Living in Russia

Living in Russia

The Russian Federation (Russia), (Российская Федерация (Россия) is a country in northern Eurasia. Each region has its own regional government and parliament. The Head of the State is elected by direct voting every six years. Russia was formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union (USSR) in 1991.


The total area is 17 million square kilometers. Length — 9000 km from west to east, 5000 km from north to south. One quarter of the territory is located in Europe and the rest — in Asia.

Russia is the largest country in the world, covering more than one eighth of the Earth. Russia is home to a wide range of environments and landforms.


Moscow (Москва), 12.2 million (2015).


146.3 million people (2015). Russia is the world’s ninth most populous nation. The ethnic groups of Russia are Russians (80%), Tatars, Ukrainians, Bashkirs, Chuvashs, Chechens, Armenians and others (more than 190 different ethnic groups).


Russia is a secular country – there is no official religion. However, the majority of the population consider themselves as Orthodox (75%). Also, Russia is home to many Muslims (6-7%), Buddhists and others. Many people are atheists (16%).

Official language

Official language is Russian.


The Russian currency is the Russian Ruble (рубль) – RUB, 1 ruble = 100 kopecks (копейка).

Time in Russia

Russia spans eleven time zones. St. Petersburg is located in the same time zone as Moscow (+3 hours from Greenwich).

Living in Saint Petersburg

Saint Petersburg (Санкт-Петербург) is the second largest city in Russia.

Saint Petersburg is situated on the middle taiga lowlands along the shores of the Neva Bay of the Gulf of Finland and islands of the river delta. In 1914 the name of the city was changed from Saint-Petersburg to Petrograd, in 1924 to Leningrad and in 1991, back to Saint-Petersburg.

In Russian literature, informal documents, and discourse, the word “Saint” (Санкт) is usually omitted, leaving “Petersburg” (Петербург). In casual conversation Russians may drop the “burg” as well, referring to it as “Piter” (Питер).

Saint Petersburg was founded by Tsar Peter the Great on May 27, 1703. Between 1713-1728 and 1732-1918, Saint Petersburg was the imperial capital of Russia. In 1918, the central government bodies moved from Saint Petersburg to Moscow.

Saint Petersburg is a major trade gateway, financial and industrial center of Russia specializing in oil and gas trade, shipbuilding yards, aerospace industry, radio and electronics, software and computers; machine building, heavy machinery and transport, including tanks and other military equipment, mining, instrument manufacture, ferrous and nonferrous metallurgy, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, publishing and printing, food and catering, wholesale and retail, textile and apparel industries, and many other businesses.

Saint Petersburg is one of the largest scientific centers in Russia; the Saint Petersburg Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences unites over 60 academic and research institutions. Petersburg is a renowned center of higher education in Russia. The city has dozens of public and private higher education institutions.

Main attractions

Saint Petersburg is often described as the most westernized city of Russia, as well as its cultural capital. The city has a large number of cultural and historical monuments. The historic centre of Saint Petersburg and related groups of monuments constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Saint Petersburg is home to more than two hundred museums, many of them are located in historic buildings. The largest museums are the Hermitage Museum, featuring interiors of the former imperial residence and a vast collection of art. The Russian Museum is a large museum devoted specifically to Russian fine art. In Saint Petersburg there are more than 70 theaters.

Petersburg is not only the city itself but also its famous suburbs. The Southern suburbs of the city feature former imperial residences, including Peterhof, with majestic fountain cascades, parks, Pushkin, with the baroque Catherine Palace and the neoclassical Alexander Palace, and Pavlovsk, which contains a domed palace of Emperor Paul and one of the largest English-style parks in Europe.

Main Grocery Stores and Supermarkets

There are many shops in St. Petersburg. For example, you can find the supermarkets:

Some food stores are open 24 hours, so you can buy almost anything you need at any time.

The export of antiques made earlier than 1945 is not allowed. The export of souvenirs and handicrafts (including handmade items) does not require special permission. However, it is better to keep the sales receipt or registers before leaving Russia.

Restrictions also apply to the export of currency — no more than $ 10,000. The amount of money is to be registered in the customs declaration, which should be kept until your departure from Russia. The import of foreign currency is unlimited.


There are lots of pharmacies around the city. So if you need to find one look for the sign “Аптека” (pronounced as Apteka). Usually they close after 22.00, but there are several in every district that remain open all night as pharmacies on duty.

Here are the names of popular pharmacies in Saint Petersburg:

Cell / Mobile Phones

International roaming and calling rates for your cell phone are usually very expensive. If you have a smart phone, please contact your provider to ask them how to avoid expensive international fees.

If your cell phone can accept an international SIM card AND has been unlocked, you can purchase a Russian SIM card to use the phone in Russia.

Russian cell phones all start with ‘+7’ numbers and have 10 digits.

Russian Phone Numbers

Russian phone numbers have 10 digits and start with an additional ‘+7’ or ‘8’.

The country code for Russia is +7.

Saint Petersburg code is 812.

The major mobile operators in Saint Petersburg are:

SIM cards for Russian mobile operators in Saint Petersburg can be purchased in mobile operators offices at the nearest metro station. To buy a card you must show your passport.


Russia’s wall outlets use 220V AC power with a 2-pin plug.

Most electronics with an AC adaptor are dual-voltage adaptable so you do not need to convert the power.


It is better to carry US dollars or Euros — then you will not have any problems with changing them. There are currency exchange offices all around Saint Petersburg, many of them work 24 hours, but it is safer to change money in banks. There are also many ATMs, usually next to banks, metro stations exits and department stores. The ATMs take no commission or only 1%, but your bank will charge you for the transaction. Take enough cash, credit cards and checks in advance to avoid problems. It is best to have a bank card that supports international payment system, such as Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, etc. Or, to use international money transfer systems (MoneyGram, Western Union or others). But do not forget that when you use a credit card, you can withdraw the money gradually, which is always a safer option than getting a large amount of money by transfer at once and walk with it in the crowd. Most banks are open from 9.00 to 17.00-20.00.

The state bank of Russia is Sberbank (Сбербанк).

Russian Customs and Traditions

Russian names are comprised of:

  • First name, which is the person’s given name.
  • Middle name, which is a patronymic or a version of the father’s first name formed by adding ‘- vich’ or ‘-ovich’ for a male and ‘-avna’ or ‘- ovna’ for a female. The son of Ivan would have the patronymic Ivanovich while the daughter’s patronymic would be Ivanovna.
  • Last name, which is the family name or surname.

It is polite to refer to elderly people or seniors by both first and middle name. To others you can address only by first name. It is better to avoid addressing people by their surnames.

For example, Elena Vladimirovna Orlova, where Elena is the first name, Vladimirovna is a patronymic (her father’s name is Vladimir), and Orlova is a surname. So, in a conversation it is polite to address her Elena Vladimirovna. In all official documents she will be referred to as E.V. Orlova.

The typical greeting between men is a handshake. With older people you shake hands only if they stretch out their hand first. And a simple greeting according to the time of day would be good for everyone.

Women and old people are respected here. It is considered basic politeness to offer your seat to a woman or an elderly person in public transport.

Russian etiquette dictates that men take off their headwear (hat, cap etc.) when they enter a room.

If you are invited to a non-official party or dinner it is polite (you are expected) to bring something with you – a small snack or drink is usually accepted with pleasure.


Saint Petersburg generally has the same level of security as any other big European city, in some cases it is safer. There are quite as many policemen on the streets as in Moscow and there’s a rare chance to see somebody who might represent a danger (especially in the centre). Like in any big city you should avoid dark streets and courtyards at night and some urban areas. If you are vigilant, the event of robbery is unlikely, however, take extra care in busy streets and watch out for pickpockets.

If you are robbed or lose something important, please contact the police phone number is 112 (or 020). You can dial this number from any payphone or mobile for free. Also, you can find police stations in the city (Полиция (Politsia) sign) or inside metro stations. The problem is that policemen usually speak Russian only, so it is better to find someone to help you to explain.

Top Tips for Dealing with Culture Shock:

  • Be curious but non-judgemental
  • Engage with your environment as much as possible
  • Participate in activities and keep a regular schedule
  • Eat well, exercise and get sufficient rest
  • Be honest about how you are finding the experience
  • Relax and take time to unwind
  • Open your mind and eyes as much as possible
  • Accept the differences in the culture around you
  • Talk about any concerns with a friend

Useful links: