Living and teaching in Moscow

Mowcow

I am not saying, of course, that every teacher who comes here will have the same positive experience. Indeed, many teachers at BKC and the other language schools do not enjoy their time in Moscow and seem to start counting down the days until the end of their contract almost from the day they arrive. In general, teachers who feel like this are new to teaching and to living abroad. Perhaps they arrive with unrealistic expectations of what teaching life is like. In order to try and create a realistic picture of life in Moscow, let me briefly describe what awaits you.

Accommodation

When you arrive at the airport you will be met by a Russian member of staff and taken to your flat. Central Moscow is ridiculously expensive, so all flats are in the suburbs. By Russian standards, the flats are quite nice. However, by American or British standards, they could be considered a little basic. Most flats do not have a television and almost no flats have washing machines, for example. Two teachers have to share each two-bedroom flat, so apart from the kitchen, there is very little communal space. Fortunately, I’m married so this isn’t really an issue. Moreover, teachers spend most of the day away from their flat. The flats themselves are clean and furnished and just about any student in the world will have lived in a lot worse.

Work

I have always believed that EFL teaching is by far the best job in the world. What other job would pay you to travel the world getting to know foreigners and not even require you to learn their language? Moreover, the students who attend language academies tend to be very educated, liberal and very interested in you, your language and your culture. However, like everything else in life, it is not a bed of roses. Firstly, split shifts are an unfortunate fact of life for most teachers. Moreover, in a city the size of Moscow, travel time also eats into your day. Furthermore, Russian students often spend a third of their monthly income on their English classes, so they expect you to know what you’re talking about. In other words, preparation is essential and will further eat into your free time. On the other hand, preparation for class is not wasted time. The more time you spend preparing, the better a teacher you will become and the quantity of time needed for preparation will decrease as your experience increases. Here lies another beauty of EFL teaching-we are being paid for jobs while we are still learning how to do them. I can’t think of another profession in the world that allows you to do that!

Social Life In Moscow

The social life you lead is limited only by your wallet and your social skills. While Moscow is by no means a cheap city, it is possible to have a good time here relatively cheaply, once you find out where to go. Moreover, with such a large number of teachers in this school, you’re bound to find people you get on well with. And after a while, you’ll make Russian friends. There is also an enormous variety of nightlife on offer. On the other hand, Russians do not have a bar/cafe culture and tend to entertain friends at home. As a result of this, in the suburban areas where you’ll be living, it will be hard to find a ‘local’.

Safety

While Moscow is not the safest city in the world it is by no means the most dangerous either. If you exercise caution and don’t mark yourself out as an easy target, then you’ll be unlucky to have anything happen to you.

Police

What I dislike most about Moscow is the police force. In fact, the Russians often refer to them by their slang name – ‘rubbish’. While it is not as vivid as the English term ‘pig’, it somehow describes them more accurately. Perhaps I’m being unfair here. I’m sure the majority of them are honest hard working professionals, but there are a sizeable minority of them who are corrupt, violent and dangerous. While I have not had any real trouble with them myself (apart from having to bribe an obese malodorous border guard), many other teachers have. While nothing really serious happened, I have taken the advice of teachers who have been here a lot longer and now I never speak English out loud when there is a policeman near, and I always look like I know where I’m going. Fortunately, these two procedures will also stop the criminal fraternity from noticing you too.

Conclusion

I suspect that the more cynical readers among you will conclude that the words of a DoS are inherently biased and not to be trusted. However, I feel I have given you an honest ‘warts and all’ description of life here and the school I work for. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at: phillipjdonnelly@hotmail.com

by Phillip Donnelly

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