I talked with Vivian Lee of Miss Happy Feet about life abroad in Volgograd, Russia. I highly recommend checking out her site if you love to travel. She has great travel tips and really lovely pictures.
Now the interview……
Hi, Vivian. Tell us a little bit about you.
I am Vivian Lee, born and raised in Penang, Malaysia. I currently call Volgograd, Russia home. If you know world history well, you might recognize Volgograd as Stalingrad, the setting of the movie “Enemy by the Gates”. I am a student battling a chronic disease of itchy feet, the only cure to it is to keep exploring. Founder of Miss Happy Feet, magazine columnist and contributor/ blogger to several online magazines.
Why did you decide to move to Russia?
I moved to Russia in order to pursue a degree in medicine.
What do you love about living in Russia?
Although Russian weather can be quite unpredictable and extreme, I love winter and personally think feeling cold is better than feeling too warm.
Wearing Malaysian traditional costumes in Volgograd, Russia is never a problem.
What is not so great about living in Russia?
The snow that accumulates after a blizzard drives me crazy. I’d see people digging their cars out in my neighborhood. Also, the existence of ice-pools everywhere forming “skating trails” on the way to our classes is probably the worst.
What do you do for a living there & what was the job search process like?
I am a full-time student.
Early autumn in the square right in front of my university.
How was the visa process?
Applying for a Russian Visa is a breeze once you get the invitation letter from your company or university in Russia. In my country, we have to fill in an online application form first, and then go to the Embassy to submit the printed-out form, go to the bank to pay for the Visa Application Fees, go back to the embassy to confirm payment and get the date which your visa will be ready, then just wait a few days to a few weeks to collect the visa.
What is the cost of living like?
I heard that the cost of living i the Capital, Moscow is high but thank God, I am able to spend on food like a king in my city. Cost of living is not that high in my city, providing that you always buy local and eat local.
Would you like to stay there long term?
Probably not because my hometown in Penang is awesome.
Spring in Volgograd
What are your fave traditional foods that we should definitely try if we go?
I love the Russian pancakes called “Blinni”. I think the best Blini are served in Blin Club on the Savietskaya Street, but of course you can buy a blin in any roadside Blinni stall. Other than that, try a refreshing bowl of Okroshka, which is a cold yogurt based “Summer Soup”.
What are some places we should definitely visit?
Visitors to my city should definitely visit the Mamaev Kurgan Hill, where the tallest statue in Europe, “The Motherland Calls” proudly stand. This is a place of historical importance, the 200 steps leading up to the statue signify 200 days and night of the gruesome Stalingrad Battle during WW2.
My groupmates with my Russian teacher in front of Volgograd’s iconic statue.
What are some things about the culture we should know before going?
Definitely, firstly, if you are meeting someone for the first time, you’d never go wrong with a bouquet of flowers (or one will do), however, beware not to give an even number! Unlike most western and Asian countries, flowers in even numbers are bad luck in Russia, it is meant to be for the deceased.
I wrote an article about living in Russia on the Matador Network, maybe it will be of help: http://matadornetwork.com/abroad/24-signs-youve-russia-long/
Would you recommend it to other people who are interested in moving abroad?
5 years ago I would have said no. But now that the city is growing rapidly, it has become quite comfortable to stay in Volgograd. 5 years ago, we don’t even have McDonalds, KFC and other fast-food branches in the city, but now we have them all. Also, in 2018 Volgograd will be one of the host city of FIFA World Cup. My city is said to be boring and uninspiring, but this is not actually not the case, visitors just have to know where to go and when to visit! I’ve done a blogpost on things to do in Volgograd, I hope it gives you some insights: http://misshappyfeet.blogspot.ru/2016/03/russia-leafing-pages-of.html
Also, if you have questions about how you can move to Russia I’m sure Vivian would be happy to try and answer them for you 🙂
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