One American's observations about life in Moscow
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I am a polarizing personality in a polarizing land.
A MILLION VICTORS, TANYAS and OXANAS
I know several dozen, if not 60 Victors.
I know so many Tanya's and Elena's and Oxana's...
Many of their names are in Cyrillic.
Russians list their names backwards, last name first. First name last.
Their last names are often very very long and in Cyrillic and impossible to pronounce.
Cursive is alive and well in Moscow.
I despise the cursive T on public signs - which looks like an cursive M.
Text messages are not free in Russia
Russians not only have text (called SMS) and cell phones, they also have viber, whats app, email, skype, vk.com, facebook, yandex, google, and 2cig.
Most Muscovite are poor, and the rich are incredibly cheap, since the cell phone carriers charge for each text, there are a million alternatives to texting on every Muscovite's phone.
Printers and copying
Most Russians do not own a printer. Printers are of low quality here, "genuine" printer ink is prohibitively expensive. There is fake everything. I bought two telephone batteries with "Samsung" on the battery, and neither work. Returning them will be either hell or heaven depending on my own mood. Because if they don't like me or think that I am weak, they will be assholes to me.
There are several steps to printing anything. Lines are often long depending on the shop. There is no standard policy between chains about what can and cannot be printed. Each chain copy store is another castle. There is no self serve copying. There is only a young woman gatekeeper, who will either do a phenomenal job or a terrible job and overcharge you, depending on her mood. I have been trying to print out business cards from one copy center chain for months. These shops are found in little dark shops or in basements tucked away around the city. Again, if i am too aggressive, they tell me to fuck off. If I am too timid, they ignore me and serve the first New Russian that walks in off the street.
Appallingly cheap Chinese imports
In Russia, everything is dirt cheap in price, but terrible quality. Moscow receives the "bargain bin" of China imports - the cheap quality crap that no American would ever tolerate. Americans know how to demand better quality so they get it.
MOSCOW LOCKS AND MONETARILY ESCAPING RUSSIA AT STARBUCKS
Russians love their locks and doors and gates and complex systems. I cant count the number of times I nearly ran into a McDonald's or Starbucks or Pizza Hut just to "get away" from Russia. I was actually hyperventilating a couple of times. I craved American order instead of Russian jumbled chaos.
I totally see why Lee Harvey Oswald, the guy who shot Kennedy never stayed in Belarus past three years. What a nightmare life he must have had. Several dissenters in America, before the Soviet Union invaded Poland came to this advertised "Soviet Paradise" and many, many many of them were disillusioned and returned home. I distinctly remember in 2009 reading about one woman who was such a supporter of Russia after the revolution, she returned home disillusioned - this one single story disused me from being a protester and advocate for almost a decade.
Snowden wanted to go home before his girlfriend was shipped over to Moscow. I TOTALLY understand why now. OH MY GOD. THANK GOD FOR MCDONALD'S. Thank god that I have a mall across the street granted - it is across a six lane road of terror, where the rich drive with impunity. I have to walk through a series of tunnels to "walk" across the street, but by God it is a mall, a real American mall.
Moscow is a suffocating damp warm blanket
I understand why the Cold War happened, and why Russians don't understand Americans and Americans distrust Russians. Oh my God.
I describe living here like suffocating in a damp warm blanket. I pull up out of the darkness for a few minutes when I walk into "America".
Fresh from DC, in which networking is king, I tried to organize a huge party at my first job in September. No one showed up and I was banned from several meetups. The tall beautiful Russian woman I invited actually turned her back to me and told her friend in front of me that "she usually gets to know people before they go out for the first time"
Meetup is not to socialize, it is to "monetize" it is just a second or third job. nothing is free here - ketchup is 30 kopecks in Burger King. The napkins are hidden behind the counter. I love seeing free refills (self serve), which is rare even in the chains.
LIGHT FIXTURES FOR THE TOILET I never can find the light fixture for the toilet. There is no standard anything. Every house, building, and restaurant does it their own way. It makes for nice exotic surprises, but you never know if you are going in the men's restroom or woman's. You never know what button to push, or where to walk, or where not to walk.
A million Ivans
Attached is my 1:30 appointment tomorrow. We were supposed to swap English for Russian lessons.
I can't find him on email. i asked him, begged him to change his name from "komrad" to Ivan. I figured if we were going to work together, we would need to be able to contact each other. He never did.
I am so tired of well meaning Muscovites saying trite empty words, but never offering to really help.
Networking in Moscow
Meeting anyone here is a complex set of steps. Every step is long and complicated and maddening. People send me addresses in Russian or bad translations in English, then wonder why i get lost.
For the first time in my time here, I saw a "you are here sticker" on a map. It was tiny, about .5 inches long, but it was an actual red arrow.
I won't even talk about the metro. Built to stop invading armies, it now only stops repeat tourism.
Muscovite men are liars
Russian men lie. Oh my god do they lie. It is all about "what is in it for me". They have learned to have a fake smile and be so sweet to Americans, but I catch their eyes when they don't think I am looking.
Every Russian store has a unsmiling man there to greet you. The first thing you see is some security man - a hired thug asshole who is going to harass you. I got into a five minute argument outside of Ashan (a French grocery store) with the bodyguard because he would not allow me to put my bag on a marble raised dais.
Monstrous impersonal MOSCOW
People go years without seeing friends that are on the other side of Moscow. Roads are congested and dangerous. The rich and police drive with impunity.
CUSTOMER SERVICE - BEING RUDE TO WAIT STAFF WORKS BEST
Finding a toilet is a nightmare.
I am so exhausted of hearing "NET!" and "SHTO"! (What?!)
I especially hate SHTO.
Customer service depends on whether the cashier had a good or bad lunch.I have three videos of Ashan employees. The first and last are horror stories. The second is the best personal customer service I have received in any department store in months.
I have learned to be rude to the staff works best. I have to put on a fake frown and act like an asshole. That works best. I have to demand. If I ask nicely, like an American, these cashiers will be assholes. It is all based on your demeanor.
If a cashier likes you, they will treat you well, if they don't "fuck you".
The smaller Russian stores will rip you off, IF you call them on it, they make an excuse.
In stores, no one knows where anything is.
RUSSIANS IN GENERAL
Russians and Russian history can be surmised as such:
Quiet desperation for centuries, for millennium. A county of serfs. Taught to follow.
Don't get me started with the drunks. I find drunks repulsive, but they are tolerated and even celebrated in movies here.
There is no setting up schedules. The schedules constantly change. There is no work stability as Americans see it for the vast vast majority of Russians. I am told the rest of Russia is a wasteland. This was were Lee Harvey Oswald was shipped. To the oppressive city of Minsk, Belarus (I have never been there) - this was standard practice with dissidents during the Cold War.
THE TRIPLE/QUADRUPLE LIVES THAT I AM FORCED TO LIVE
I work with the richest of the rich, and I have to act like everything great, I act like you can pay rent at the end of the month, I act like I know where your my next meal is coming from. I am forced to keep up appearances.I know how to talk to the richest of the rich, I know how to act like there isn't a care in the world. If I bring anything up unpleasant - poverty, war, anything of any substance - they make a casual off handed remark and change the subject. If I start to really open up, at least to the wealthy business men with their pressed collars and shiny shoes, I am casually pushed out of a job. This person is "not one of us" - he is _____
Moscow woman are looking for sugar daddy's and a ticket to escape grinding poverty
I went on national television show "Let's Get Married" to "find a wife" with 100 rubles in my pocket. I got lost numerous times walking to the studio.
99% of any Russian woman reading this will be repulsed. You have to keep up appearances, you have to be a strong man, who never cries or shows emotions. The westernized women like emotions, but only positive ones. Positive emotions means stability - means a chance to escape the hell of their life.
The beautiful women are so incredibly rude or so flirty depending on MY mood. Their flirtiness is often all a show. I remember flirting with a 20 something on the metro with a bright orange coat. As I left I looked back and she rolled her eyes. I thought, oh, she will never contact me, Sure enough she did. She wanted lessons, but at a reduced price. There is always this "whats in it for me?" Cultivated after millennium of subjugation and desperation.
Russia has the largest land mass in the world, but you would never know it from looking at Moscow. People are in tight spaces everywhere.
Do I love Moscow?
>>> Do I like it here?
Ask me in five minutes. I may have changed my mind.
It gets light at 4 am now. Which really messes up my sleep schedule.
To say that I am discombobulated, almost all the time, would be an extreme understatement. I go from the highest highs to the lowest lows in the same five minutes. Just when I think things are peachy, something happens which makes me shocked, angry or flabbergasted.
Take the mall food court for instance
I can go from the worst service in the world from a Russian fast food company - where I complain there is tin foil in my food (the Russian chain store that sells potatoes has terrible service) - and three minutes later, in the very next stall I get incredible American service at Burger King.
I have been called "Chuda" miracle several times. I inspire people, then literally the next minute I infuriate someone.
I am a polarizing personality in a polarizing land.