Moscow covers an area of 1035 square km or 405 sq miles and is located in the middle of European Russia in the northwest corner of the country's most densely populated and developed region. The Moscow River runs through the centre of the city and is a tributary of the Volga River . Moscow has an official population of 10 million and it is thought a further 3-4 million people live here unofficially.
Moscow is GMT +3hours.
Winter and summer are definitely the two longer, more extreme seasons in this part of the world. Snow can arrive as early as the end of October but sometimes disappears again until December when it will stay around until March/April. Spring and autumn are shorter and more like their Northern-European counterparts although spring can be grey, wet and slushy and it takes until May to see the abundance of green grass and flowers we are used to in more temperate climates. In winter the temperature rarely dives below -20 degrees C (- 4 degrees F) during the day and in recent years the general feeling is that it is usually warmer than that with temperatures around – 8 degrees to – 12 degrees. There are often warmer days when the temperature hovers around zero and then the snow ploughs and other interesting machinery appear to clean away the thawing snow.
Moscow is a great place for outdoor enthusiasts – cross-country skiing, ice-skating and sledging are everyday activities in the winter and on sunny days can be especially rewarding due to the bright, reflected light.
The general feeling amongst expats – especially those from Northern Europe - is that as the atmosphere outside is very dry in Moscow and as it is generally not windy it doesn't actually feel as cold as other damp climates. Homes and buildings tend to be well insulated, warm and draught-free and it is rare to feel the need to wear sweaters indoors!
Summers do have their wet, grey periods but when the sun shines temperatures in the high 20's are common.
Keep in mind that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!
There is a large, well-established expatriate community here - made up of Diplomats and their families, global-corporation employees, people working for Russian companies and those enterprising individuals who have set up their own businesses. Our experience is that people tend to be helpful, supportive and friendly – possibly because historically in Soviet times foreigners here had to stick together! There is a great variety of activities. As well as the long-established International Women's Club (which coordinates a vast schedule of interest groups including charity work) and the various other ‘nationality' groups, many expats have been pro-active and started their own book clubs, football teams and so on.
Although Moscow is a big city the existence of so many interest groups makes it feel less isolated and you can join in as much or as little as you wish. Geographically, however, it is a big city and the traffic can be a challenge. People are spread out – some live in apartments in the centre - most families live in houses away from the centre with communal gardens but have to deal with the difficulties of getting to and from work and school. Expatriates do tend however to make an effort to travel the distances to meet up and hence it is a fairly cohesive community.
Russian is the official language spoken. It uses the Cyrillic alphabet, which has 33 letters, some the same as Latin, others the same shape with different sounds and others different from anything in Latin. Basic words such as "please" and "thank you" are easy to master and well received by Russians. It is definitely worth learning the alphabet before you arrive and if you can go beyond that you will find everyday situations such as shopping significantly easier. Many expats do take Russian lessons. Basic conversational Russian is very useful but not essential, unless you are working in an all-Russian environment.
The Russian Orthodox Church is the traditional Christian community in Russia, although other Christian communities exist and there are also Jewish congregations. There has been a resurgence of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Churches of various denominations can be found in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Islam is the religion followed by the Volga Tatars, Chufas and Bashkirs as well as the peoples of North Caucasus. Buddhism is practised in the Buryat, Kalmyk and Tuva autonomous republics.
“Dos and Don'ts”
• Never do bussiness, shake hands or kiss someone over the threshold of the doorstep or you will quarrel with this person.
• When departing for a journey Russians pause inside the door to reflect if they have forgotten anything before stepping over the threshold. Returning home if you forgot something brings bad luck
• Always bring a gift for the hostess if invited to a Russian home. A box of candy or flowers for the hostess or a good wine or vodka for the host.
• Never give an even number of flowers to someone; even numbers are for funerals only.
• When entering a Russian home offer to take off your shoes. Normally your host will provide you with slippers but you might want to bring a pair yourself.
• Never light a cigarette from a candle as it is thought to bring bad luck
• If you are visiting a Russian orthodox church bring a headscarf and dress conservatively, eg, wrap a skirt or shawl around your short skirt or shorts. Men must remove any headwear.
• Racially motivated attacks against anyone with dark skin occur in some parts of Moscow and St Petersburg. Don't live in fear but be cautious about dark underpasses at night and try to stay in a group or get a (official) taxi.
• Be prepared to give toasts at dinners or presentations. It is a serious breach of etiquette to refuse a drink or toast. So, try to accept all food and drink in moderation but be careful with the amounts of alcohol you consume; vodka makes you very drunk very quickly, especially on an empty stomach.
• Always carry your identification documents ready to show police (Militsia) who also tend to target dark skinned people for security checks. If you encounter problems with the police do not hesitate to contact the Shell Duty officer or Emergency Assistance. This information will be given to you upon arrival.
Russian Orthodox is the main religion of Russia and there are practising churches in every neighbourhood. Refer to Living in Moscow Guide and weekend edition of Moscow Times for addresses of Catholic, Anglican/Episcopal, Baptist, International Christian assembly, German language churches, Synagogues, mosques, Baha'i, Mormon, Salvation Army and interdenominational churches.
The Russian health care system is dominated by state (municipal or federal) facilities and specialist-orientated practice. The health care differs from modern western practice but the gap is rapidly diminishing and evidence-based medicine and customer focus are starting to gain wider acceptance, especially in major cities like Moscow and St Petersburg. Language remains a major challenge, since few doctors, nurses and other health care professionals speak English. However, this is changing.
Non-communicable diseases and injuries (NCDI) are the leading causes of death in the Russian Federation. Road traffic accidents, alcohol and tobacco account for the large difference in mortality between Russia and Western Europe.
Infectious diseases with high local prevalence in Russian Federation are: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, HIV, Rabies, Tuberculosis, Typhoid; in some endemic areas: Crimea-Congo Haemorrhagic fever, Tick-Borne Encephalitis, West Nile virus disease.
Medical facilities in Moscow
There are a few medical facilities in Moscow that provide medical care to foreigners and work with western insurance companies:American Clinic ‘IntermedCenter’ www.intac.ru Metro PaveletskayaMonetchikotsky per. 1/6 p.3Tel: +7 495 937 5757, +7 495 959 4273Care offered includes: Family Medicine, Paediatrics, Urology, Gynaecology, Ophthalmology, ENT medicine, Cardiology, Neurology, Orthopaedics, Dermatology. (Group of companies) European Medical Centre (GEMC) www.emcmos.ruReception and emergency: +7 495 933 6655Dental: +7 495 933 0002 Global Medical SystemsMetro Marina Roshcha9, 2-ya Yamskaya str.MoscowMetro Smolenskaya6/11-y Nikoloshchepovskiy per.MoscowReception: +7 495 781 5577www.gmsclinic.com
GMS Clinic is a comprehensive medical and diagnostic centre, offering a broad range of medical servicesInternational Clinic (MEDSI) www.medsi.ruFormer American Medical CenterMetro Prospekt Mira26, build. 6, Prospekt Mira, Moscow (entrance from Grokholsky Pereulok)Reception: +7 495 290 9386 Medical emergencies +7 916 318 1160 – Shell Emergency Assistance 24 hours (Shell Hotline)+7 495 768 1989 - SEPSR Duty Officer+7 495 933 6655 – EMC Reception and Emergency line (24hrs)+7 495 781 5577 – GMS Reception and Emergency line (24hrs) In case of medical emergency:Call for help - Make site safe - Provide initial careTo call an ambulance / rescue service in life threatening conditions:Emergency call from mobile: 112Ambulance Service: 03 (local landline number throughout Russia) 003 from mobile phonesRescue Services (Moscow): + 7 495 937 9911 911,112 from mobile phones
We recommend only using the Russian emergency number if fluent in Russian.
For more detailed information on medical emergencies we recommend you read the Inside Guide (pages 41- 46) This is located in the Quick Links “Library Tab”- Inside Guide on the Moscow home page.
You should exercise the same caution here that you would in any other big city. Do not display expensive jewellery ; keep your wallet, keys and passport stowed away in your bag. Be aware of pickpockets especially on the Metro, in large shops and markets and around ATM's. Keep personal items out of sight and locked in the boot/trunk of your car.
Whilst not wishing to scare you there are scams you should be aware of – if you find something of value in a public place, such as a handbag, it is best not to move it but to report it to somebody in authority if you are able to. Further it has been known for one person to drop money in the hope that an unwitting and helpful stranger will pick it up. When he or she does so they will be accused by the fraudster (sometimes with the connivance of an official) of having stolen it and they may attempt to extract a bribe from you to get rid of the matter.
At any time and any place you can be asked by a member of the Miltisia to show your documents (‘dokumenty' which means passport) and you should carry this or your accreditation card (if you have been issued with this by Shell), your visa, migration card and Moscow registration stamp at all times. Failure to produce documents can result in fines and, at the very worst, temporary arrest.
Stray dogs are a problem in Moscow. They roam in the city streets and in parks and forests. Rabies injections are recommended for expatriates living in areas with a significant risk of exposure and spending a lot of time outdoors, especially in rural areas, involved in activities such as bicycling, camping, or hiking. Children are considered at higher risk because they tend to play with animals, may receive more severe bites, or may not report bites. You should be cautious around stray dog as approaching them or running or skiing very close to them may arouse their natural instincts to attack. In general, though, they are unlikely to attack if you ignore them and keep your distance.
Ticks can be a problem so if you have been out and about in the country or forests/parks around the city it is necessary to watch out for them on you, your children and pets and make sure you know the best way to treat them. Tick-borne encephalitis is not a problem in central Moscow but there have been cases in recent years in the forests around the city. Some of the Western clinics have advised vaccinating against TBE but at the moment this is a matter of personal choice. However some schools may require this vacination.