When I first experienced the Italian winter during my exchange semester, I saw a notice with the heating schedule hung up in the hall of my dorm. In total, it offered four hours of heating in the stone building. My Russian soul and body (mostly body) became cross. Why so little?
In Russia, most apartment buildings are centrally heated: approximately from October to April, hot water is running through pipes 24/7. No matter how low the temperature outside is, you can withstand even severe cold while wearing just your shorts and T-shirt indoors.
Grocery stores: always and everywhere
Craving chips at 2 in the morning? Feeling like shopping on Sunday? No problem! Not a necessity but a pleasant bonus, Russian supermarkets boast flexible opening hours all week long: the smaller ones like Dixy and nearby corner shops are usually open 24/7, while bigger chains like Perekrestok or O’Key close at about 11.00 pm. And they’re almost always located within a walking distance from your house. For example, I’ve counted three shops in my building alone, not to mention various eateries. The same rules apply to pharmacies.
Cheap and fast internet and mobile services
A slew of communication towers placed all over Russia let you stay in touch even in the remote countryside. Moreover, it’s super affordable! When buying a SIM card, on average for about $5 a month you will get 400 minutes of calls and 10 GB of internet traffic; there are unlimited plans as well. Some carriers allow you to make phone calls and use mobile internet even when riding the St. Petersburg metro, i.e. more than 30 meters underground. Even if your SIM card can’t do that, don’t worry: in St. Petersburg and Moscow, the metro offers its own free Wi-Fi network to use.
Variety of online services
Ten years ago, to pay utility bills you had to head to a bank or a post office and dedicate some of your free time to standing in a line. Now we do it in seconds through mobile apps. One of the most convenient and groundbreaking services for me is internet banking. Within one ecosystem, you are free to manage your accounts, transfer money and receive it almost immediately, buy currency, and make investments.
Here’s an open-ended list of other things you can do online:
- stream movies;
- order food;
- get a taxi;
- book a doctor’s appointment;
- buy plane and train tickets;
- check traffic jams and public transport schedules.
Extensive public transport networks
Public transport systems are especially well-developed in large cities like St. Petersburg and Moscow. There are buses, trams, trolleybuses, and, of course, the metro, which is especially fast and efficient. In all of them, you can buy a ticket right on the spot and pay for it by card.
Getting around Russia is quite easy, too, especially by train (although it can be time-consuming). The Trans-Siberian Railway is not only a popular tourist attraction but the longest railway line in the world. Newcomers are also often very happy to see trains departing and arriving on time.
Blooming beauty industry
Brows, eyelashes, nails, and hair – get them all and more done in Russia for a very fair price and with no loss in quality. That’s exactly the first thing all my friends living abroad do when they come back to Russia on holiday. Like grocery stores, beauty salons for different budgets can be found on literally every corner. That’s also the reason why they strive to provide the best service while coming up with special offers to attract new clients.