What is it like to live and work in Russia in 2018?

An intercultural seminar on specifics of living and working in Russia was held by Dr. Mira Bergelson, a Professor of Linguistics, on September 25th at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow for internationally recruited faculty members.

The seminar evoked a vivid discussion and reflections of international and local faculty on Russian system of education, cultural differences at a workplace, social etiquette and academic communication style. Many of the participants shared how they see their presence at HSE and how often for academics personal representation is tied more closely to a specific research area or faculty rather than a country.

Dr. Bergelson skillfully provided a social and historical context for many specifics of ‘typically Russian’ behavior. For instance, a smile directed at a stranger in Russia is considered by many as a violation of personal space –  that is why they are rare, and not because people are being unfriendly.

The experiences shared by faculty members from eight different countries led to further discussion of strategies for “surviving” and enjoying Russia and Russians. Assistant Professor at School of Psychology Marie Arsalidou presented her experience in adapting to life in Moscow and suggested her colleagues to use every opportunity to talk to more people. For instance, if you cannot find English speaking staff in customer service at a post office or a bank, do not give up and try to look for another branch where you will get assistance.

It was mentioned that one of the ways to cope with a notorious culture shock (which should be taken into account) caused by settling in a new country and city, especially given the approach of the cold winter, is to create a warm and cozy atmosphere at home, (re)establish routines and find other ways to recharge your personal “batteries”. 

 It is up to each of us to decide whether the experience of intercultural communication would be a threat or an opportunity, and we have the power to make them positive and interesting experiences.

If you wish to share your experience of Moscow, Saint Petersburg, or Russia in general and HSE in particular, please join the International faculty group on Facebook. There is an active discussion thread where you can mark your favorite restaurants, theatres, places of interest, institutions, banks, hobby clubs, events on a map and share the experience with colleagues.