I arrived in Moscow more than seven years ago. I had been learning Russian language at school and university, and decided that I shouldn’t let such a unique skill go to waste. It was 2006, everything was good with the economy, and I was thinking to find a job in a bank, but I got into the advertising business instead. I got acquainted with an Englishman, who was a top manager in an international advertising agency in Moscow, and he hired me.
It was hard at first. I was 24 years old and I had just graduated from university and started learning a lot of things in a new place and country. My first salary was 20k RUB, my room cost half of it, and, somehow, the rest I had for living. I grew in the company quite fast and got promoted. At first I thought I would stay in Moscow for two years or so but then I realized that I like everything here, and stayed. In 2011 my partners and I launched our own advertising agency – SLAVA.
My first impression of Moscow was reserved people and their unemotional and stern faces. I am an extrovert — and I like communicating with people so it was unusual for me. I was unable to converse properly in Russian for the first several months. As soon as I started to speak more or less good Russian, everything changed. Now I have a lot of Russian friends, almost all of them are my colleagues — Russians, as is my girlfriend. I have a group of friends from England. Sometimes we gather together and talk about what it is to be British. Although we do think fondly England we certainly don't think it is the best place in the world. In general Russia is better.
IT IS EASY AND COMFORTABLE FOR FOR ME TO LIVE IN MOSCOW — EVERYTHING IS OPEN 24/7: SHOPS, RESTAURANTS, IT IS POSSIBLE TO FIND ANY MOVIE IN THE CINEMA. IN ENGLAND PUBS ARE CLOSED AT 23.00, AND HERE I CAN WORK UNTIL MIDNIGHT, AND THEN GO TO HAVE A DRINK
In London, if you live in one part of the city, and your friend — in another, you will never meet. Nobody will go so far, and also, to arrange the meeting, you should schedule a time 4 weeks in advance. In Moscow you can just call and meet in the centre in an hour. In London nobody will ever call friends at 1 a.m. just to meet, when here it is normal. People in Moscow are more carefree. Even my friends in London, who are successful at work and have good positions there, still live in constant stress, because they are so afraid of losing their jobs. They even go to bed earlier so they can sleep enough because they are in a constant race. Here, it seems to me, people are more laid-back.
It is easy and comfortable for me to live in Moscow — everything is open 24/7: shops, restaurants, it is possible to find any movie in the cinema. In England pubs are closed at 23.00, and here I can work till midnight, and then go to have a drink. Some small things are irritating, of course: when there is no change in a taxi or shops. It is sad because sometimes I can’t buy or do something because of it. Post offices are fairly annoying: friends send me letters or postcards from abroad, and they are delivered in six months or even later. My brother jokes: “Here, I sent you a postcard but, apparently, the Russian postal goat, who was delivering the mail, has broken the his leg somewhere in the mountains”.
People‘s rudeness doesn’t really disturb me — it's quite amusing. But one thing that irritates me is the rudeness of waiters. Once I went for breakfast at "Chocoladnitsa", ordered the porridge with raisins and found the small stone in it,which looked quite similar to the raisins. I called the waitress, showed her the stone, and she declared to me: "I did not put it there!" Amazing reaction: I don’t’ care, who put the stone there. I wanted them to apologize at least or not take money from me for the porridge. It is not because I am English but because I work in the service sector too. It is serious a business.
It is cool in Moscow because something new appears all the time. It’s great, for example, that Shake Shack has been opened here — like in other places around the world. However, I often visit more habitual places: "Vostochnaya komnata", there is good Indian cuisine there, or in an unpretentious Lebanese place on Nikitsky Boulevard, “Sindbad café”. We visit it to drink beer and to smoke a hookah. Some time ago they served pretty bad "Baltica 7" — they stored it in the wrong barrels – we all got terrible hangovers all the time. But recently they changed the barrels, and everything improved. This is the place which we always consider as a back-up if we don't know where to go.
IN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO CONVINCE PEOPLE THAT THEY WANT TO WORK WITH YOU AND THE WORK PLACE IS ONE OF THE KEY COMPONENTS OF YOUR IMAGE
I don't visit English pubs here, they are not authentic. In England they are visited by people, who live nearby, everybody knows each other. And here people gather from different places, many of them are tourists. There aren't enough locals.
I love going to cinemas, it is my favorite thing. I watch movies in Russian or with subtitles. Most often I go to "Pioneer" or "35 milliliters" – I like to call it this. From recent Russian movies, I was impressed by "Stalingrad", "Gorko!" was nice as well. I know that some Russians don't like it, but it seems to me that it is only because it represents reality too well.
I like that Russians are very curious by nature, they get amazed even when they hear a foreigner speaking Russian. Even strangers you talk to ask: “What do you do here? How is life in England? How it is in Russia? Is England included into the United States of America? People are interested to know everything about everything, and talking to me they see that they can learn more about the world, and they even can do it speaking their native language. I like it — it is always pleasant to talk about yourself.
The thing that amazes me here is the culture of arguing. It is generally accepted to argue your position using logic and reason in England. Russians have a secret weapon — Khamstvo (A specific type of behaviour akin to rudeness). You discuss something with a person, give him proof and he starts thinking that you are attacking him, and attacks in reply. I am absolutely lost in such situations. I haven’t learnt to use 'Khamstvo', though, probably it is a useful skill.
It is not easy to work with Russians. But if it was simple, it would be uninteresting. In Russia it is very important to maintain good, trusting relations with your partners — you can often hear how startups in Russia collapse because the founding partners had a fight and couldn’t solve their differences. Well and of course, many employees don't arrive at work in time. However, I am the worst one here.
Sometimes there are problems with misunderstandings. For example, sometimes people don't understand my jokes. One of my colleagues will say: "I'm off to the toilet". And I answer with a dead serious face: "No, you can't go to the toilet". They are seriously frightened. It is strange: people will laugh at one thing and the next joke will not laugh at all.
Our office is situated near Arbat street, in an old mansion house. Yes, it is quite expensive to rent it but we can afford it. In the advertising industry it is very important to convince people that they want to work with you and the work place is one of the key components of your image. Some companies rent offices closer to MKAD and it probably saves them money but such buildings usually looks like their from Soviet times. In the advertising industry it is important to be up to date.
Outdoor advertising in Moscow is garbage, visual pollution of the city. All these banners, announcements on the asphalt — who looks at them? They look pointless. Advertising is supposed to add something to people lives, shock them, make them think. I liked the S7 poster, advertising of Moscow — Kiev lights with the peace sign. I am sure that they will have problems because of it but I take such things as a reality. Also it is unlikely for an advertising agency to go into politics. Russia just isn’t ready for it.