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Observations from an American who lives in Russia when he visited America again.

I have just returned from my annual sojourn to America recently; Texas and California to be exact.

This might have been the first time I had ever been to Texas and not see someone wearing a cowboy hat. Amazing, since I spent 10 days there (14 days in Cali). Equally amazing was not seeing any police, or very, very few in both places.

Nobody shot at me either. Always welcomed.

Nothing really has changed much, but it being an election year, one could sense a palatable shift in the mood of the country; interesting to witness I must say. Living outside one’s country for years will change your perspective and give you a certain vantage point that is quite different obviously, than from someone who hasn’t experienced this. That is assuming that one can stay objective.

One major paradigm shift for me over the years living in Moscow has been to not look at things as good or bad but different.

People are people. Living in Moscow is not that different, all things considered, than living in LA. Cultural attitudes aside, I get up, go to work, meet with friends, enjoy life, deal with problems etc. much like I did in LA.

America is a great country, let’s not kid ourselves. I always have a good time there and the people are generally nice and polite. Stereotypes are blown way out of proportion, so it’s quite easy for non- Americans to take pot shots at the country and its people as if the same assholes don’t exist in their country in some form or another.

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”.

The government takes a lot of heat, and rightfully so. Now it’s time for the American government to change its paradigm and start to work along side countries they have had dubious or mediocre relations in the past. Doesn’t mean putting up with another country’s crap, but not starting any crap of your own as well. Nevertheless, it’s time to stop the do as I say or else nonsense.

It will be interesting to see who is elected President in the U.S.. The U.S. military industrial complex needs to dial it back, that’s for sure.

One thing that was blatantly obvious while I was in America is how the cost of living has gone up in relation to Russia, and Moscow in particular. I didn’t buy half the stuff I normally do to bring back, because quite frankly it cost more in America than Russia taking the exchange rate into consideration. Yikes, what a surprise.

Moscow, normally a perennial among the top 10 most expensive cities in the world now sits at 192. New York City, San Fransisco and Washington D.C. have all cracked the top 10. I don’t think there has been a time in the last 20 years that 3 American cities have been in the top 10. Honolulu, San Jose, Boston, Oakland, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Chicago all are in the top 30. This really has to be a first since I’ve been tracking this (since I moved to Moscow) that I have seen so many American cities rank that high.

https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/index

I believe the worst is over here in Russia; I’m 99% sure of it. It’s also a good time for any Westerner to visit given the exchange rate. Oil is at least moving in a positive direction for the country and the country has improved other sectors.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Western businessmen, dignitaries, and diplomats attend this year’s annual ST. Petersburg International Economic Forum after a 2-year absence. It’s quite apparent EU businesses see the Russian economy coming out of a slump and are as Putin says “chomping at the bit” to do business in Russia again. Of course they are.

These sanctions are bullshit and everyone knows this. Sanctions rarely if ever achieve their desired goals and these sanctions have taken a toll on Europe as well. Part of what the sanctions accomplished was to push the Russian’s back against the wall and force them to finally do something productive within the country. Agriculture continues to produce positive results and I see and feel it at check out counter.

America again it seems, have underestimated things with short-sighted policies.

The demise of Russia economically has been greatly exaggerated by the West. There is still a long way to go to get to the boom years of 2000-2007 and recovery is slow to be sure. As with any recession, some people suffer more than others.

Concurrently, it’s good to see Russia reach out to the West as they have done recently. Russia understands its need for the West to ensure a better future for its people. But, it must be done cooperatively, not aggressively or underhanded. I think business between Europe and Russia will start to increase sanctions or not; it’s only a matter of time.

Life is good in Moscow. Certainly not any worse than in most cities/countries. Summertime is an awesome time to be here and things are looking up. You never know about the future, but it seems there are some rays of sunshine peeking through the clouds of 2014.

My prediction is to look for Russia to show true sighs of recovery into 2017 as oil hits $60-70 with relations and business ties improving between the West and Russia.

Danchik Continue reading

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The Realities of Expat Living in Moscow 2016

Let’s break down some metrics:

I live in a 2-room flat less than a 10-minute car ride to the city center (Prospect Mira for those of you who know the area).

It’s Western renovated and ran about $1330 (40k rubles) before the ruble devalued. Concurrently, most apartments in Moscow have either kept the same rental price, or have actually decreased in price in order to find tenants.

So, while someone’s income has decreased because of the exchange rate in dollar terms, so has relative housing cost; over $8k a year in my case (roughly $675 a month). That 40k includes gas, electricity, landline, cableTV/internet, trash, water and my Tajik Concierge. Great guy, and very helpful.

If I were to go back and live in a comparable flat in Los Angeles, the same cost would double, minimum.

I would also have to buy a car, so we’d be talking conservatively about another $600 for car payments, gas, insurance and maintenance for an average $20K ride. My transportation costs average about $150 a month (metro, taxis, g/f’s car, etc.).

The next biggest expense is of course food. I spend at most 1000 rubles a day. I really can’t see spending more than this, and 1000 could probably be chopped in half if push comes to shove. But for the sake of argument, let’s double it to 2000 and use this for reference.

Housing, utilities cable and WiFi internet – 40000

Transportation – 10000. Remember I’m an expat and don’t need a car here.

Food – 60000, and believe me that is an ambitious sum, more like 30-40000 at most, but again for the sake of reference. We’ll use 60k to include entertainment such as eating out, movies, theatre, etc., and a daily 300 ruble Starbuck mocha that I could easily do without, etc. This factors in a 35% rise in food costs during the devaluation period.

Restaurants/cafes prices have only increased about 5-10% during this time; closer to 5% all things considered.

Pretty much covers about everything and we’re looking at 106,000 rubles.

Now I understand that it would be nice if you could still stash away about $3k a month, but times they do change. And if you were someone who hasn’t saved for a rainy day (time), then that’s on you.

Nevertheless, that leaves us with 94000 rubles and that is still close to $1500; not bad all things considered.

If you think that things will not improve, or that your time back in the States will be better, I say don’t let the customs agent kick you in the ass on your way out. And good luck with those American women.

All I know is, given the situation, there’s no way I’m heading back, and really, why would I? Simply put, I have a wonderful life here, despite all the oppression I [don’t] feel from Putin.

Contrary to popular belief, life is good here. And it’s especially good if you’re lucky enough to be making 200k rubles a month. 98% of the working population in Moscow would love to make that kind of money. And if you’re one of the very fortunate expats to be making 200k a month or more, then count your blessings. Continue reading

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