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Russia’s Expat Experience

HSBC has published the interesting results of its “Expat Explorer” survey, which purports to review 37 countries for how they treat their expatriate guests.

The survey focuses on three criteria: (1) raising children; (2) making money and (3) life experience.  Only 24 countries had a full set of data for all three criteria, and among those 24 Russia’s total score was surprisingly high, placing it in the top third of the group and coming it at #7. One glaring hole in HSBC’s data is that they don’t even try to compare each country for the number of expats who have chosen it beyond the baseline needed for a statistically significant comparison. Another is that HSBC has an axe to grind, it is in the business of providing international bank accounts to expatriates and therefore wants to encourage them to relocate, not discourage them.  With its large population and geography, Russia is a potentially huge market for HSBC that it might not want to offend too badly.

Beyond those two issues,  which call the whole survey into question, If you look at the details of the data the picture is not nearly so rosy for the land of Putin.

The survey’s web page is nicely interactive. It gives you the opportunity to focus on your own set of criteria by eliminating one or two of the three general criteria and also filtering each of the numerous subcategories within each criteria. When you begin to play with this feature, Russia’s result changes dramatically.

If for example you eliminate the raising children and life experience criteria and focus only on the making money subcategory of  economic satisfaction, Russia plummets to a shocking #33 on the list of 37 countries, nearly the very worst in the group.  This result is hardly surprising when you remember that Russia is one of the very most corrupt countries on the planet and that Moscow is one of the world’s most expensive cities.  So it’s to be expected that expats will feel very much cheated financially from their time in Russia.

What expats like about Russia from a financial perspective is that they are paid on a foreign wage scale while most people around them are paid on a Russian scale. This means that living in Russia is almost like living in a country where you can own slaves.  With an average wage of $3-4 per hour, it’s possible to hire lackeys like babysitters and housemaids at an amazingly cheap rate compared to back home, and therefore to have more money available for yourself.  Is this really something for Russia to take pride in? It’s what explains, after all, the fact that Russia ranks in the top 50 worst offenders in the world for human trafficking and slavery.

Isolate quality of accommodation in the life experience category and Russia is #19 out of 37. Isolate enjoying sports or shopping , and Russia is #24 of 37. Isolate enjoying the local cuisine and Russia is #29 out of 37. Isolate availability of a healthy diet and Russia is #36 out of 37, nearly the worst in the entire group.

What expats like about Russia from a life experience perspective is the work culture, where Russia is #1 in the group. In other words, expats are delighted to find out that Russians don’t work too hard compared to what they knew back home, and take long vacations and holidays every other minute. In Russia, they can slack way off and still appear to working much harder than almost everybody else in the office.  Again, is this really something for Russia to take pride in? It’s what explains, after all, the fact that Russia barely ranks in the top 50 of all world nations for per capita GDP.

Isolate child health in the raising children category, and Russia is #20.  Isolate learning a new language  (Russian) and Russia is #21 out of 24.

What expats like about Russia from a childcare perspective is Russia’s solid system of early education.  While Russia has only one university in the world’s top 400, its basic level of education is relatively good compared to many countries in the world, and it’s cheap because Russian teachers are paid slave wages.

5 responses to “Russia’s Expat Experience

  1. Dear Kim, thank you for yet another beautifully written post. Kudos to you for keeping this blog going!
    Now for the “Expat Explorer”. Russian government spends billions and billions of dollars trying to attract people to Russia. It is a huge propaganda machine which keeps tens of thousands people employed. All the have to do is rate Russian sites on English-speaking forums such as Tripadvisor, Yahoo, Fodor’s ect. Those people are falsely inflating the ratings, writing fake reviews and make fake comments.
    You don’t need to be a wise person to compare Russia to France. The conditions in France or any other European country are ultimately better than those in Russia, where the locals are often drunk, rude and aggressive, where the air is full of smog and where pollution is abysmal. However, France is rated lower than Russia.
    As far as the child care goes: yes, it is easier to find a babysitter in Russia than in the U.S., however, kids in Russia have to deal with the same problems as their expat parents, i.e. air and water pollution, food quality, lack of adequate medical care (Russian doctors working for Western clinics are not trained properly) and congested traffic to name a few.

  2. Arvind Indus ⋅

    I’ve lived in Russia for two years. As a non-white person, it has been by FAR the worst place I have ever been in terms of xenophobia. People staring at me in the metro, skinhead riots, cops harassing me, face control never letting me into bars without white friends. It’s terrible, so this survey is really only applicable to WHITE expats. Africans I know don’t even go out at night.

  3. mingthemerciless ⋅

    Russian so-called “doctors” are not even competent to rate as a regular nurses outside of Russia. Russian medical science has been conceived on a different planet to service some kind of unknown alien monkeys. If you get sick in Russia, you are sure to die, like a wounded animal in the wilds.

  4. antarctic-monkey ⋅

    A “Doctor” asked me to have 3 different tests, lungs x-rays, blood and urine, just to tell me that I need a syrup, even though she said she found something bad in the blood test results. Of course, she wasn’t able to answer my questions. I felt that my questions were too hard for her, but I have never worked in any medical service, just what I learnt at school. And it was all in a private medical center. This is Russia, get ill and you are expected to have dark future.

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