Expat Voices: Arlene Treutle-Levine on living in Moscow
Currently a stay-at-home mom, Arlene enjoys Moscow life but would like to see the street surfaces repaired. And she advises: Learn the alphabet!
Name: Arlene Treutle-Levine
City of residence: currently Moscow (USA , Montgomery, NY)
Date of birth: 11 June 1976
Occupation: currently stay at home mom in Moscow, in NY I was a teacher and college instructor
Reason for moving to Moscow: Lev is Russian originally from Moscow when I became pregnant with our son he decided he wanted to move back to Moscow. So when he was offered a position in Moscow we moved.
Lived in Moscow for: 2 years 9 months
What was your first impression of Moscow?
It is not a stroller friendly city. The stairs are all unsymmetrical, rarely are there ramps or elevators in metros, and underpasses. My oldest son was 6 months old so that is what I noticed first. Moscow has its charms. There are many parks right within the city.
What do you think of the food?
There is quite a variety of restaurants to choose from. But I miss spicy food and Chinese food. A menu item will say spicy but usually it is not. As for specifically Russian dishes... Blinis (Russian pancakes), Salad Oliver (Russian Potato salad) shislik (Russian b-q kebabs) are among my favorite Russian dishes. Many Russian dishes contain at least one of these ingredients: potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes. I am personally not a big mushroom fan but if you are they have an excellent variety. There is a wide selection of cheeses and fresh juices. The variety, and availability of cheap fresh produce is great in the summertime.
What do you think of the shopping in Moscow?
There are some things that are extraordinarily expensive here so quite often we will stock up on new clothes, t-shirts, new toys and things you can't find in Moscow while visiting family back home.
In stores like Ashwan people can be more aggressive. They are not about to let you go ahead of them if you have one item and they have 20.
Most things you need you can find. Basically you just need to know where it is best to shop for what you are looking for. For fruit vegetables, it's best go to the farmers' market. Meats best in Metro or frozen meats in Ashawn for example. I do miss the ease of one stop shopping like in Walmart in the states.
What do you appreciate about living in Moscow?
Doctors will make house calls. The Starlite dinner has a clown that entertains children from noon on the weekends. So my husband and I can actually have a rare meal out and the kids can be entertained. I love the variety of museums, and cultural events within the city.
The outdoor entertainment within in parks, for children and adults when the weather is not too cold...
Stary Arbat (old Abart Street,) a haven for expats where you can walk into Starbucks, Hard Rock Cafe, or McDonald's and talk to someone in English and more than likely run into someone you know. This is especially helpful when the long winters starts getting to you.
That we can afford to have me stay at home with our three kids. I appreciate having our nanny Natalia. Not only has she become like a member of the family she will also help me translate when my limited Russian fails me.
What do you find most frustrating about living in Moscow?
Traffic, it takes a long time to get around Russia, by car, by metro, at least an hour. With kids a lot of times you plan just one thing a day. Trying to do more than one just becomes too difficult. Long Winters, especially this winter has been long cold, snowy and icy.
My biggest frustration when I first came to Moscow was the cultural differences... and the language barrier. People are more aggressive, escpecially me, they will physically push you out of there way or cut in front of you. People will tell you what to do with your children. Babushkas will especially tell you if they think you have dressed your child inappropriately. Babies are dressed warm at all times... for example babies should have a hat and coat even in the summer time. It doesn't bother me as much now, a good friend told me to truly fit in to a new environment you need to let go of what you know and believe... Be willing to try the new...
What puzzles you about Moscow and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
I always wonder how a person in a wheelchair would get around the city. The amount of time things take to get done always baffles me. For example, why does road/ new tunnel construction takes three times as long. Why are walkways filled with uneven steps and no ramps.
I miss my dear friends and family the most. I miss the ease of going places, even with three children in tow. I miss spicy food, and Chinese food take out. I miss driving myself. I miss going to a library where they read aloud and then picking out books with my son.
How does the quality of life in Moscow compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
We have a good life here.
If I was living in the States I would be working right now since we would not be able to afford otherwise.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
1. Learn at least how to read the Russian alphabet and basic Russian words, entrance, exit, etc. When you come to Moscow take Russian language lessons if you can.
2. Try to explore, go on the metro. Before I really knew how to read/ talk Russian I would count the stops. Go to the museums, zoo, Kremlin, learn about the culture.
3. Join one of the expat women's groups, There are many of us here...young moms like me, professionals, older ladies, all who have experienced what you are going through.
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