Covering 11 different time zones, Russia is the world’s largest nation and one of the most populated. ESL teachers will find Russia affords them the opportunity to teach in a nation eager to learn the English language.
Russia shares its borders with a total of 16 different nations; this produces a wide range of culture, cuisine, holidays, and climates for ESL teachers to enjoy. Monthly ESL teaching salaries range from 25,000 RUB to 100,000 RUB. The ESL market has increased somewhat over the last few years, however the cost of living is still quite high. This means that teaching in Russia is not as profitable as teaching in other ESL markets; however, with some careful budgeting, a Russian teaching salary is enough to pay the bills and properly experience what the country has to offer.
Many schools offer to pay for a portion or sometimes all of their teachers' accommodations as part of their contract; however, some expect their ESL teachers to pay these expenses out of pocket. Usually, teachers who have their apartments provided for them are asked to share their living space with another ESL teacher. This is a great way for an ESL teacher to learn about their new home and meet some new friends.
The price range for accommodations in Russia varies depending on the location. Apartments in Russia can be a lot less expensive than those in North America. A small, one-bedroom flat will usually cost around 21,000 RUB. This price can double or more if a teacher is moving to a popular area of Moscow or Saint Petersburg. Anyone looking to rent a Russian apartment can expect to pay a deposit, usually equal to one month's rent. Leases can be written in Russian and English; however, the Russian contract is the only one that is legally binding. There are few leases which include a time-frame of how long the tenant must hold the apartment, so anyone can move out at any time, providing they have offered the standard four months' notice.
Depending on the job, ESL teachers may have some or all of their airfare paid for, but many will need to pay for their own transportation to Russia. Regardless of whether or not airfare is included in a contract, teachers will usually be responsible for the initial purchase of their plane ticket.
In addition to researching airline travel, it is also important to plan for and make any needed land-travel arrangements for when you arrive on Russian soil ahead of time.
The Russian healthcare system employs a high number of medical professionals per capita, and all Russian citizens have access to free healthcare. However, there are many concerns about the Russian healthcare system and it constantly faces public and global criticisms. Statistics for life expectancy are far lower than most developed nations in the world. Many experts claim this is a result of an underperforming healthcare system as well as poor lifestyle choices (smoking, alcohol abuse, and frequent traffic accidents, among other factors) made by some Russians.
ESL teachers will need to purchase medical insurance prior to their departure that will cover any expenses which could occur while teaching English in Russia. This is a pre-requisite to obtaining a visa. Rates can often be expensive, as private healthcare is only readily available in Moscow or St. Petersburg. A typical consultation with a doctor will need to be paid for at the time of treatment, costing an average of 2,000 - 3,000 RUB.
Russians are able to receive a pension at the age of 61.5 for men and 56.5 for women. Like many nations around the world, the Russian government is having a difficult time maintaining their current pension plan. As a result, the retirement age may change again in the near future. The current life expectancy of Russian men is 68.2, while for women it is 78.
Technology and Advancement
Those teaching English in Russia will not need to worry about roughing it. There are 15 cities with a population of over one million people, the largest five being Moscow, St Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, and Kazan. Many find that Russia offers the same technologies that English teachers are familiar with back home. 4G cell phone coverage is fairly reliable in most areas of the country. North American cell phones will work in Russia, but purchasing a Russian phone may be much cheaper than using an existing plan. Landline service is also very accessible and affordable.
There are a wide range of Internet connection options in Russia, and Moscow has one of the largest wireless Internet networks in the world. However, in more rural areas of Russia, ESL teachers may only have access to dial-up Internet or no Internet at all.
With Russia being the largest nation in the world, it is very important that it features an equally massive transportation system: a combination of rail travel, roadways, bus, air, bicycling, and other transportation options. In addition, the Russian rail system not only provides travel throughout Russia, but also connects to 13 other nations.
Most ESL teachers in Russia find that calling an official taxi is the safest and most convenient way to get around. These taxis will usually arrive after a few minutes of being called on the phone. Official cabs are more expensive than private taxis, but they are much safer and feature standardized rates. Since official taxi drivers will not likely speak English, be sure to know the destination in Russian or have a native friend write it out in Cyrillic.
Riding in a private Russian taxi is not recommended, as scams are common and your safety is not guaranteed. Never enter a cab already occupied by someone else.
Train and Subway
Nearly all Russian railroads are operated and maintained by the state-owned company, Russian Railways. It is estimated that Russian Railways is one of the largest rail companies in the world. With 800,000 employees, the railway business generates an estimated 2.5 percent of Russia's entire GDP. There are several types of trains to choose from for long-distance travel:
Types of Sleeping Quarters on Russian Trains
Like in most foreign urban areas, the subway can be an easy and cost-effective way to travel throughout the city. Russia features seven subway systems, located in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Samara, Yekaterinburg, and Kazan. In addition to the seven existing subway systems, there are new metros being built in Omsk, Chelyabinsk, and Krasnoyarsk.
With 17 lines, over 200 stations, and a daily average of nearly 7 million riders, the Moscow Metro is the largest subway in Russia and the most heavily used metro system in Europe. The stations of the Moscow Metro are well-known for their breathtaking designs and heavy use of early 20th Century Russian architecture.
The bus is another popular way to get around Russia. A bus can take passengers to both short- and long-distance destinations. Commuting on a bus is usually more cost-effective than taking a train. The buses on most routes are packed full of people. This sometimes makes buying a ticket a very slow process and it is not unusual for tickets to sell out. Bus drivers do not usually speak English, which can make traveling by bus an unpleasant experience for some ESL teachers.
Other Modes of Transportation
Driving a car in Russia is similar to driving a car in America in that, unlike most European drivers, Russian motorists drive on the right-hand side of the road. It is forbidden to honk a car horn unless it is meant to stop an accident. Driving in larger cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg can be a little more stressful than cruising in the Russian countryside, as Russian law does not require people in accidents to report the events to police if no one was hurt or killed.
Winter weather can be dangerous for those not experienced in driving in extreme winter conditions. Rural areas in Russia often have roads that are nearly impossible to drive on due to poor maintenance. Be sure to research the condition of roadways before planning to travel on them.
After staying in Russia for more than six months, a Russian license is required in order to drive. The application process for getting a Russian license requires ESL teachers to have a valid passport and a certificate of good health from a known clinic. People who have a valid driver's license in their home country will only need to write a test; otherwise, they may be asked to attend a driving school.
Business Etiquette in Russia
Russian Eating Etiquette
Throughout their history, Russians have been known as a very superstitious group of people. Many of these superstitions have faded away with modern times, but some still exist; others have been incorporated with general Russian etiquette.
ESL teachers may be a little overwhelmed when they first hear the Russian language or see its text. The Russian language is a Slavic language and it belongs in the Indo-European languages family. With Russia's status as a world superpower and the nation's large population, the Russian language is one of the most commonly used languages in the world and is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. In addition to being the official language of Russia, Russian is also an official language in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Belarus. Other countries such as Ukraine have a large population of Russian speakers; the same can be said in some American and Canadian communities.
The history of the modern Russian language is much like the history of Russia itself. Political trends, the multiple redrafts of the Russian map, and various leaders have all directly influenced the evolution of the language. The beginnings of the Russian language can be traced back to the 14th Century.
Some useful examples of the Russian language can be found below:
Throughout their history, Russians have learned to be adaptive people. Recipes in Russia can be easily reworked to account for a lack of a specific meat or vegetable. The cuisine of Russia is unpretentious, featuring fresh vegetables (cabbage and root vegetables preferred), sauerkraut, mustard, and meats. A meal in Russia usually includes a soup or stew. The many nations that Russia borders have all played a role in defining Russian cuisine as very diverse and interesting food.
There is a wide variety of soups in Russia, featuring everything from light broths to thick stews filled with meats, vegetables, and grains. Soup is typically reserved for the afternoon, and diners can often choose between enjoying it hot or cold. ESL teachers will quickly become accustomed to trying the many flavors and varieties of Russian soups.
The vast amount of wilderness leaves its own impression on Russia's food. In addition to domestic meats such as beef, pork, and chicken, many Russians devote a large portion of their diet to fish and wild meats. Dishes which include deer, wild fowl, and bear can be found on the tables of many Russian families. Russians also have many dishes which feature wild berries and mushrooms, both of which are abundant across the Russian landscape.
Some of Russia's more popular dishes include:
It is recommended that ESL teachers avoid drinking Russian tap water due to the filtering systems in Russia being far below North American standards. In some areas, it may be safe to drink after boiling, however proper research is highly recommended before trying.
It is not uncommon for many ESL teachers in Russia to have a craving for food that reminds them of home. Finding a restaurant that serves American food is a fairly simple task in a large Russian city. Usually, American restaurants in a foreign nation can be classified as either a fast-food burger chain or a barbeque steakhouse. ESL teachers can dine at familiar Russian versions of McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut, and other North American restaurant chains. There are also plenty of independent diners that offer traditional American barbequed food.
Supermarkets in large urban centers often provide foreign food choices for those ESL teachers looking to make their favorite recipes. These large grocery stores can be quite expensive, particularly in the off-season. A rynok, or open market, is used by many native Russians for in-season produce. A loaf of fresh bread sold by a vendor at such places can be as little as 35 RUB.
Russia takes up approximately one-eighth of the world’s total landscape and stretches across two continents. With so much area to cover, Russia also claims one of the most diverse range of climates. The main climate is continental (snow in the winter and rain in the spring), with much of Russia located in the Northern parts of both Europe and Asia. Russia’s landscape is influenced by the waters of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, since mountain ranges block any tropical Southern air from moving northward. Depending on where ESL teachers decide to travel, there are regions of tundra, coniferous forests, mixed and broad-leaf forests, grasslands, and semi-desert; the Sochi region on the coast of the Black Sea is considered subtropical.
The transitions from winter temperatures to those of summer happen rather quickly, and vice versa. Winters in Russia can be particularly harsh even for ESL teachers with winter weather experience; with temperatures averaging around 14°F (-10°C) in the major cities, it is much colder in Northern Russia. Summer temperatures in Moscow usually do not reach higher than 86°F (30°C).
Natural Disasters in Russia
Although earthquakes, blizzards, and flooding do occur in Russia, they are not as dangerous as many countries around the world. Russians have shown heavy resilience through the multiple droughts and famines that have hit the country since its beginning. These tend to happen fairly regularly in Russia, with a famine usually occurring every 10 to 13 years, and a major drought typically hitting every five to seven years.
Overall, natural disasters are not very common in Russia. Extremely cold temperatures are the most noticeable weather-related inconvenience for most ESL teachers in Russia, and should be handled with caution.
One of the great things about being an ESL teacher in a country like Russia is the number of relatively new holidays particular to that nation. Many businesses and schools will be closed during official holidays. Most Russians work during unofficial holidays.
Official Holidays in Russia
Unofficial Holidays in Russia