The Best Money I’ve Spent In/Before Russia: Soggy September Edition

For the benefit of anyone planning to come here for business and/or funtimes:

- Insulated, waterproof North Face jacket with hood: according to the Moscow Times, this is the rainiest September in Moscow since they started keeping records. And during the day, the temperatures are in the 40s and 50s. Many Russians maintain the same standards in outerwear that they do in footwear, so if you need to aim for utility, it’s good to have something that looks pretty decent as well. Single regret: I should have gotten a dark color.

Rubber Wellington boots from L.L. Bean: Drainage on the streets is poor, so it’s helpful to be able to splash through puddles without caring (ok, that’s an understatement – it’s ridiculously fun). The hems of my work pants are grateful. I keep my heels in my office. I’m glad I sprung for the insulated liners, but unfortunately they are in Germany with the rest of the belongings I shipped.

The Oxford Russian-English Dictionary app: At $19.99, this is expensive for an app, but it’s a searchable bi-lingual dictionary in your pocket that also has lists of case endings and verb conjugations. It’s a no-brainer.

The Moscow metro app: It’s free. It’s also the best metro system app I’ve ever seen.

Turbo-scan app: Russia = asstons of paperwork. This app uses my phone’s camera to scan everything to pdf. It does multi-page scans, and the file compression is a lot better than most expensive scanners. It’s two bucks.

*Now is probably the time to mention that a smart-phone–if you can afford one–is a major asset here. I was able to get AT&T to unlock my iPhone 4. I might post a tutorial on it later.*

- Good bedding: Moscow is a big, loud, crazy city, so you need a space that feels like a sanctuary and where you can genuinely get some rest. Plus, I believe in investing in the place where I spend the most consecutive hours of any given day, so I got the best mattress pad, pillows, and comforter available at Ikea (which delivers same day or day after anywhere in Moscow for a nominal charge). This also speaks to another aspect of assimilation: if you are going to be in a different country semi-long term (say, a year or more), it’s worth it to invest in things that make your space genuinely feel like home, whether that’s nice sheets or cooking supplies or frames for family photos. You need to do things that psychologically reinforce the fact that you are here to stay and do your best to make it a place that you will want to stay.

Electric tea kettle: Lucky for me, a coffee hater, Russians are tea fanatics. There are gourmet tea shops all over the place. An electric tea kettle is considered a standard appliance (whereas toasters and microwaves are not) and comes in every furnished apartment. I bought another one for the office.

- Brita pitcher: I can’t get a straight up or down answer on whether or not the tap water is safe to drink. Many say it’s fine, but a little Googling will quickly tell you that–like most substances on Earth–Moscow water will give you cancer. A couple of weeks ago, they were repaving the parking area outside my building and cut the hot water line (hot water is centrally provided, not heated on-site with a boiler). When it came back, it came back brown. It’s normal now (it was probably just sediment that got into the line), but it spooked me but good. I have never been a germaphobe and roll my eyes at people who panic about this sort of stuff in the US, but contamination phobias are apparently a normal part of culture shock. Most Muscovites only drink bottled, but I’ve also been told that you have no way of knowing where the bottled stuff actually comes from. The filter is more eco-friendly anyway.

HMA (Hide My Ass) VPN subscription: For when I want to change my IP address for reasons. Like, let’s say, Netflix reasons.

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