First-Hand Perspective: "Moscow is not a city for life": The Pros and Cons of My Trip to Moscow
Updated: Mar 26, 2022
Our Program Coordinator recently visited Moscow in order to learn from the best professionals of event and community programming. In order to see what was possible, he explored the city, attended various community gatherings, and participated in a conference. Over the course of two weeks, Tim had many conversations and discovered many jewels that we are excited to begin implementing in South Siberia.
In his own words, Moscow was a great place to visit, but not necessarily a magical city like many believe. In order to succeed, regardless of where you are, people have to work hard.
Moscow, the capital of Russia, is the city from which the rest of the world derives its most familiar and iconic images of the country. Classic architecture, like the Kremlin and Saint Basil's Cathedral, stand in the city as monuments to its grandeur. The first time you visit, it is entirely likely you will be shocked by the city's beauty. However, living and working here are an entirely different matter.
The PROS of Living in Moscow
1. Moscow is a huge city with many opportunities to learn: institutes, colleges, schools, and professionals all offer many different courses. People can learn and earn!
However, it's not always easy to find a high paying job in the city. Salaries range from 25,000 to 100,000 rubles. Everyone at the top is a highly specialized professional with years of experience: programmers, 3D artists, directors, top managers of leading companies. Most people will take years to get to that level. Many who come to the city without a specialization and invitation to work take jobs in the service industry.
2. Excellent transportation due to the highly developed infrastructure. You can get to any part of Moscow by metro or bus within an hour. There are many things to see and places to visit, including shops, museums, sports clubs, cinemas, and ice rinks. In addition, there are many beautiful parks where residents of the city can relax—one is more beautiful than the next.
3. For visitors, the city center is full of incredible architectural marvels that rival those of Europe and the West. Stunning bridges, views of Red Square, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, the VDNH Metro Station, Victory Park, and amazing monasteries are enchanting to walk through. For residents of the city, this is the "real Moscow", and people come from the outskirts of the city to escape into the etherealness of what "real Moscow" offers.
4. More than ten million people live in Moscow, and among them, there are artists, scientists, and all-around fantastic individuals with incredible stories to tell. Excellent teachers from all over the world live and work in the city. People can meet many of these interesting and famous people at various exhibitions, including "Pristine Russia", where one can meet and listen to the best photographers.
5. The most highly rated restaurants in Russia are based in Moscow, including "Northerners", "Gorynych", "Vanilla", "Milk", and "Thaw". At these restaurants, visitors have the chance to try the best and most advanced culinary flavors as inspired by the West and the newest technological possibilities in food.
6. Easy access to three international airports opens up opportunities to travel. You can fly to any city in the world from Moscow—the city is the main point from which you can easily and inexpensively fly across Russia, to Europe, or Asia.
In addition, close to the Golden Ring, there are swift trains that go to Kazan or in the other direction—Smolensk. Within a day, you can be in the cold and northern Vologda, or arrive in the warm and tropical Crimea.
And now the CONS: Why is this not a city for life?
1. Moscow is a city without oxygen! Suffocation from smog and gasoline exhaust is a constant occurrence, and many who suffer have to leave the city during particularly bad times. People buy ionizers and humidifiers, but it doesn't help much. The best option for many is to live on the 20th floor, right under the clouds.
2. The amount of vehicles in the city causes constant traffic jams. Infrastructure repair work is a permanent fixture on many roads and highways. Due to the harsh winters, many fixes are temporary and need to be constantly improved to remain usable.
3. The cost of living is much higher than in the Regions. However, quality is generally lower. The food in supermarkets is not very high quality nor tasty, clothes are typically more expensive, and only affluent people can regularly visit restaurants.
4. The pace of life is fast and unforgiving. Typically, people are unwilling to give others the benefit of the doubt. The atmosphere is very aggressive. It's dark in the subway, the cars are old, and there are crowds at rush hour and at most other times. Distrust and malevolence are everywhere.
5. The city is large and there are a lot of homeless people. Very few services exist to provide support or alternative options for employment or food.
6. In most residential neighborhoods, the architecture is dark and abysmal. No matter what parks and shops exist, they are hidden by tall, grey concrete buildings—relics of the Soviet Era. Panel houses in Russia create entire communities, where every sneeze and sigh is heard. These buildings allow no privacy, and cause disturbance to many who now work from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
7. Housing in Moscow (as opposed to New Moscow) is very expensive. Even affordable rent would be close to 50% of one's income—27,000 minimum + a deposit of 27,000 + some percentage to an agent. If you are comfortable living with roommates, renting a room could cost about 10,000 rubles a month. However, with an average salary of 50,000-60,000, finding the right housing becomes a question of survival.
8. The climate demands more and more as winters become harsher and summers shorter. In winter, the city doesn't see any sun at all, and in the summer, there are a few months of unbearable heat. The overall atmosphere of the city is dreary and gray.
Urbanists, of course, like the noise, the concrete, box-like apartments, the skyscrapers, and the rhythm of the big city. However, even the most seasoned Muscovite would say that it is very difficult to lead a normal life, one with health and happiness.
Unfortunately, tourists who spend more than 10 days in Moscow agree. We asked a few people and the sentiment was the same: "I haven't rested much during these days in Moscow, and I am very tired."
However, we are glad we went! Tim came back with an arsenal of ideas to bring to Minusinsk and we are excited to start implementing them in 2022. As we do more to provide opportunities in South Siberia, it is good to have a first-hand account of the pros and cons of the biggest city in the country—the place everyone wants to escape to.
GEN is excited to continue our work so that people don't feel the need to "escape" in the first place, in order to have many economic and social opportunities to prosper.