The cost of living is low in Russia – especially on a teacher’s salary, which is almost double that of an average Russian graduate’s wage of £360/$600 a month.
Russian employers will usually provide an apartment for their teachers too, particularly if you’re located in the major cities of St Petersburg, Moscow or Novosibirsk so you won’t need to finance this either. As an average Russian (non-teaching) salary is so low, food is cheap too, especially if you shop at the markets, with a kg of potatoes costing 50p/$0.80.
Ballet is the ultimate form of Russian entertainment, and it would be a crime if you didn’t catch at least one performance during your time teaching English in Russia! Tickets do go fast at the popular theatres so you’ll need to book in advance – expect to pay anything from £3/$5 to £70/$95.
Russian cuisine has heavily influenced Eastern European and the Caucasus’ dishes with cheap, hearty and filling meals. A classic Russian dish is Borscht: beetroot soup served with a dollop of sour cream, it’s the perfect thing to enjoy after a long day of teaching in the depths of a bitter Russian winter!
The Russians have a very sweet tooth, and if you visit any café, instead of seeing a range of sandwiches and savoury snacks on offer, the counters will be piled high with cakes and pastries. A firm favourite amongst the Russians is Ptichye Moloko (bird’s milk cake). It’s traditional for teachers in Russia to bring in sweet treats to share in the staffroom with their co-teachers!
The number one drink in Russia is vodka, and there’s no way you can live in this beautiful country without enjoying some. There are so many Russian brands available: aside from the classic Stolichnaya and Russian Standard, spend a bit more and you can buy a bottle encased in an ornately-decorated Matryoshka (Russian doll).
As you’d imagine, winter is very cold in all of Russia: sub-zero temperatures of -10 degrees Celsius are the norm in the European cities of Moscow and St Petersburg; with a blanket of snow covering the cities for an average of 120 days a year. Venture north into Siberia and it becomes even colder – Oymyakon is the coldest inhabited city on Earth, where -60 is the average winter temperature.
The great thing about teaching English in Russia is that almost all employers will provide you with accommodation free of charge. This will save you huge amounts of money, especially if you’re teaching in Moscow, where a 2 bedroom apartment comes in at £1,325/$2,115. Flats in the centre are very modern, so if you can secure a teaching job offering one of these, make sure you take it!
Whilst demand for English teachers remains high year-round, most jobs are advertised in September and January just before the start of the new Russian school term. It’s also worth knowing that demand is higher for English teachers in the more densely-populated European section of Russia, with the bulk of jobs advertised in Moscow, St Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod.
If you love the bright lights of a big city and you’re looking for an authentic Russian TEFL adventure then Moscow is perfect. Just imagine, you could spend your time off teaching hanging out at Red Square! If you love culture and prefer a more westernised city, then St Petersburg is ideal – this city is fairly cosmopolitan and is an easy introduction for those looking to teach in Russia!
If you are planning to teach in Russia, but you don’t want to be in a major city, then you may want to consider looking for positions in Novosibirsk – relatively close to both the Kazakhstan and Mongolian border, it’s bound to be an amazing cultural experience!
Although there are buses that serve Moscow and St Petersburg, the easiest and quickest way of getting round is by metro. Prices are very cheap – you travel by tokens, which cost an average of 30p/$0.50 each, and as long as you travel in one journey, you can cover north to the south of Moscow on just one token. Built in the Soviet times, metro stations are extremely ornate, and don’t be surprised to see intricate paintings and chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.
As the cities are so large in Russia and can be unsafe after dark, most teachers take taxis home if they’re working late. Welcome Taxi is recommended by i-to-i expats as they have an English phone line and will even send you an English driver for an extra £3/$5.
Working an average of 30 hours a week, being a teacher means you’ll have lots of free time to explore Russia. The best way to explore the country is by train: Moscow to St Petersburg takes 4.5 hours by train, and costs £40/$70 one way. If you’re planning on travelling during the holidays of your teaching contract a must do experience is the Trans-Siberian railway from Moscow to Vladivostok. It takes a long time (6 nights), but it’s an experience you’ll never forget and for £300/$500 one way, it’s not so bad – not when you consider the fact you’ll be travelling over 9,000km!
Acting as a bridge between the East and the West, Russia is a great place for exploring both Europe and Asia. However, you will need to consult your visa before booking any trips: if you’re on a single entry teaching visa, then you aren’t allowed to leave Russia even for a day, as you’ll be denied access back in. Make sure that when signing your TEFL contract that you request a double entry visa from your employers.
Surprisingly, Russian classrooms aren’t as strict as you might think, with conversations amongst students and teachers encouraged. Furthermore, unless you’re teaching business English, you won’t be required to dress in professional attire – although equally, don’t go into class wearing shorts and sandals!
If you are planning to teach private lessons in Russia, be aware that Russian students will be paying good money (over £25/$35 per hour) and will want to see evidence of specific TEFL training from a recognised provider (i-to-i courses fit the bill)
Despite Russia’s hard soviet past, the country is now increasingly wealthy and Moscow has more billionaires per capita than anywhere else in the world!