I'm sitting in a cafe on Arbat watching the snow fall outside, having just finished my Christmas shopping. Snow makes me happy; what could be better than exploring the almost deserted streets around Novokuznetskaya on an early Sunday evening while the church bells are ringing? (Snow makes everything sound different). I'm heading back to the UK for Christmas and New year in a few days and while I can't wait to see my family and friends, I'm also excited about what Moscow has in store for me for 2012.
One thing I still get asked on a regular basis is my opinion of Moscow. To which I always reply that I really love this city, a response that is usually met with a mixture of surprise and confusion from locals. I genuinely do love this place though, and as it's that time of year and I'm in a reflective sort of mood I thought I'd try to explain why.
My decision to move here was, as I have explained before, mostly motivated by the need to get a few years teaching under my belt before I do my masters degree, but I think it was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. For a start, I love my job, My colleagues are great and some of my students are fascinating people. Granted the hours aren't particularly social, but I get to be a grammar nerd and talk about languages all day without getting weird looks. In fact I get paid to do it.
People often accuse Muscovites of being cold and unfriendly. Although there may be some truth to that in certain situations (such as on the metro or in Sberbank), I've found that behind the 'public front' most people are pretty warm and helpful, and in a far more genuine way than in many other places I've been to. London, in my opinion is a much more hostile place; people deliberately go out of their way to avoid any contact with anyone. Spend longer than a week there and it starts to feel very lonely. The Russians have a saying; smiling for no reason is a symptom of a fool, which may sound miserable, but what it really means is that Russian smiles are more meaningful, not just a default reaction.
I have met some amazing people in Moscow, Russians and ex-pats. For me, finding not only people whose company you enjoy but with whom you can also honestly and naturally share thoughts and feelings is rare, but I've met some people here who I hope will be friends for life. It's mostly thanks to them that I feel so settled here and haven't felt nearly as homesick as I thought I would.
Finally, although previous posts might give the impression that I don’t like the size or arrangement of the city, I think that parts of Moscow are beautiful. I mean, I live 15 minutes walk from this:
How lucky am I?
Instead of a list of things I've learnt, I thought I'd finish with my new year's resolutions, which are, in no particular order:
- To read as much Russian literature as possible, including War and Peace (but in English, somehow I don't think my Russian is that good yet).
- To seriously commit to meat free Mondays. I got a bit lazy about it, and didn’t actually last very long last time round.
- To practice my Russian with people more often.
- To get out of Moscow a bit and see more of Russia.
Счастья в Новом Году!
P.S. My apologies for the over-sentimental nature of this post (I blame the snow) I promise normal sarcastic services will resume in the new year.