I’ve lived in Russia for 5,5 years which is a slightly scary insight, haha. It feels like I left Stockholm a couple of months ago and that my life in Sweden is just temporarily “paused” and still waiting for me as I left it. On an intellectual level, I of course understand that this isn’t the case, that lots of things have changed during these years.
After all these years in Russia, I feel that my identity as a Swede has strengthened. I didn’t reflect so much on Swedish values when I lived there since I took them for granted but here in Russia I do. I think this a very common phenomenon when people leave their home countries and are confronted with other ways of life.
I get a lot of questions about what it’s like living in Russia. To be honest, there’s a huge difference between Moscow and the rest of the country. Since I’ve never lived outside Moscow I can’t really tell you much about that. But I obviously have views based on my years in Moscow, and I have listed my top 3 best and worst things. These are highly subjective opinions based on my own experiences, background and values.
TOP 3 BEST
- Never gets boring
Moscow is a massive metropolis where you can basically do whatever you want any time of the day (or night). The cultural life is so rich and Muscovites love consuming it. The huge demand is being met by amazing concerts, plays, operas and ballets, museums and happenings of all kinds. And the restaurant scene has improved tremendously in the last couple of years. You name it, you’ll find it here. There’s always something to do!
- Muscovites are well educated and ambitious
Moscow draws many of the best and brightest from all over Russia who come here to fulfill their dreams. There’s an unmistakable feeling of energy and ambition in the air. Having worked here for several years I can only say the best about my Russian colleagues. They’re smart, well-read and motivated and it’s always a blast running projects together.
- At the centre of events
As you’ve probably noticed, Russia is mentioned in the news around the world every day. A lot of it isn’t exactly positive, but living in Moscow at the center of it all is in a strange way quite exciting, like I’m witnessing history in the making. I’ll definitely have one or two things to share with my grandchildren when I’m old.
TOP 3 WORST
- The gloomy faces
As a somewhat sensitive person coming from a country where people smile a lot (also to people who they do not know), I’ll probably never get used to all the gloomy faces displayed here. It seems to be the default mode of many people. For example, people in the service industry (waiters, taxi drivers etc) do not generally come across as particularly friendly. I try not to take it personally. Luckily when you get to know people on a personal level the gloominess tends to vanish. Russians like to smile too – they just seem to be unwilling to do so in front of strangers.
- Depressing architecture
It’s difficult to describe Moscow as a beautiful city in the classical sense of the word. There certainly are lots of beautiful buildings from the pre-revolutionary and early Soviet eras, but you are typically never farther than a stone-throw away from quite despressing architecture. It seems that Soviet architecture went downhill beginning in the 60’s when thousands of more or less identical grayish apartment buildings were erected all across the city (and the country). Many of these buildings were of poor quality to begin with and the lack of maintenance hasn’t exactly made things better. They are hard on the eyes.
- Difference in values
My home county – Sweden – is one of the most progressive countries in the world and a pioneer when it comes to women’s and minority rights. My belief in equality is an important part of who I am. Although Moscow probably hosts the most open minded segment of the Russian population, I regularly come across people with very intolerant views. I don’t have any illusions about changing people’s minds. All I can do is to pick my friends very carefully to make sure that they share my core values.
I could go on for hours on how these “good” and “bad” things evolve and affect other areas, but that would become a whole book. Till then – feel free to ask me anything about what it’s like to live in Moscow and I will do my best to answer your all your questions