Time really has flown by. I can’t believe that 10 months ago I was setting off on my gargantuan adventure to the other side of the Iron Curtain; all I really remember is mother in floods of tears and then suddenly feeling slightly nervous at the thought of surviving a Siberian winter…

But survived I did, and I would like to say, in some style too. However, to really judge whether my Year in Russia was a remarkable success or flying flop, I have to base it on my 3 initial goals:

1. Become fluent at Russian

2. Grow a manly-amount of chest hair

3. Get a Russian girlfriend

Language: My Russian is undoubtedly very good, and I recently took (and passed) a test stating that my Russian is practically a C1 on the European level. Whatever the hell that means. Either way, I’m going to give myself a pat on the back for that goal. However, my accent is still fairly average and as a result I doubt I’ll ever be mistaken for a Russian. Especially with my devilishly-handsome amalgamation of Anglo-Saxon and Nordic looks.

Chest Hair- I like to think of it as work in progress; after all, art cannot be rushed.

Russian Girlfriend? Not only did I not get a girlfriend, I was so so far from getting one that I’m going to give myself a -1. Despite my finest attempts to lure one into my trap, my various guises (English Gent abroad, English lout abroad, mysterious Russian in a bar and… me) failed to entice the local populations. I feel that I can edit a famous Churchill quote about Russia to suit my situation/mindset about Russian girls:

“Russian [girls] are a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

I can also confirm that Russian girls conform to their stereotype: they are very attractive. However, I do have a burning question that if anyone knows the answer, please do inform me. Why/what on earth happens to Russian girls at the age of 35? They turn from angels into ogres (slight exaggeration admittedly) and apart from the fact that older women were brought up in Soviet times, I genuinely have no idea. For a few weeks I considered writing one of my Year Abroad essays (which by the way have really hindered rather than helped the latter part of my Year Abroad) on the subject. I then also thought that the vast majority of Professors of Russian in Bristol are female so maybe it wouldn’t be such a good idea…

I still haven’t worked out whether I love or hate Russia. The country, undoubtedly, has potential to be great. However, the level of bureaucracy, widespread corruption and the increasingly anti-Western and repressive rhetoric of the Government have the ability to derail any chance of Russia being considered a leading economy in the future. For example, the amount of corruption in the Sochi Winter Olympic Games mean that it is already the most expensive Olympics ever (Summer and Winter). And the vast majority of buildings are yet to be built. Nevertheless, whilst discussing the political situation in Russia with a friend in Novosibirsk, he posed the question- if not Putin, then who else? The videos below are about Vladimir Zhirinovskiy- the Vice-Chairman of the State Duma (Parliament). This guy is an absolute nutcase:

This is him in a televised debate with the representative of the Democratic Party of Russia (skip till about 2mins and then watch till the end…)

And then his viewpoint on International relations:

Seems like a really nice guy…

Despite this, I have to say that without a doubt the Russian people are genuinely the most generous and welcoming people I have ever met. In 9 months I never once felt particularly threatened or in danger (and I lived in some dodgy areas), especially when compared to any major city in the UK.

Blog viewers

Blog viewers

The blog has been surprisingly successful, on day of posting it has had over 6000 views and from over 77 countries. It has not only been a very easy way of documenting my Year Abroad but also a great way to remember what actually happened. The feedback from everyone apart from the Azerbaijan Youth Organisation (LOL) has been very positive. Unbeknownst to most, WordPress shows me how people accessed my blog (i.e. via Facebook/Twitter or via googling) and so, to those people who clicked on my blog after googling ‘Chechnya girl nude’, ‘Banya penises’ or ‘Speedo bondage’, you’re all very odd. However, to the person who googled this:

You’re hilarious. When my parents sleep feel like ninja…

And so to conclude, my Year Abroad certainly wasn’t the ‘best year of my life’ as some claimed that it would be. At least I hope not, it is a very depressing thought if so. Especially now as I prepare for my summer, the vast majority of which will be spent in a suit and in an office, life after university is looming ever larger. Nevertheless, I will continue to plough through it as I did my Year Abroad: vaguely directionless and with a stupendous sense of humour. And modesty.

To anyone who has read any of posts I hope they were at least semi-amusing and semi-informative. To the Russian people, thank you so much.  I will be back.



5 thoughts on “Конец

  1. Привет, Том. Не стоит относится к Жириновскому слишком серьезно. Он на любит играть на публику, но он не из глупых людей. К тому же это единственный политик в России, который может высказать все что думает и приукрасить свои слова чем-то наподобие иронии.

    Приезжай к нам еще. Сибирских морозов и девушек у нас предостаточно.

  2. Hey Tom,

    Great blog! Made me reminisce about my own year abroad in Colombia and then Italy, loved it! I’m now casting for an MTV documentary about sex and relationships for MTV, and I’m looking for young people from Russia who would like to take part. It’s proved really difficult so far. Wondering if you know anyone who may be interested? Do you have an email address where I could send you some more information?



  3. Hi Tom

    I stumbled across your blog whilst Googling as I am moving to Tyumen in a couple of weeks. I currently live in Blackpool, so I’m sure there will be lots of similarities…

    Really interesting reading, and it gives me an idea of what to expect. I lived in Moscow for two years (2011-2013) so I know what aspects of Russian life will be like (weather/drunkenness/broad insanity) but clearly Tyumen is going to be different from Mockba.

    I am also unlikely to be able to hit your heights of debauchery as I’m a teacher and need to maintain ‘some’ standards (though this usually lasts for about a month after I’ve moved somewhere new).



  4. Tom- Stumbled across this thread when I did a search for “best night club in Tyumen” I’ll read through your experience later as I find other foreigners perspective of Russia very interesting. I’m shocked you didnt find a girlfriend, let alone love in Russia. These girls fall in love so easily. I really love Russia =)

  5. Tom, thanks for a great blog. A lot of insights were worthy, especially those concerning an over grown village at a river Tura. I fully agree with you about Russia in general. One can’t decide whether to love or hate it. In general I hate its bureaucracy and its parody of the rule of law. I love its hospital and friendly people. But one thing surprised me: you failed to get a Russian girlfriend during you stay in Moscow and Siberia too. Serious about this? If so, it puzzles me. On the basis of your blog you must be a sound and nice guy. Perhaps there was something in your coming angle to Russian girls causing problems. As far as I can say they are not enigmatic or mysterious at all. Quite contrary. If a man signals straightly in the bar, on the skating ring, in the dinner table, in the café, and so on that you are not there for “a girlfriend” but you need your other half here and now and that is your wife, the outcome could be that you can choose among some of the most beautiful women in the world. But if one sends some other message, one is just sidetracked in the eyes of Russian girls.

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