Adjusting to life in Moscow has been different than what I had expected. Adjustment is supposed to be unexpected and this is not surprising; the particularities for why it is different are, however. Hearing a foreign language, seeing a different alphabet with new characters, all the while sensing the change in customs and creed that accompanies the culture you are immersed in wasn’t what made adjusting to life here different from what I expected. Nor was it the difficulty of not knowing the language for day to day life. The aspects that have unexpectedly marked my adjustment to life in Moscow come from the nature of my stay, and unexpected personal reservations.
The nature of my stay in Moscow is to work. In the U.S. when I work or study I have a day to day routine. My routine back home is rarely interrupted by staying out late or by going to an event. I would chide myself for going out and breaking my routine back in the US. Doing so disrupts my sleep schedule and makes me groggy the next day. However, in Moscow, I find that I rebuke myself for not staying out late. This is because I want to see the history, art, and culture that brought me to the city to begin with. To forgo this is a missed opportunity. It is harder for me to stick to a routine here because I know my time is limited while the things I want to do is seemingly limitless. I understand the purpose of my visit in Moscow is for my internship, and this always comes first. However, to not use the weekdays to experience the rich culture and history Moscow has to offer would be a waste. One can only do so much on the weekends, and so confining the weekends to do everything leave much to be desired. Thus, I am conflicted with what to do. Stick to a routine and get enough sleep, or catch the closing hours of a modern art museum? Since sleep is required to function, I believe the correct answer lies in a compromise between going out to see the city some nights and staying in to rest others. Despite knowing this sensible solution, I still find myself at odds with myself over not seeing more of Moscow. It is an unexpected element of my adjustment here, but not one I can come to terms with. My other unexpected point of adjustment comes from living with a host family. I find myself needing to curtail my worries of being rude while staying here. There are two main concerns responsible for this. First is doing the dishes. At home, I do my own dishes, and here I don’t. This small thing makes me feel like I am being a rude guest, expecting my host mother to clean up after me. I don’t want to snub the people who were generous enough to let me stay at their house for the summer. Thinking about being a churlish guest leads into my second concern of coming off rude due to lack of conversation. Not knowing Russian makes communication difficult. It is reasonable for the conversation to be slow when neither party speaks the same language, but I still feel rude for not speaking. My adjustment to living with the host family has been marked with me overcoming this and making an effort to communicate through the language barrier. While there have been a few jokes that haven’t translated well as well as miscommunications, the effort into communicating has worked well and I imagine it will continue to do so.
Moving to live and work in a different place requires adjustment regardless of where you have moved to. Even moving to a new house in the same city requires some form of adjustment. Moving to live and work abroad exacerbates the required adjustment. How I went about adjusting to life here was not how I expected to go about it but I believe I am the better for it.
By: Alec Thanig
Program: Overseas Professional & Intercultural Training Program, Moscow, Russia
Term: Summer 2019