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Stereotypical Russia - all true?
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Joined: 24 Mar 2003
Posts: 107

PostPosted: Sat Nov 08, 2003 11:24 am    Post subject: Stereotypical Russia - all true? Reply with quote

Hi Everyone,
I have been paying attention the Russian forum recently, and have read some interesting posts here and there as I've been thinking about heading for Russia sometime in the future.
The problem is that it is so hard to get positive comments about Russia. Everyone here says I'm mad to want to go there - all there is, is danger, crime, and unbelievable bribery. I even hear of people who get their passports confiscated by police for no reason whatsoever. It's hard to maintain my enthusiasm when everyone around me is so negative. I thought I'd post this up here to see what you think.. is it true that Russia is like this? Does this only happen in big cities, or in small ones too?
So, I wonder if this is the case, how can you stick it out there? Are there good sides to Russia?
Am I better off not heading for Russia at all, and instead maybe heading for one of the Baltics or are they the same?
So, Kent, CM, Maruss, Buck and others, I really would value your opinion on this issue.
Thanks in advance..,
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Buck Turgidson

Joined: 29 Jan 2003
Posts: 96

PostPosted: Sat Nov 08, 2003 2:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The danger is exaggerated. I have spent a total of a year and a half in Ukraine and Russia and was never the victim of any crime. (knock on wood) Wink There is bribery but it usually amounted to bottles of Vodka or five or ten bucks, at least in my own experience. Naturally, big cities are more dangerous but not nearly as bad as some would have you believe. We usually only hear the horror stories rather than the good ones.

Russia has its inconveniences, but it also has a rich culture and history. The cost of living is cheap outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg (as long as you avoid expat establishments). It is cheap to travel around the country as well.

I love Russia and plan to return in the near future. Some people have a negative view, but I think the horror stories are blown out of proportion. If you are interested in going to Russia just go, to hell with the pessimists. Twisted Evil

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Joined: 15 Oct 2003
Posts: 100
Location: Baku, Azerbaijan

PostPosted: Sat Nov 08, 2003 6:51 pm    Post subject: Thumbs up for Buck's comments Reply with quote

I would concur with Buck entirely on the exaggerated nature of the scare stories told about Russia. I spent 9 months teaching in Siberia in a relatively small but wealthy oil town, (it was my first tefl job incidentally), and I never had any trouble relating to crime OR corruption. I spent some time travelling around western Siberia and in the cities I visited (Tomsk, Kemerovo and Novosobirsk) I never felt threatened.

I also visited Kaliningrad on the Baltic coast which has quite a reputation to live down as a crime ridden place, but again there were no problems there. It did help that I had made good friends there on the internet before going via chat forums etc, but all in all I had a great time visiting these provincial towns and meeting local people, and experiencing alternative entertainment to that on offer on the expat scene, (in actual fact the expat scene didn't exist where I was)

I didn't especially like Moscow, and I never got to visit St. Petersburg, but I don't think this diminished my Russian experience in anyway. Sure it's not heaven, but if you come to Russia expecting to have a ball the whole time then you're either on LSD or being naively optimistic. Russia does have much to offer culturally, and as a great life experience. I would wholeheartedly recommend it as somewhere to work.
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Joined: 03 Mar 2003
Posts: 416
Location: at home, in France

PostPosted: Sat Nov 08, 2003 11:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I spent 18 months in Moscow
6 months in Samar
9 months in Kolomna
3 months in Kolomna
3 months in Saratov

I was mugged once.
I was hit once

But I was also mugged in London once and in Paris once (and I'm bilingual French/English)
My (American) female colleagues told me that they felt safer than they felt at home in Philadelphia and LA

Take your pick.
I'm going back to Russia for my 5th contract.
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Kent F. Kruhoeffer

Joined: 22 Jan 2003
Posts: 2129
Location: 中国

PostPosted: Sun Nov 09, 2003 7:20 am    Post subject: my 2 cents Reply with quote

Greetings Ibasiram:

I would also have to agree with Buck & joe-joe that the horror stories you hear about Russia are mostly exaggerated nonsense. Crime & corruption exists everywhere, in every country. For the most part, this element of reality does not affect you as an EFL teacher.

I've been living in Russia for 2 and 1/2 years now and I've never had any serious problems with crime, bribery or corruption of any kind. At the same time, I should mention that I've been around the block a time or 2. This was not my first experience living in a developing country ... and I know how to keep my nose out of trouble. It's like a 6th sense you develop after many years of travelling & living abroad. If you don't have that 6th sense yet, you should proceed with caution when contemplating any EFL offer in the developing world. (imho)

Of course there are things you love and hate about every country you live in. I spent the previous 6 years teaching English in Asia. The pay was good, no doubt, but I burned out on teaching bratty kids 6 hours a day 6 days a week. The thing I like most about EFL-Russia is the fact that the vast majority of my students are adults. They are motivated (since they pay for their lessons themselves) and generally very sincere about learning English. As a serious teacher, I relish that.

The things that bug me about life in Russia are actually rather mundane and trivial - i.e., cold water showers 2 or 3 months out of the year, standing in slow lines at the cashier, dirty streets and sidewalks (here in Samara anyway). And then there's the general level of incompetence, laziness and utter bewilderment of bureaucrats and other 'old-timers' who still have no clue about how to do business in the 21st Century. If you can cope with those kinds of minor day-to-day inconveniences, you've won half the battle.

As Rogan mentioned on the EF thread, your experience in Russia will depend to a large extent on your ability to close a good deal for yourself. In my case: I was able to negotiate a contract that provides me with a comfortable standard of living --- including 2 weeks paid holiday every year; a generous flight reimbursement at the end of each year; free, unlimited internet access; blocked evening classes; a private, fully furnished apartment within walking distance of the school & a net salary that allows me to live well and still save $100 or $200 every month. Granted, that's not a lot, but I really don't consider money to be my first priority anymore.

Which brings me to my final point: Living in Russia is an experience in and of itself - turbulent, hectic, & contradictory. Remember ... this is a country still in the midst of dramatic social & economic change - a mere child in the world of democratic, industrialized nations. The Cold War legacy ... and 70+ years of communist 'do-what-the-State-tells-you-to-do' kind of mentality ... are slowly dying. In their place, a vibrant new country is being born. To be here while this is happening is pretty cool.

It's a bit like watching a raging forest fire consume everything in its path - leaving behind little more than ash ... and the seeds of new growth. Since the chaotic early 90ies, those seeds have spawned a new generation of young Russians - free to live out their dreams. To be less poetic and more to the point: The old Soviet infrastructure is crumbling to pieces, and the communists who built it are slowly but surely being replaced by a new breed of free-thinking, modern democrats. Progress is slow, but there is progress.

If you're up for an adventure, don't feel too threatened by the negative media-hype about Russia. Just be aware that this is certainly not the best country in the EFL world to be planning for your early retirement.

In other words --- you won't get rich here, but you'll walk away with some great stories to tell your grand kids. Razz

Best wishes,


Last edited by Kent F. Kruhoeffer on Tue Nov 11, 2003 8:52 am; edited 5 times in total
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Joined: 05 Jun 2003
Posts: 75

PostPosted: Sun Nov 09, 2003 1:47 pm    Post subject: Back again? Reply with quote

Whats this Rogan? Coming back for more? This place could get a bit addictive I spose. Ive only done 3 months but I already have enough for the first book
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Joined: 24 Mar 2003
Posts: 107

PostPosted: Sun Nov 09, 2003 2:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Guys,
It's great that we have such optimistic people on this forum. I have really appreciated your comments about the good things about Russia. I know it's hard to maintain enthusiasm when all around you is negative, but these comments have helped.
I suppose the fact that everyone says about 'living in Russia is an experience in itself' is something that gets me interested. As for being around the block?? Well, this is my second year of teaching, and I've been in Poland all my career so far. Money certainly is not a priority for me, but saying that, I do expect to have enough to at least live on, and be able to socialise a bit too Laughing
I wouldn't like to go to Moscow or St. Pete, somewhere smaller. Kent, do you mind if I send you a private message soon, about Samara??
Ok, that's all for now.
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Kent F. Kruhoeffer

Joined: 22 Jan 2003
Posts: 2129
Location: 中国

PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2003 6:36 am    Post subject: fire away Reply with quote

Dear Ibasiram:

Of course you can send me a private message any time.

On the other hand - if you have general questions about schools and/or life in Samara, you might want to consider starting a new thread. There are quite a few posters here on Dave's who could contribute to that topic.

After Moscow & St. Petersburg, Samara may actually be the 3rd most popular EFL destination in Russia these days.

Have a good week, y'all. Mr. Green

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Volga Boatman

Joined: 15 Nov 2003
Posts: 2
Location: London

PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2003 1:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I taught in Moscow for a year and in Volgograd for two and I agree with pretty much all the comments in this thread. Russia certainly has a fearsome reputation in the West but much of it flows from media exaggeration.

In my experience there are dangers in Russia but if you don't seek them out you should be OK. The only trouble that I had was when my friend and I were robbed by a large group of street children in St. Petersburg. The incident wasn't so bad but at the time we felt ashamed that two fully grown men had had this done to them by a bunch of kids!

My feeling is that there is a lot of violence in Russia (especially in the provinces) which is mainly alcohol fuelled. In Volgograd I witnessed a couple of examples of this. The worse of the two was when two groups of drunken youths who were drinking in the bar that I was in clashed on the street outside resulting in one guy being stabbed in the stomach. A horrific incident certainly but one that a prudent TEFL teacher can avoid. Steer clear of really drunk thuggish Russian guys (common sense really).

As regards the militia they can be a nuisance especially in Moscow and StP where there are a lot of them. If you have a swarthy or Mediterranean complexion you are likely to be stopped quite regularly. They also try to extract bribes from naive foreigners. However, if you are carrying your documents and haven't actually done anything wrong there's not much they can do to you. In provincial Russia the militia aren't such a problem and there don't seem to be that many of them around.

Not everyone enjoys living and working in Russia but I had a wonderful time and miss the place terribly. I would whole-heartedly recommend it to those with a pre-existing interest in Russia or those who seek adventure.
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Joined: 10 Jan 2003
Posts: 15299

PostPosted: Thu Jan 22, 2004 5:26 am    Post subject: comparisons Reply with quote

For anyone who has experienced Saturday night in an urban area of Britain, Russia is a model of peace and tranquility.
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Joined: 29 Jun 2003
Posts: 719
Location: China

PostPosted: Fri Jan 23, 2004 11:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, Kent really said it all. Sad to see you go, friend (well never met you but y'know Smile )
And to scot: I second that emotion!

.. It's not their fault they go to Maidenhead
And talk of sports and makes of cars,
In various bogus tudor bars
And dare not look up to see the stars
But belch instead

or whatever it was

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Kent F. Kruhoeffer

Joined: 22 Jan 2003
Posts: 2129
Location: 中国

PostPosted: Fri Jan 23, 2004 1:04 pm    Post subject: Spasibo, waxwing! Reply with quote

Privyet waxwing et al:

Greetings from Sheremetyevo 2. Very Happy

Yep ... I'm sitting in the 5th floor restaurant, surfing up a storm on the broadband line here, waiting for my flight to Bangkok this evening ... thinking about all the good times I've had here in Russia over the past 3 years. And all the cold showers. Razz

I'm leaving, but I'm not gone. I'll check in now and then to see who's doing what to whom. And The Master Index will live on --- my small contribution to the Russia Forum, and to all of you.

Take care people --- Paka!

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Buck Turgidson

Joined: 29 Jan 2003
Posts: 96

PostPosted: Fri Jan 23, 2004 2:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


Your contribution to this board has been crucial. Thanks for your efforts Very Happy Now maybe you will do for the Thailand board what you did for this board!

Good luck!

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Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1369
Location: Sagamihara

PostPosted: Sat Jan 24, 2004 2:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I did a year in Irkutsk over five years ago.

The locals hated the police and called them garbage.

The mafia made money by providing "protection". If you had a store and didn`t pay up, it was torched. I saw one or two torched stores.

One evening, one British student (from Cambridge) was about to be mugged in front of Irkutsk State Technical University so he ran away, in the direction of cops who prevented any wrongdoing. The problem was that the paperwork took so long. The Englishman waited a few hours but said he had to go and get some sleep. At that point it was after 1:00 in the morning.

I heard of a pregnant Mongolian woman being stabbed to death near my obshaga, as a way of getting back at her husband. It was a mafia related killing. To murder a pregnant woman has to be (in my mind) about the most evil of crimes.

But I never had any problems. And it was a good experience being there.
It is kind of sad so many Russians want to leave.
Russia has so many smart people but such a bad government.

Believe it or not I am colder here in the Tokyo area this time of year than I was in Siberia. My apartment, like many in Japan, has no insulation. I was in the bathroom last night, and I could see my own breath.

A couple museums in Irkutsk were interesting. It was in Irkutsk that explorers started treks that led them to Alaska and California and Hawaii as well.
The historical museum has information about the native peoples. The natives had teepees just like Native Americans.
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Joined: 24 Mar 2003
Posts: 107

PostPosted: Sun Jan 25, 2004 12:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi again,
So Kent, you're now off to Thailand - after 3 years in Russia. Best of luck in your new job there, and I hope it goes well for you. We all really appreciated your comments here. They were really useful. Thanks.

Well, guys, I see that this post seems to have started up again. I've kind of gone off the Russian idea and thinking about the Baltics instead, maybe Estonia where I'm off on holidays in a few weeks.
russia's allegedly dangerous reputation has not put me off, I've just changed my mind, but who knows, I might change it again soon Confused we'll see.
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