So goes the life of an expat hockey-wife, I am once again preparing to move to a new land. This move is one like no other as it is taking my husband and me to the most foreign place we will have ever lived: Russia.
After six years in Germany and Switzerland, I really feel like I am leaving a home. Though I have lived in three different cities over that time, the constant German-speaking bubble that I have traveled within has provided me with a level of comfort, continuity, and confidence that I grew very fond of. Now I am again starting at square one. I will once again be the new kid on the block, the one who will need help with everything, who will be nervous and unsure, and at times frustrated and embarrassed. I will once again feel that gut-deep feeling of homesickness, but this time it will be for two homes; one I know I will be returning to as I have each summer, and another, my German-speaking bubble, which I may never return to again.
As daunting and perhaps depressing as this all might sound, let me assure you that I am certainly very excited. Not only am I excited to experience a new country, I am also eager to put all of my expat talents back to work. Thanks in part to this blog and the German-way.com community, I know I have learned some amazing adaptation skills. And some of those skills include being honest with yourself about concerns, and finding ways to alleviate some of them ahead of time, usually with research, as well mentally preparing yourself for those other things that will require a blind leap.
My biggest concern regarding my move to Russia is of course language. After picking up enough German to confidently go about my daily life, I will now be returning to those rough days of pure ignorance. At least with the German language there was a bit of English cross-over, and I’d say 75% of the time someone spoke enough English to be able to come to my aid in confusing grocery store or dog park situations. I’m told that in Moscow this will not be so. Dealing with a new language, never mind a totally different alphabet, is probably one of the most intimidating aspects of life as an expat. But with years of Google translation experience, well honed hand gestures, and learning to laugh at myself, I am ready for the challenge.
Another concern I have is with culture and lifestyle. While getting used to the “German way” and then the “Swiss way” obviously took some effort, I expect that acclimatizing to the “Russian way” may be a bit more difficult, though that may just be my nervousness showing.
What I know about Moscow is that there are over 11 million people, that the traffic is insane, that things are incredibly expensive, everyone lives in high-rise apartments (should be fun with my dogs), and that they have a problem with street dogs (again, should be fun).
But, all sarcasm and negativity aside, what I also know about Moscow is that the city is truly beautiful, that there are so many cultural amenities and things to do, that the people really love hockey, and that my upbringing with a Ukrainian grandmother has me very well prepared for the food; I just love beet borscht!
Doing a little research, finding the positives, and getting yourself excited for certain things are all simple and easy ways to help calm some of those natural nerves. And like with so many of the uncertainties of expat life, reflecting, particularly via writing like this blog, has helped me gain perspective, learn new things about myself and about others, and of course build self-confidence. I’m grateful to have been able to write for The German Way & More and believe it has greatly enhanced my expat experience. I hope that by sharing some of those experiences and reflections that I may have been able to help others who have suffered some of the same frustrations and confusions, or who have shared in some of the same hilarity and happiness.
Although I do not know if a return to Germany or Switzerland is in my future, I do have hope that one day I will. And if I do, I also hope to come back to this blog. But until then it’s farewell. Thanks for reading, and do svidaniya!