I had lunch today with Mr. X, a fellow expat who lived in Moscow for the last four years. He had taken a temporary assignment in the US with the company he worked for in Moscow – an international, well-respected company – with the intention to return back to Moscow with his wife and child in August.
This month he came back to Russia to resign his position, and ship all of his things back home. He leaves on Tuesday, and will probably stay in the US until his wife becomes a full US citizen, which he estimates will take four years.
“I’m just tired,” he said, “we’re all tired of the hassle.”
His hassle, in particular, was getting a return visa for his four-month old child. Since he had been born in Moscow but granted an American passport, the Russian Embassy put up all sorts of grief and eventually demanded that the parents provide an HIV test for the child. At four months of age. In two days.
Mr. X was the third American in the last week that has told me he’s ready to pull up stakes and head out of Russia. Before that, I knew a few people in the Alfa Fellowship Program who ended their assignment in late April, and were all ready to head back (previously some had always been able to get a job and stay on).
I don’t really care to write about my own situation here in Moscow, but for the average expat, things are bleaker than they were last year. A rising ruble rate has given many expats an unexpected ‘haircut’ for those whose contacts were originally denominated in rubles. A crackdown on visas and registration for all foreigners increased the level of bureaucracy that expats have to deal with here across the board.
Me? I am hanging tough for the time being, but I have no illusions that it will get any better soon. It will get lonely for the summer, but then a new group of expats will arrive with the next Alfas. And I’ll keep looking, to see what happens next. Because let’s face it, in Moscow something always happens next.