Tag Archives: russian world

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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What Next After the Neocon Rape of Ukraine?

Ukraine is a disaster, a bankrupt nation run by crooks and hoodlums, in hock to another set of villains in the EU. It’s little reported in the West, but now there are major ructions in the West of the country. The problem is Right Sector, which is basically a private army of Nazis who wield crippling power, attended by gangsterism, racketeering and violence. It was they who were in the vanguard of ousting Yanukovich in 2014 (a legally elected president), and now Right Sector is pushing to eject the current band of knaves and cutthroats holding court in Kiev. It’s a real comedy of errors, except there is nothing much to laugh about. Any country that has a private army rampaging about is in for big trouble. If you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas, as the saying goes. Poroshenko and his ilk could well find themselves dragged out into the streets and shot without so much as a by your leave. Mr Poroshenko, an oligarch with a somewhat dubious and shady past, had better have his private jet standing by for a quick getaway.

However, it might then be shot down and doubtless the blame would be laid on another ‘Putin’s missile’ (headline courtesy of that bastion of balanced journalism – the Sun). In case you were unaware, according to the Sun it was ‘Putin’s missile’ that shot down flight MH17 last July over Ukraine!

The West has encouraged and in fact orchestrated the mayhem and madness in Ukraine. Millions of dollars were pumped in to fund NGOs, whose ulterior motive was to bring about regime change and create chaos on Russia’s borders. And for their henchman they selected or at least condoned Nazi thugs such as Right Sector to do the dirty work. I find it ironic and sad in the extreme that our fathers and grandfathers fought a long and bitter WWII to rid the world of Nazism (helped out a great deal by Russia who lost something like 25 million souls in the effort), while today the West is turning a blind eye to its menace in Ukraine. And all in a sick and twisted geopolitical game.

The good news is that NATO has blown Mission Ukraine. Despite all the sanctions and hoo-ha, it’s hard to lend credence to the assertion that Russia is a threat and has designs on sweeping west to cut a red swathe through the heartlands of Europe. Nobody is really buying that particular brand of baloney. ‘The Russians are coming’ was always a rather empty and silly jest, anyway. On the other hand, NATO has swept east, despite the promise of Bush Sr to the Russians in the early 90s that they wouldn’t. For heaven’s sake, Russia is the biggest country in the world; it doesn’t need to go rampaging about like a bear in a glass factory.

The Baltic States and their pathetic whining about the ‘Russian threat’ are frankly a laughing stock. NATO generals and Western politicians maunder on about this ad nauseam too, but anyone with half a brain should be able to shred this tissue of lies into fragments and see it for what it is: a desperate and ill-judged move to demonize and ultimately unseat Putin in the old game of let’s change the regime. Judging by opinion polls in Russia, the plan has backfired spectacularly. An overwhelming majority of the population approves of Vladimir Putin, and the chances of ousting him appear about as likely as installing a Communist Commander-in-Chief in the White House. Incidentally, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, enjoys similar popularity at home. Continue reading

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More on Russia, The Rouble, Sanctions & Gas.

Putin isn’t dumb. This will level out soon enough. And if he starts to play hardball, watch American big business that wants a bit of 140m consumers pressure the US government to shut up. Finland is already begging the EU for money, Polish farmers are watching piles of apples rot and Warsaw isn’t paying their bills.

One cold winter with reduced Russian gas will soon make Europe wonder who its friends are.

Putin only has to wait. Europe will eschew America and come to him. Rightly so. America has no business meddling in Europe.

Thousands died needlessly in Ukraine because of American meddling. Same as in Iraq/Syria now and any other place far from America where America is the common denominator. People are slowly waking up to the worlds most prolific terrorist state. Continue reading

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Russia blocks alcohol imports from Ukraine

Russia suspends alcohol imports from Ukraine – consumer rights watchdog

Russia has decided to suspend alcohol imports from Ukraine on August 15. On Wednesday the consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said there had been a number of breaches in consumer legislation.

The restrictions apply to beer produced by Obolon and SUN Inbev Ukraine, and alcohol from the Ukrainian Distribution Company.

“When scrutinizing imports of vodka, beer and other beverages from Ukraine a number of breaches in consumer protection legislation were discovered,” the watchdog’s statement said.

Rospotrebnadzor said Ukrainian beer doesn’t meet the nutritional value written on the bottles, and its branding broke the rules as it doesn’t have the right alcohol content.

The watchdog cited “numerous violations of the law on protection of consumer rights” as the reason.

Rospotrebnadzor added that the state monitoring of alimentary goods, in particular of vodka and beer, found numerous violations of consumer rights.

Following WTO rules, the information has been sent to the relevant body, the Federal Customs Service and to offices of Rospotrebnadzor across the Russian Federation.

Earlier this month, the watchdog found dangerous substances in Bourbon, a US-made whiskey.

According to the sanitary authority, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey produced by Barton 1792 Distillery Company did not comply with Customs Union technical regulations, although the whiskey label has the Eurasian Conformity, or EAC, mark, used for products on Customs Union member state markets, on it.

Falsified products were found in supplies from Germany, the Czech Republic and France.

On July 29 the watchdog banned the import of Ukrainian fruit and vegetables and canned fish claiming they also broke consumer legislation.

Join the discussion on Russian/Ukrainian sanctions using the comment box below or you can also join in the conversation about the retaliatory sanctions Russia placed on imports on the >>Russian Forums<<. Continue reading

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Russia’s Cunning Plan on Sanctions, Europe and the US.

The Russian President Vladimir Putin has implemented a cunning plan in relation to Europe and their sanctions on Russia. I call it “Right back at ya – watch this!”

“Russia is finished! Sanctions from Obama and the European Union will finished the Russian economy and now it will become the poorest country in the world! Russia can not do anything to answer the West! We will all die”

So love to scream those who do not know about Putin’s cunning plan.

Europeans believed that Russia does not respond to sanctions; but Russia has. The EU will soon feel the pain as they now know that they will lose at least 12 billion euros by being Washington’s puppet.

Putin has decided to act on the principle “I will beat gently, but firmly.” The effects wont take long to be seen.

European politicians have expressed “surprise”, “confusion”, “misunderstanding” and the hope that we can somehow “get out of the logic of sanctions.”

For the European Union, Russia is a key market. The EU’s share in the Russian food imports was 42%, and for the EU, Russia was the largest consumer, after the United States.

It is significant that the European politicians console themselves in the fact that sanctions are only imposed for a year, but the Russian market can be lost forever. Therefore, the damage from the “sanctions” Putin has retaliated with will be long-term.

In addition to the direct economic effect, the Russian sanctions will create permanent political problems. It turns out that Putin has – as Russians say – generously laid out a whole constellation of buttons on the chair – and the European Union will soon think twice about imposing sanctions on Russia.

The fact is that now all the affected countries will require from the European Commission compensation for loss, and the European Commission has to then find an extra 12 billion euros a year – and it can’t.

Finland is asking already for money: Finland is worried it will slip into another economic crisis due to the fact that Russia introduced sanctions against it. The Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb said, “There is the potential that it will be the economic crisis number two,” at a press conference yesterday. It’s funny that the Finnish politician immediately demanded compensation from the European Union: “It is absolutely clear. If sanctions hit Finland disproportionately, we will try to get help from our partners in the EU. he said”

With a flick of the wrist, Putin has turned a few EU countries into clones of Ukraine. They will now also lose money just for the fact that they hate Russia (or believe they should). For Ukraine, this disease has already ended badly, but Finland and other countries will be cured of it quickly.

The treatment with be with the favorite German medicine – budget austerity policy, better known as the “healing by starvation.”

Another headache for the EU is the need to somehow arrest the indirect consequences of Russian sanctions. For example, farmers are unable to repay part of the loans that they have secured via export contracts in Russia.

Some manufacturers will not be able to pay subcontractors, some will have to lay off workers – it’s creating problems; the solution of which requires money. And the most annoying is the fact that it is now or will need to accept the fact that the export potential of the EU is diminished. 10% or so is the food consumed in Russia from European exports. The EU will have to increase subsidies to European producers, so they have a chance in other markets.

The level of subsidies in the EU amounts to 30% already, and to increase it will be very expensive, and the WTO rules will not allow this. For some countries, even the increase in grants won’t help.

For example, the Minister of Agriculture of Poland has already admitted that to replace the Russian market will be extremely difficult. The Europeans do not even have options to respond in kind, because Russia does not export food to Europe.

Russia is a major exporter of grain, but does not sell it in the EU.

With the exception of certain premium goods like French wine, Italian ham and certain cheeses, all food exports from Europe are easily replaced by exports from other countries, or Russian production.

It turns out that for Russia, there is potential for growth of its own production, while for the EU losing money is guaranteed.

There is something to think about. Assessing the long-term problems that arise from the first Russian sanctions, EU bureaucrats are likely to come to the conclusion that it is much more profitable ignore Ukraine and forget about the situation there. It is very possible that such thoughts have already dawned on EU leaders.

Just a few hours after the administration of Russian sanctions, news feeds carried this message:

“We want to overcome the logic of sanctions, we want to sit down with the Russian to the table to jointly discuss further ways of development of Ukraine”, – said the spokesman of the European Commission in Germany, Austrian Richard Kuehnel, RIA “Novosti” with reference to Deutsche Welle.
Russia offered this at the beginning, but, apparently, the Europeans needed a demonstration of political will and proof that Russia can inflict pain, without even touching the gas valve.

They got the proof, and in a rather offensive manner.

One has to be very naive to believe that the Europeans would agree to suffer economic losses for Ukraine. As can be seen from the statement by Kuehnel, they can not even tolerate a couple of weeks in order to “save face” and at least pretend that they care about the problems of Ukrainians more than the problems of their own farmers.

It is possible that we will have to watch the show and it will become quite funny. Washington will put pressure on the European Union and demand the preservation and strengthening of the sanctions, or the European Union will require compensation from the United States.

Extra money, the Americans do not have now they are bombing Iraq again, and so they may be forced to run the printing presses (“quantitative easing”) this autumn for fear of completely undermining the economy.

The most likely scenario is the US and the EU will organise some kind of scheme that could pass for a “diplomatic solution to the issue”, allowing Europeans to wear the halo as peacekeepers.

Russian sanctions have freed the EU from its default feeling of invulnerability and exclusivity.

Understanding that the loss of good relations with Russia is an unaffordable luxury, will greatly help the EU to build a better relationship with Russia, in spite of pressure from Washington. Continue reading

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What is the real story with Ukraine, Russia, the EU and America?

What is the real story with Ukraine, Russia, the EU and America?

Anyone who reads Western media might feel that they have a handle on what is going on in Ukraine.

You have been misled by the Western media to hold one, and only one view: There is ‘terrorism’ perpetrated by ‘pro-Russian separatists’, armed by Russia, and Vladimir Putin is the main culprit. Especially with flight MH17.

End of story. Anyone who believes differently is a Russian propaganda merchant.

Vladimir Putin is the evil bogeyman (white cat optional). America wants to spread democracy across the world. The EU wants to ‘help’ Ukraine, etc.

The British newspapers are rather good at fooling you in this regard. Look at the headlines.

Anti-Russian propaganda

Yeah, not so much……..

Want the real story with Ukraine? Here it is. This is the big picture that very few in the media will tell you.

America together with the EU sought to bring Ukraine into their orbit. There were many ultimate aims to this, but one was the missile defence shield and NATO creeping ever closer to Russia, and that would have ultimately led to Russia being evicted from Crimea.

By doing so, Russia’s military capability would be decreased and Russia would be hemmed in. This can be seen as America trying to cut off Russia’s balls. Not gonna happen. Putin isn’t that dumb.

The ultimate aim of America, and maybe the EU, is to unseat Putin, as they would seek to unseat anybody that goes against the New World Order (for want of a better phrase – others might call it American world domination).

America is well known to fund regime changes. They tried it in Moscow, it was slapped down quickly. This time it worked in Ukraine. The elected president was ousted for not agreeing with the US/EU. Pliable US puppets (ie the junta) were installed in his place.

At this point is where the innocent people of Ukraine start to suffer, because the decisions from that point lie not with them. By now, elections are useless; elections will say whatever the puppet master makes them say, as will the media. At that point Ukraine became a chess board where the EU and the US together against Russia play for power and influence in what is a geographically important spot.

Interspersed with this is some local oligarchs, would-be politicians and others with their own interests all seeking to position themselves in a place where they can earn a slew of cash when this has played out. At this point, nobody is fighting on behalf of the people, but the duped people feel they are fighting for something. In this case EU membership and ultimately a better life.

They can wave EU flags all they like, EU membership is a very, very long way off for these people. Just that nobody told them. The people are victims. Their home is a battleground for foreign powers. Ukraine and its people dont get much of a say beyond this point. The future is pretty much out of their hands.

Once the dice are thrown, the game has to play out. This is what we have seen since Maidan. Russia moved quickly to secure Crimea so it doesn’t lose its naval port, then it needs land access to it, cheaper and faster than a bridge from Kerch.

The logical next thing to do is to encourage the eastern regions to break away; Russia supports that and the new puppet masters support the western regions remaining um…. independent. But that isn’t enough for the new Western overlords, so they support Ukraine keeping the east too – gotta try to castrate Putin. In so doing, it turns the people of Ukraine on each other, and many civilians die.

Even American politicians are not dumb enough to start WW3 by taking Russia on in a full frontal attack, so as usual, they do it by covert means, sly funding, and of course silly sanctions to punish Russia for daring to express an opinion about what goes on in its backyard.

The same political machine that made America insolvent seeks to do the same to Russia. But that is slowly backfiring. Russia will fight back with its own sanctions, and nobody will win the sanction game.

The end game is still up for grabs. It may be the separatists in the east are thwarted in the short term. But if so, I suspect that wont be the end of it. They will come back.

As for flight MH17, there is strong evidence that Ukraine shot that plane down. The hope might have been that it crashed in Russia, the west could blame Putin, call him a war criminal, and that would have been a game changer. But it crashed in Ukraine. Russia is holding intelligence on this. Unlike America, it didn’t get it from Youtube and Twitter.
So what of the Ukrainian people? I feel most of them are unfortunate victims of a power struggle; a power struggle that was started by an expansionist America/NATO and the country-gobbling EU seeking to push their influence right up to Russia’s borders in any place they can.

Few in the Western media get it. Or those that do won’t write it. One that will write it and DOES get it is Peter Hitchens. Read his blog >>here<<. Others in the western media are slowly catching on too, as these articles show: The Huffington Post: >>Let Eastern Ukraine Go<< The Washington Post: >>Why the sanctions against Russia probably won’t work<< Russia has the backing of China, much of Asia and many Muslim countries. The United States hasn't quite got the hang of world domination yet. Don't be a sheeple. Learn that western controlled media on the whole, can no longer be trusted to tell the truth. Continue reading

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2013 Musings from Togliatti, Russia: Cost of Living, Money and Finances

People have said for a long time that to replicate a western lifestyle in Russia costs more than at home. And it does.

When you subtract the stuff that is laughably cheap, what remains is way overpriced. But its true that if you just go about your day, have lunch somewhere, take a few taxis, have dinner somewhere, buy a few provisions from a grocery store, maybe take a boat trip or do something each day, you will be surprised how the money just drains from your wallet.

Those prices quoted above by mhr7 for Ukraine are how it used to be in Estonia. Then they joined the EU and everything shot up almost overnight.

In Russia, if you look at locals, many of them are tooling around in BMW, Audi and other imported cars. Those cars cost almost twice in Russia than they do at home. And we know few will be on finance. That means the bloke in the BMW jeep likely coughed up close to £50k for that car. Well, he isn’t on £200 a month is he? Local oligarch perhaps? Five years ago you saw the odd one and you may think so. Now go to a decent restaurant or the yacht club and these cars are lined up outside.

We took a boat trip for a couple of hours down the Volga. Tickets were maybe £5 each. The guy ahead of us brought three pals, a big pizza and crate of beer so he and his buddies could chill out. So tickets £20, pizza and beer maybe another £15. So this average bloke spent £35 for a two hour chill with his pals. So he isn’t on £200 a month either.

I would recommend any visitor budgets for £100 a day, excluding accommodation. And have a back up card in case he runs out.

Anyone who can live in Russia on £200 a month rides the bus, shops in the cheap market and eats only home cooked cabbage and potatoes. Whilst many do live like that, what I guess we can call the middle class is growing quickly and noticeably. People are buying the new houses as they are built, people are buying new cars, both local ones and imported ones. People are dining out more. People are remonting their dachas. People are holidaying abroad. People are spending money, so that money is coming from somewhere.

The only explanation is that the economy is starting to work as it should. Government is spending money on improving infrastructure. That money eventually filters down the food chain to the baker, the butcher and the candlestick maker. Continue reading

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2013 Musings from Togliatti: Taxis and getting around in Russia.

Getting around.

When I first went to Togliatti, when you wanted a taxi, you just stood by the road with your hand out and someone would stop. Negotiate a price before you get in and job done.

It always used to concern me the thought that any weirdo could stop and pick up women, and anything might happen. And indeed, sometimes it has done from what I have heard.

Happily, this practice seems to have mostly stopped. Now like anywhere else, you call a taxi, and a few minutes later you get an SMS that tells you what car it will be and how many minutes. Quite efficient really. Prices are really cheap still, anything between £2 and £4 takes you across town.

However, the quality of the said taxis, and the drivers, still leaves much to be desired. Most seem to be the crappiest old Ladas and other budget rubbish available. The quality of repair is terrible. Blowing exhausts, clunking suspension, dodgy brakes, etc. Interiors are generally filthy and the drivers personal hygiene leaves much to be desired. Bloody awful all round.

After the first few days of this, and trying several different firms to find they are all the same, I began looking out for liveried taxis to take a number from. There are some. But again, it often is the case that you take a number from a smartly liveried car, and the usual plain smashed up Lada arrives with foul smelling Ivan at the wheel smoking a Parliament. Cunning trick.

In one of the restaurants we visited, there were some business cards that proclaimed their taxis were “new foreign cars”. But when you call, a foreign car will be an hour, and a smashed up one can be there in minutes. :chuckle:

I expressed concern that I didn’t want my wife and daughter travelling about in a piece of smashed up crap with no brakes, even if it is £2. There must be a proper firm out there somewhere.

My wife asked a girl she knows who she calls a “new Russian” and got a number of a firm called ‘Elite’: 702 702.

And guess what arrived? A brand new Chevrolet with aircon, with a rather fetching young lady driver! And she was a good driver too – which makes a change there. So that’s the taxi problem solved. :nod:

Not all drivers at that company are women, but the cars are generally better than most and the drivers are not smoking and juggling two mobile phones and a taxi radio whilst driving. As all the cars are liveried, they are image conscious one told my wife when asked. The price was just the same as a smashed up one. That wont last…..

For the hell of it, we took a trolleybus on a couple of occasions. These have not been updated yet and are still the creaking rattling relics of yesteryear. They are ridiculously cheap. Pennies.

I suspect the new liveried taxis are where local travel is heading, and the smashed up taxi will soon become a thing of the past. As soon as the local cops cotton on to the fact that taxis in bad condition are easy targets for fines, as are people on phones, I reckon they will be forced off the road in a changing Russia. Continue reading

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2013 Musings from Togliatti: Russia is Changing.

Usually when you get on the road, you get the gargling paraffin taste in your throat that is the pollution. It is normally so bad that I need some antibiotics after a few days to quell my swollen throat.

I wont say the air smelled like an English meadow in spring, but the paraffin taste has gone. This air tastes somewhat cleaner than it has always done in the past.

And the road. What is different there?

Ahh yes, the ruts are fewer, the potholes not as big and while not the M1 or a Floridian boulevard, the road surface is somewhat better than I remember.

The drive from Samara to Togliatti used to take about an hour. Now it is 40 minutes as the roads are better.

Repairing the roads in Samara and Togliatti will take decades. But it is well under way and the main routes are all in the midst of being resurfaced.

They haven’t yet started on the pavements; they are still the death trap they have always been. But roads matter more IMO. Anyway, fewer people are using the pavements as more seem to be driving.

I can only guess what has caused the pollution to lessen and that is more newer cars and vans on the road. Many of the old crappy vans and trucks are now gone, as are many of the 70’s and 80’s Ladas. In their place is American imported SUV’s and modern Ladas. Continue reading

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Samara KUF Russia Passport Control Problems

Samara Passport Control

I always found Moscow a bit of a pain to connect internally through (although I gather it has improved since I last went through there), and the flight is shorter from the UK to Frankfurt and from there to Samara. Plus the FRA-KUF route is served by Lufthansa and not Yuri Air so is usually on time and half decent. And being a German airline, the luggage usually arrives at the same time as me. Added to which, the UK to Frankfurt and then Samara is almost a straight line on the map. It only involves a 2 hour flight to Germany and a four hour one to Samara.

If you time it right, and are lucky, the connection time can be 40 minutes. I couldn’t get these times at all this time, so I had to wait a dreary six hours in Germany. Still, they had free wifi and I can manage Bratwurst and black coffee. And I bought a nice shirt at half off. I have schoolboy German so know pleasantries, numbers and basic transactional speak in German, so I can get by without looking like a dumb foreigner who must desperately seek out an English speaker.

And while we are in Germany, what’s with all the German guys with little oriental women suddenly? Its like an explosion. For a while I thought I was in Scandinavia by mistake. :chuckle: Not sure if they are Thai, Philippine, Korean or Chinese. Those ladies don’t look all that different to each other to my eye. But for sure, German men, like their Scandinavian cousins have gotten a taste of the oriental woman. To be fair, some of the women looked pretty good catches for the average square-looking badly dressed middle aged German guy. Some of those women have pretty good fashion sense and they seem to take care of themselves. Pity the same cannot be said of the men with them.

Samara has always been a drag to enter Russia through. One agency website a few years ago specifically and emphatically advised against it and said ONLY use Moscow and connect internally to avoid being rolled for a bribe or given a hard time there.

On my old topic from a few years ago, Olga recounted a would-be corruption tale here and they tried to roll my wife on a visit in recent times too. Only that she recognised the customs guy as an ex student of hers did she get out of it – the guy ended up carrying her bags to the car outside. :chuckle:

I have always found them to be slow but you get there in the end. The more old visas you have (and they look), the more they see you are not a newbie and let you by without grief. That has always been my experience anyway.

However, in 2008 it took an age to get in. But I got in.

But last time I went there was some sporting event going on. They had nice English speaking female staff out in the foyer helping foreigners, handing out pens and helping with immigration cards. At the time, I cited this as “changing Russia” and assumed the old days had gone.

Nope. Regression has occurred.

I had no pen. I always have a pen, but this time I didn’t. I needed to fill in my immigration card as they hadn’t given them out on the airline as usual. No problem, pens will be on the counter. Nope. No problem, I’ll borrow one…….

But nobody else seemed to have one either. I identified an American by sight (and non American travellers will know how I did that – ask if you want me to elaborate). He had the big fanny pack with pens. He gave me one. It didn’t work. 😀

Not to be defeated, I asked a passing customs guy. He had one in his hand but wouldn’t lend it me. (:)

So I wandered past the queue and asked a border guard. He had a pot of pens but said no. :duh:

So I went to the next cubicle, and that guy lent me one.

Then I noticed on the immigration card, one could choose between being a “Male” and a “Famale” – I mean my god, – on an official document? If they cant get basic stuff like that right, is there any hope? :'(

So eventually I arrived at the cubicle to find a very bored and angry looking woman. The usual Russian bureaucrat behind glass. I make a point never to understand a word of Russian in such circumstances unless it behoves me to do so. But I slipped up.

“Gavarit pa Rooskie?”
“Nyet” – shit. :'( “Ummm. I don’t understand?” :innocent:
Her: 😀

Then we have the usual five minutes of her reading all my old stamps and visas.

She then starts to write the usual War and Peace on her computer whilst intermittently intently staring at the screen. After a few minutes of this, I am thinking ‘Really, how long does it take?’ I am bored by now and say “problyema?” and quickly cough, and say again “is there a problem?” (Hours in Germany plus the flights had dulled my reactions and I was ready for sleep)

She says “Da, probleyma” and then something else garbled that I didn’t get about the issuing of my visa. Well, I know this gag, this is the old in a side room and invitation paperwork and $50-$100 gag I am being primed for. So I changed tack.

“Do you speak English?”
“Nyet” (Touche – well played, love.)
“I think you do. You must in your job. My visa was issued in London, I know there is no problem with it. However, I have people waiting outside to collect me, one of whom is a lawyer, I can call him and you can speak to him on my phone to clear up any misunderstandings if that helps?” (Complete bollox by the way, but worth a shot – and I cant do that sentence in Russian.)

Long delay with no eye contact……………..

Suddenly, feverish stamping happens. 🙂 (When the stamping starts, you know you are in and its done). She pushes my visa and half registration slip back at me and looks the other way without a word.

I take them and go to move through the gate. But it is still locked and the lights are still red. Silly game huh?

“Dyevooshka?” I said mischievously while pointing at the red lights. She does this face (:) together with a big dramatic sigh (like she had released it three times already but I was too stupid to walk).

“Welcome to Russia” I said back to her as I walked through the gate. I can feel a Tweet to Medvedev coming on…….

What do these people get out of this? Surely it takes less energy to not do all the sulking, sighing, delaying and just do your damn job! Check the visa and stamp it, What two minutes tops? Why should it take fifteen minutes and fifty overheated people behind you?

New Russia indeed………. Continue reading

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