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Notes on living and working in Russia

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Moscow daily living

Life in Moscow is rich with different events. I bet, if you are a foreigner living in Moscow, you miss many events worth attending. May I suggest one of those events – Moscow honey fair. Honey fair is the best place in Moscow to buy real organic honey. Moscow government runs honey fair every year in the beginning of fall.  The fair is a large tent in Kolomenskoe park with dozens of stands inside. Beekeepers occupying the stands offer hundreds of varieties of organic honey and bee products. In Russia making honey is a craft, typically a family business. 

Why not buy honey from food stores? Well, what you buy in stores is a processed honey. And processed honey from nutritional standpoint is not much better than plain sugar. Thus if you do care what you eat, want to have full benefits and all the nutritional value of natural honey, you buy it from those who make it. Not from bees, I mean from beekeepers. 

On Moscow honey fair you can try and buy fresh (produced this summer) honey and honey products from all regions of Russia, from Far East to South.  Sellers explain where each honey is coming from, which blossoms bees used to make that honey and what benefits specific type of honey has for health. The choice is staggering. I bought some honey from regular bee hives and some wild honey. The beekeeper who sold it showed pictures of beehives handing high on trees. Wild bees would occupy those hives and produce honey. I think this is the type of honey bears are after. 

For those who are not keen about taking pills, but rather prefer to use natural remedies, there are numerous bee products available. As an example, I bought substance called “perga”. Perga is a byproduct of honey production. Bees make it out of pollen. They mix pollen with bee enzymes and ferment it in locked cells. In bee families perga is a food for infant bees. Perga is a natural probiotic, antioxidant and has numerous benefits for health. 

Not only honey, at the fair you can buy wild grown berries, herbs, mushrooms and other natural products. Dried wild mushrooms for example are of excellent quality, as well as pine nuts. I also tried some медовуха [medovukha] - alcohol drink made out of honey. The taste is mild and you don’t feel much of alcohol in it, but this thing can knock you off your feet if you drink too much of it. Prices on honey and other products are moderate.

How to find Moscow honey fair

Moscow honey fair runs end of August thru October 16th. Location of the fair is Kolomenskoe park (subway station Kolomenskaya, green line, south), nearby the entrance. From the entrance follow signs saying “Ярмарка мёда”. Here is a Google maps link to the exact location.

Going to the fair and to the park can be a nice weekend activity, do not miss it. 

Useful vocabulary

Мёд (myod) - honey.

Russian is very difficult, when I come to Russia, do I have to learn the language? Is it possible to communicate with Russians in English?

These are the questions many people coming to Russia ask very often. 

Russian can be difficult to learn, but English is also difficult for Russians. Very few people in Russia speak English, as well as any other foreign language. How come no one speaks English if almost everyone studies it in schools and universities or colleges? Well, in order to understand and being able to speak the language, you need to actively practice it. And practice outside the classroom is nearly impossible to find. Studying foreign language also requires big deal of self-motivation and for most students passing the class is just good enough. On top of things teaching techniques and teachers themselves often are not very efficient.   

In Russia, everywhere you go, everything will be only in Russian and all people will be able to understand only Russian. If you are planning a short tourist trip, and you do not speak any Russian, that is fine, especially if travel agency organizes your trip well. If you are planning live in Russia for longer period, say as expat, learning Russian is essential. I have seen people not speaking any Russian who have been living in Moscow for many years. For the most part they were absolutely helpless without someone by their side who spoke Russian. As alternative they live a “bubble” lifestyle, which again is fine, but it is somewhat limited existence. 

You probably do not need full Russian proficiency, but knowing even basic words, phrases and some vocabulary for specific situations helps. Otherwise even basic activity like buying groceries can turn into an issue. Making order in a restaurant can be difficult. Many cafes and restaurants have menus in English. I noticed however, menu translations are not always very accurate. Waiters do not speak English (with very few exceptions) and the best you can do is just to point at what you want from the menu. In majority of other situations you will have to use Russian, unless you have interpreter by your side. 

Where you can use English in Moscow. 

There are people in Russia  who speak English as a second language. In some places you have higher chances of bumping into someone speaking English. Obviously employees of international companies in Moscow speak English, so if you work for one, you are pretty much all set from 9 to 6 on work days. Concentration of English-speaking employees is higher in the places where international companies have offices. That is “Moscow city”, “Krilatsky hills”, “Belaya loshad”, some other office complexes, downtown in general, including Tverskaya street and surrounding areas.  Typically you meet people speaking English in chain hotels, meaning receptionists and other staff serving guests. I notices many workers in Starbucks speak English. Not that they will be able and willing to have conversation with an English-speaking customer, but they would take order in English for sure. There are few places where expats meet and there you can speak English too. I noticed that in Moscow subway, on some lines, station names now announced in English. Street navigation is available in English mostly in central parts of Moscow. There are English resources about Moscow – in print or on the web.

September in Moscow

The whole country and Moscow live in a certain seasonal rhythm or cycle. The cycle is signified by repetitive events, weather conditions, people activities, things that happen each year over and over again. 

September means vacations are over and people get back to Moscow. Many return from their dachas if they spent whole summer there. In practical terms this means more car traffic and more people on streets and in subway. More rush. People go to supermarkets to get stock of groceries for their first weeks after vacation. Lines in grocery stores become notably longer. Car traffic gets worse. 

September 1st is a holiday (not a bank holiday) - “The day of knowledge”. School year starts September 1st and most colleges and universities start first semester after summer break beginning of September. Parents prepare their kids for upcoming school year. The preparation means buying school necessities such as notebooks, school appliances, outfits, whatever else kids might need for school. In this period stores are packed with parents and their kids. All shopping malls are crowded, no parking places, long lines for fast food counters. 

Locally grown seasonal fruits and vegetables start to appear: apples, pears, watermelons, plums, corncobs, pumpkins. Fruit seller says they will persimmons very soon.  Days are getting shorter. Outside temperatures are slowly going down and soon we will be missing warm days. It rains very often. Only in September it becomes apparent, how short Moscow summer really is.

Moscow

Burger stands at Gorky Park

Moscow