extra window-washer fluid. No need for special tires.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

$40 per month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Seem to be.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Everyone looks nice all the time. Leave the sweats behind.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate in the city; fine in the burbs.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Petty theft. I feel safe walking at night and running early in the morning.

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Long & cold winters; brillant but short summers.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I only know about the Anglo-American School where most of the expats go. The elementary schools seems to have more complaints about the lack of rigor and out-of-control children. I have never heard such nastiness on a playground. The middle school and high school seem much better. The facilities are great and staff are professional.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

They are beginning a program, but your child's needs should be discussed before coming, so you have realistic expectations.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, several choices.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Soccer is the strongest program. They also have baseball and basketball.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Very large.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Very active.

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3. Morale among expats:

It varies depending on job satisfaction. Most non-working spouses are a bit bored, as winter can be long and getting around is a challenge.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Great for families and single guys.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

You wouldn't think so, but those we know who could answer this say they have no complaints.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

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9. Can you save money?

No.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

It wouldn't be my first choice, but not the last. Two years is perfect here.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

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3. But don't forget your:

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Moscow, Russia 09/12/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. I have lived in various cities in Hungary and Slovakia, as well as in St. Petersburg, Russia.

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2. How long have you lived here?

I lived in Moscow for ten months total (September 2007 -- June 2008).

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Graduate student.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

There are several direct flights to Moscow from American cities (Atlanta, New York, Chicago).

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most students live in dormitories, the disadvantage of which is that the majority of them are located far from the city center.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Grocery stores are everywhere.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Everything is available in Moscow, just at a higher cost.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Although McDonald's is EVERYWHERE, it is almost always impossibly crowded (Russians love it). A number of other Western chains are also present (Subway, Sbarro's, KFC, Papa John's), but the best and cheapest fast food can be found at the street kiosks usually located near metro stops. I recommend Kroszka Kartoshka and Stardogs. Moscow is also home to several coffeehouse chains, including Kofe Khaus, Shokoladnitsa, and now Starbucks!

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

I received mail at my dormitory.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

ATMs are everywhere; I never had any problems withdrawing money using my American ATM card. Credit cards are more widely accepted (the more expensive the restaurant/store, the more likely it is that you can pay with a credit card) but many places still only take cash.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes. Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, and some others, I believe. I attended the Protestant services and was very happy with the church.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes. The Moscow Times comes out daily and is free (it can be found at a number of restaurants, shops, and bars). Other English-language publications are also around, but the quality is questionable. There are English-language bookshops that carry American magazines and newspapers in addition to books.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

I speak Russian quite well, and I can't really imagine getting by without it (especially outside of Moscow). At the very least, you need to know the Cyrillic alphabet, if only to recognize your metro stop.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Moscow is not a good place for people with physical disabilities. It is next to impossible to get around on public transportation, and few establishments make any effort at all to accommodate disabled people.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes! Public transportation is cheap (a ride on the metro is still under US$1) and very, very efficient. The metro will take you most places in the city, and you rarely have to wait more than two minutes for a train. Buses and trollies are also very efficient, although most are stuck in traffic during rush hour. Marshrutki (small buses that look like vans) are the better option, as they are quicker and travel almost anywhere. Chastniki (gypsy cabs) are another option favored by Muscovites (especially those who want to get around in the middle of the night when public transportation doesn't run), but you must speak some Russian in order to negotiate with the driver. They are very affordable but occasionally unsafe (I never had any problems and took them quite frequently).

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. I paid about US$35/month for mine, but this was a deal for students.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

There are three major cell phone providers: Beeline, MTS, and Megaphone. I picked Beeline (just because it was recommended to me by the cell phone sales girl) and was always satisfied with it.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Skype. Otherwise, have people call you. I had a cell phone plan that charged me nothing for incoming calls from abroad.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Yes. Tutoring/teaching English is very, very lucrative and usually doesn't require anything beyond the ability to speak the language. There are many foreign companies in the city and most have entry-level job openings occasionally that don't require much knowledge of Russian.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Varies. Russians are more formally dressed in public than Americans (no one would ever dare wear sweatpants, even if it was just to pick up some milk at the corner grocery store) but often less formally dressed at work, although it depends on the office dress code. I was shocked by how casually Russians dress for the theater (jeans are perfectly acceptable at the opera) as compared to people in New York or Washington, DC.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

The city does have some pollution issues, but I was never bothered by them.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

I always felt safe in Moscow and never encountered any problems at all, but I speak Russian and look Slavic. Minorities (especially those from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East) have to be careful, as they are likely to face harassment from police and skinheads alike. Pickpocketing/minor theft is a concern, but not as long as you keep an eye on your belongings.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Long, cold winters; short, cool summers (with an occasional heat wave).

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large, but very concentrated in the center. I lived on the outskirts of the city and hardly ever ran into Americans there.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

I can't complain about anything besides the cost! Moscow has more bars, clubs, restaurants, etc. than anyone could ever hope to visit.

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3. Morale among expats:

Varies. Many expats have a love/hate relationship with the city, and a number end up staying (voluntarily) for years and years.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is definitely a good city for young people in general, regardless of whether they are single or married.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Probably not. Homosexuality is still frowned upon (Moscow's mayor has repeatedly denied requests to hold a gay pride parade in the city, calling the organizers some very insulting names) and gays/lesbians still have to hide their sexual identities for the most part.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. Racial minorities face a number of of serious problems, from harassment by the police to attacks by skinheads. They have to be careful when out in the city, especially at night.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Moscow is chock-full of wonderful museums and amazing theaters (the Bolshoi presents some of the best opera and ballet performances in the world). Russians take great pride in their cultural achievements, and visitors to the country should take advantage of the high quality of the arts in the city. There are also many places of historical interest both in and around Moscow (churches, monasteries, homes of important historical figures, etc.)

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Russian souvenirs: matrioshki, wooden toys and boxes, icons, Soviet memorabilia, etc.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes!!!

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Most definitely!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Summer clothes, flip flops, baseball caps.

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3. But don't forget your:

Hand sanitizer! And electrical outlet converters.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

I would read the Russian classics (even those that take place in other cities) in order to gain a better understanding of the country.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

I would read the Russian classics (even those that take place in other cities) in order to gain a better understanding of the country.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Moscow, Russia 08/25/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Madrid, Frankfurt.

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2. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Spouse of a government employee.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Flights from many major U.S. cities such as Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, etc. Flight time from the East Coast is approximately 10 hours.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Government employees live at the Embassy, in city apartments, at Pokrovsky Hills or at Rosinka. The embassy and most apartments are located near the city center, Pokrovsky is only about 12 miles North but it can take over an hour to get there with traffic and Rosinka is even further out. The expat community is spread across the city from Rosinka to apartments in the center.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

There is a small commissary on the embassy with American products. Selection is good but prices are high. There are grocery stores within walking distance of most homes... Ramstore, Perekristock, Achan, etc.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Liquids!! Can't be sent through the mail and they are expensive here (spray and wash, liquid hand soap, etc.).

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's, Subway, TGI Fridays, Hard Rock Cafe, Starbucks (limited menu), lots of cafes, coffee shops and more expensive local restaurants.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We have access to APO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Many Russians and Filipinos have been working for embassy families for years. Nannies average US$1,000/month and domestic help ranges depending on hours and services.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

We use Citibank ATM machines at the Embassy and have never had a problem.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Catholic, Protestant, Church of Latter Day Saints, and probably more that I'm not aware of.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Embassy families get AFN at no cost. The Moscow Times is a local daily newspaper in English and can be found for free at many stores or restaurants.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You'll at least need a survival course to get by since many Muscovites don't know English.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

The city is not handicap accessible.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right hand side.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

There is an extensive metro system that is cheap and run frequently. Taxis are not considered to be safe or regulated. Buses are also plentiful.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

The roads are horrible, constantly under construction and very crowded. Driving can be dangerous and accidents are frequent. You should not bring a brand new vehicle and an AWD or 4X4 is best in the winter months.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, we use a company called Corbina that costs US$40/month at the Embassy. Service does go down with some frequency.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

You can buy local cell phones with SMS cards. Service is reliable.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Vonage or Skype.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes, the embassy CLO has a list of available services for animals.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

There are jobs in teaching, the financial field and miscellaneous jobs that are listed in The Moscow Times.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Professional at work... casual in public.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

There have been some concerns for people out late at night, minorities, and there are the common big city issues such as pickpocketing..

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The Embassy has its own clinic. More serious cases are referred to the European Medical Clinic which has a decent reputation and there are various dental clinics as well.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Warm and often rainy in the summer, cold in the winter.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

We currently have our children at AAS but will be moving our elementary school aged child because we are EXTREMELY dissatisfied with the administration (Tony Simone, principal). Our child has had to put up with foul language in the classroom, a yelling teacher, a lack of communication between the teachers and the home and an unsupportive administration that does not respect embassy parents. The curriculum is far behind VA public schools in Fairfax County. The middle school experience has been much better. The principal is responsive and respectful, the teachers communicate with parents and the curriculum is closer to what you would find back home. There is a British School at Rosinka along with two others that have been established just recently and have gained respect: English International School and International School of Moscow. The other alternative is the Christian Missionary School called Hinkson.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

AAS will make no accommodations for special needs or children functioning above grade level.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

The Embassy has a very well run daycare and preschool with an American curriculum. There are also Russian pre-schools as well as a Montessori school nearby.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

You can make it what you want it to be.

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3. Morale among expats:

It seems to be okay... families with kids get them involved in English league sports, Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts, etc. There are book clubs, an American Club and an International Women's Club that is large.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

As long as you know some Russian, don't mind some physical aggression, a high cost of living and traffic, it can be a fine city for singles, couples and families.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There are monthly reports of racial prejudices.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Visiting the Kremlin and Red Square, nearby cities to see/buy Matroyshka dolls and porcelain, museums and parks, ice skating in the parks during the winter, taking a train trip to St. Petersburg.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Wooden lacquer boxes, wooden dolls, paintings, etc.

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9. Can you save money?

NO!!

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, but I would investigate the school choice better before coming.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Bikini.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience when it comes to pushing and shoving in lines.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Tolstoy and other famous Russian authors.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Tolstoy and other famous Russian authors.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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