Moscow, the capital and most populous city of the Russian Federation, echoes with a revolutionary fervour as faded as the pastels of its minarets and domes. The city now houses more billionaires than any other city in the world, wealthy off the back of the former communist states’ privatised assets. With a burgeoning elite comes a higher standard of living, which itself elicits a hefty price tag. These days, Moscow is one of the most expensive cities in the world for expats to live in.
Medieval Moscow's original design of concentric walls and intersecting radial thoroughfares has shaped the city’s growth over the centuries. While incredibly picturesque, this layout, combined with Moscow's rivers, has weighed heavily on current day traffic congestion.
Minimising time spent navigating Moscow’s chronic rush hour will therefore be a major factor influencing your housing choices. Areas within the Garden Ring road, such as Arbat-Kropotkinskaya, are very popular. Tverskaya Street, the main shopping street of Moscow, is highly sought after by young professionals given its proximity to nightlife, cafes, restaurants and theatres. Planned communities beyond the city outskirts, such as Pokrovsky Hills, are also becoming popular among families due to their proximity to international schools.
Like any major city, Moscow has its shortcomings. Its upsides however, are numerous, and the unique experience of living at the nerve centre of Russia is priceless.
Moscow’s metro (underground railway) is nothing short of magnificent. The city’s famous Red Square, dusted with snowflakes, and the enchanting Izmailovo Market will steal your heart. Characterised by hot, humid summers and cold, hard winters, by its irrepressible energy, its stoic inhabitants, and not least by its exotic Eastern influence juxtaposed with Orthodox Christian leanings, Moscow’s magic will not be lost on you.
What is special or unique about your city?
Moscow is the home of some of the world's most beautiful architecture, as well as the seat of Russian legislation. It is an excellent barometer for the changes that have been sweeping through Russia since the collapse of communism. It is home to some of the most iconic sites in all of Russia, including Red Square, the Kremlin and the Moscow river. It has an extensive metro system with some of the most beautiful stations in the world. It is a place of extreme contrasts, but a truly fascinating city.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
Most people find it to be both overwhelming and intriguing, with ancient churches, ornate palaces and ultra-modern architecture all amalgamating into an incredibly diverse, exciting city. Many initially comment that it makes them feel small.
Are these impressions likely to change?
Most people stop feeling quite so overwhelmed after a time; they discover that Moscow is a city with several centres, each like a unique city unto itself. This makes the city feel less substantive.
What is the local language?
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
It is certainly possible to get by without learning the language, though knowledge of some basic Russian and the Cyrillic alphabet is certainly an advantage for getting around.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
Russians can be quite superstitious, and you should respect that. For example, don’t whistle in front of other people; according to superstition, doing so brings bad luck and means that person will have no money!
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
Russian winter is long (six months) and can be really cold. People stay at home a lot and don’t socialise that much. Summers are hot and dry; during this time, the locals go out of the city to their datchas (summerhouses) and the city is quiet.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
Russians can come across as quite distant and closed when you first meet them. They are proud by nature and a little cautious to things that are new and strange to them. But, don't let that deter you; once you've gotten to know them, you will find that they are very generous and hospitable and will do anything for you to make you feel welcome!