How to survive Moscow, as a stay-at-home-parent

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English Dad in Moscow

Your plane flies over Moscow, you and your family jump out and parachute into the landing drop zone. You unpack your possessions and set up camp. You settle in to your new home and adventure out to meet with and mix with the local population. This is where the fun begins and where you will meet new challenges. You may or may not speak Russian and you will be in a new city and in a country that you have probably never been to before. This may be your first stint of living abroad with your family. It takes guts and planning to survive in Moscow but it can be done, using positive mental attitude (PMA) and pro-active planning. The following advice is aimed at expatriate families moving to Moscow who are stay at home parents.

You may be a stay-at-home-mother or a stay-at-home-father. The first type of full time parent, is more likely here than the second type in Moscow. There are some stay-at-home-fathers here but we are as rare as the red bottomed baboon of Madagascar. If you are a stay-at-home-mother here, you will not be alone, the city is full of expatriate mothers and there is a large network of women here who are members of women’s clubs such as the International Women’s Club and the British Women’s Club. These clubs arrange baby group social events at other expatriates’ homes. They organise events and coffee mornings and are a very good way to make new friends. As with any large city, especially one like Moscow, people don’t generally come to you or call you up and say come and see us, the mountain does not go to Muhammad, he goes to the mountain. You will need to be pro active and make new friends. You can do this by joining clubs as above and by looking at on-line portals such as Internations. You can also join forums such as expats.ru . I would recommend some caution with on-line forums but they can be a good starting place to gain information about social events and places where expatriates meet such as bars and clubs in Moscow.

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If you move here with kids, you will meet other parents at their school or kindergarten (pre school) who will be in the same situation as you. Many expatriate-stay-at-home-parents join gyms, clubs and try to learn Russian. These are all good places to make new friends and will allow you to get out of your Moscow flat. It is very important that you get out and keep busy. If you stay at home in your Moscow flat, with only a baby and four walls for company you will feel very lonely and you will soon go nuts. Moscow is full of expatriates, from other countries such as the USA, UK, France, New Zealand, Germany, who move to Moscow on contracts ranging from a year or two to five years or more. Moscow will be your new home and you must adapt and fit in. The city is hard, big and will not care about you. Get out, be positive and keep busy.

Selection_027Your flat location is important in maintaining good mental health and will have a big influence as to how you cope with living here. You will need to be in the right location to be able to take your kids to kindergarten or school. Most expatriates live in central areas, they have to, because the schools are usually in central areas and the Moscow traffic can be very bad. If your school is outside of the centre, you should consider living near the school. Don’t rent a flat on a huge, dirty traffic filled road, try to find one in a pocket of clean air, where the bedrooms back off the main road and if possible, have some view of trees or a park. Location is vital logistically for the school run and mentally for your happiness in Moscow. Have a sense of humour and try not to compare Moscow to your own country. This applies to prices and to the culture. Russia and Moscow are not like any other city and are unique for positive and negative reasons. A lot of your survival will depend on your expectations, on the reason for moving to Moscow and where you moved from. If you move from one large city to another one such as Moscow, you will find adapting a lot easier than if you move from a small city or town. If you like green hills and mountains, Moscow will not be for you. If you like a busy environment, that never sleeps and adventure, you may adapt to and enjoy your stay in Moscow. It’s important to remember that no situation is forever, good or bad and try to think long term and don’t get sucked into being here. Try to enjoy Moscow and make it a positive experience. Winters can be long and cold here and during this time, it is more important than ever to keep busy and to not get depressed. You can take up a sport, hobby or other activity to remain positive and happy during the winter months. Take your kids to afternoon activities, as they to will need to make new friends and keep busy.

Embrace the new culture, enjoy new foods, new languages and new experiences. Laugh at the bad ones and remember the good ones. Take regular breaks out of Moscow and out of Russia, if you have time and can afford it. I personally cannot stay in Moscow for more than three or four months without getting cabin fever. The urge to run to the hills and see green, is all consuming for me. Take a flight out of Russia to a European destination for a weekend or leave Moscow and visit the Russian countryside. As they say “a change is as good as rest” and this is very true, when living in a city like Moscow. Positive mental attitude and planning, will ensure your stay in Moscow as full time parents is a good one. Good luck.