Robin: You Say Potato, I Say Vodka
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Moscow, etc.
I am Robin Smith and I am 29 years old. I am from Tampa, Florida, USA. In Tampa I did radio advertising sale for a cluster of 8 successful Clear Channel Radio Stations. In Moscow, I am a full time Governess. My husband and I moved to Moscow 2 years ago to further his career and dream of living abroad. Previous to moving to Russia and excluding a short study abroad in Spain, I had never lived outside of Florida. What an adventure it has been.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I decided to start blogging about my experiences before I moved, but I didn’t find the motivation to actually start blogging until about 4 months after we moved. I wanted an outlet to share all of the ridiculous, frustrating, and mostly funny things that were happening to me.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Some of my favorite blog entries I have done are:
- Greekz N Da Hood (about my trip to Greece)
- Nudity with Coworkers…not just for strippers anymore (about my experience going to a Russian Banya)
- I Stepped on A Dead Sparrow (about a night out at home)
Tell us about the ways your new life in Moscow differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
My life is completely different than it was at home in Florida. Besides the weather, which is polar opposite. Literally POLAR. Everything has changed for me. For most expats, their careers stay the same when they move abroad, which I think offers an identity continuity. For me, since I moved for my husband’s career, and put mine on pause, I am going through an identity search at 29 years old. I hadn’t realized, until we moved, how much of my identity was tied to my 7 year career in radio. It is good to be able to have the time not to figure out who I am not in relation to my job, or my culture, but just as a person, regardless of circumstance.
I had big troubles adjusting to moving. I am an ardent home cook, and the grocery stores here, did and do still throw me for a loop. I sometimes need to go to 4 different stores and just hope that I can find what I am looking for. Sometimes I end up with Kefir instead of milk (although that hasn’t happened for a while) Sometimes I get questioned by security guards when I am standing in an aisle too long trying to figure out which box is oatmeal.
This life is drastically different than my life at home, but I love the challenge and newness that every day brings.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Moscow? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I absolutely was not prepared for what awaited me here. I packed like I was skipping off to Girl Scout Camp. My husband’s job offered us a free shipping container for our personal household items, however, with visions of a tiny European apartment, I packed basically my clothes, some bedding, and that was it. I didn’t even pack my dishes. What was I thinking? No clue. So I have been living using a modge podge of randomly acquired plates for the past two years, and have finally resigned to buy a new set of dishes and bring them back from the states with me next time I go, and move on with my life. No one is going to give you a badge for making your life more uncomfortable than it needs to be.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
With a previous Governess job I had, I had a professional driver, employed by the family I worked for to ferry me to and from their house. The driver spoke no English other than to occasionally yell “RUSSIA…AMERICA…” and clasp his hands together. His only other form of communication with me was to yell out “OZZY OSBOURNE!!” when I was leaving the car. One night, when he came to pick me up and drive me home, in the family’s Maybach, he was ridiculously drunk, even by Russian standards. I did not feel like an argument or being stranded, but I also knew I was not getting driven by this drunkard. So I cajoled him into giving me the keys. So my first experience driving on the notoriously crazy streets of Moscow Russia, was driving a Maybach, with a professional drunk driver in the passenger seat, while blaring AC/DC.
That rarely ever happened in Florida.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Moscow?
- Try to contact as many expats living in Russia as possible before leaving. Use Facebook, Internations, Expat.ru or any other expat site you can find to try to make contacts. I would encourage anyone to ask as many questions as possible, until they are clear about what they are moving into. Do not be embarrassed by your questions, or let someone else try to make you feel embarrassed. No question is dumb when you’re thinking about moving 5,000 miles from home.
- Buy a SAD lamp on Amazon.com before you come, and stock up on Vitamin D supplements. The Darkness with get you more than you realize.
- You absolutely need a hardshell parka for the winter.
How is the expat community in Moscow? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community in Russia is difficult. I have nothing to personally compare it to, but talking to other expats who have lived elsewhere it is difficult in comparison. English is not common among the Russians, so unless you speak Russian, you are relegated to only expats.
How would you summarize your expat life in Moscow in a single, catchy sentence?
Living in Russia has made me a master of Charades.