Expat Living: Jasilyn Albert in Ufa Russia
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live in Russia, now’s your chance. Next up in our ongoing expat living series is Jasilyn Albert, an American teaching English and blogging about life in Ufa, Russia.
Expat Living: Jasilyn Albert in Ufa Russia
Jasilyn is an American expat living in Russia. She’s a teacher by trade and loves the freedom it gives her. When she’s not teaching English, dispelling myths about Russia, or trying to master the Russian language she’s taking photos of old buildings, graffiti, or abandoned places. While she loves visiting new places, she considers herself an expert in exploring local areas and prefers the off-beat to the must-see.
Where are you from?
Mentor, Ohio in the United States. It’s a suburb outside of Cleveland, hence the blog name.
Where are you living now and how long have you been there? Do you plan on staying?
I have been living in Ufa, Russia since August 2015. I just signed a contract for another year, so I’ll be staying until June 2017.
Did you move there alone or with family, friends, a significant other or even a pet?
What brought you to your new home? Tell us your story.
I’d trained as an ESL teacher in the United States to teach in public schools. Then a friend from college said the school he worked at in Russia was looking for a native English speaker to take his place. I was only working part time, so I figured it would be just as good a time as any to leave home.
What do you do work wise? Is finding work in your city easy? What are the visa requirements like?
I’m an English teacher, but I focus on speaking and American culture. Finding work is not easy unless you speak Russian or want to be an English teacher. It’s better to find a job before you move.
The visa requirements are a nightmare. There are a lot of organizations that will help you do it, but I did it by myself because I’m cheap. They can get really expensive and usually you have to pay out of pocket. You first need an invitation from your new employer, which you will include in your visa application. You then need an invitation to enter Russia, whether it’s for work or travel. You also need to fill out other paper work online and even get an HIV test!
How do you “blend in” and be accepted by locals?
I’m white, and I have some Slavic blood in my veins, so on the surface I don’t look like a foreigner. I’ve had so many people come up to ask me for directions and had to politely tell them that I don’t speak Russian. If you know Russian, people are more accepting of you.
I think the best way to “blend in” is to follow the customs of the locals, like wear boots and a hat when it’s cold. Russians will constantly tell you that you’re going to get sick if you aren’t covered up.
How did you make friends? Are you friends with locals or with other expats?
I made friends through Couchsurfing (there is an option to meet up with people), friends of friends, and I actually met my boyfriend through Tinder. Dating in Russia is much different than dating in America, so just use Tinder with caution. Gender roles and expectations are different, so just keep that in mind if you want to start dating in Russia.
I’ve some expat friends, but since there aren’t many foreigners you’ll most likely meet with locals. I think it’s necessary to meet some expats while living abroad because they’ll understand your struggles with culture and language much better than the locals do.
What has been the most shocking thing you learned about the local culture?
Another shocking thing I learned is that women wear heels – all the time – even on ice covered sidewalks. Russians love to walk in parks and I’ve seen women wearing stilettos on a walk with their boyfriends. I can barely walk in flats! The obsession with women to look feminine is very real and, sometimes, very sad.
Did you have to learn a language? What learning methods do you recommend?
Russian is extremely hard to learn, and I didn’t have a chance to learn before I came. I decided I to move to Russia at the end of April and arrived here at the end of August. I did learn the Cyrillic alphabet before I came which was extremely helpful.
I’ve been using Duolingo and seeing a tutor once a week to improve my Russian. Unfortunately, there aren’t many good textbooks on Russian as a foreign language, and I’m one of those people who learns best in a formal setting. You absolutely have to learn the language here. Some people can be very cruel to you if you don’t know it, and outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg very few people speak English.
What do you love the most about your new home?
I love Russian hospitality. The Russian people are so nice, and are always willing to help you. Whenever you go to their house they always have sweets and coffee or tea waiting for you. Also, it’s comforting that it’s not very different from my hometown. I have basic amenities and the weather is pretty similar so I have adjusted pretty well.
What do you “hate” the most about your new home?
I can’t stand the lack of critical thinking here. This is a product of their school systems where they are just given information and expected to memorize it. I have to give presentations to teachers every few months, and the number of times I’ve heard, “We don’t know because we don’t have this problem,” made me want to rip my hair out.
Also, the subconscious racism and self-aggrandizement is pretty shocking as well. It is pretty pervasive throughout the culture.
Jasilyn’s Favourite Things in Ufa
Monkey Grinder (Lenina, 66) – it only offers to-go drinks though.
Chitai Gorod (various locations) – I don’t go to bookstores often because I don’t know how to read Russian, but I do know they have a small assortment of books in English as well as some crafting supplies.
Gastro Gallery (Lenina, 16) – I haven’t been here, but I’m told it’s the best place for international beer and beer snacks. I’ve also been told, by multiple people, that the food is terrible.
Pishka (various locations) – serves local Bashkir food, which is the ethnic group in the area.
Things to do?
Walk around the city. You’ll constantly see the locals, even in the winter, walking through the various parks in the city. Since most entertainment is foreign based watching movies or eating in restaurants is expensive because the ruble is very weak. So, the cheapest thing you can do is walk around the city. Find something fun to do outdoors like take photos or geocache!
Weird and offbeat attraction?
Abandoned Observatory – I like abandoned places so this was really interesting to me, and it’s near the Salavat Yulaev monument.
If you don’t want to break any laws the Forest Museum was really interesting.
Get Social With Jasilyn
- Blog: http://coffeeandcleveland.blogspot.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/coffeeandcleveland/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jasilynalbert/
- Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jasilynalbert/
Expat Living Information
Did you like this interview with Jasilyn Albert in Ufa Russia? Then browse through my Expat Living section to read even more. You can also check out my personal updates, like my recent post about 18 months in Berlin.