What did I learn in this last trip to Moscow?
Well for one, the Moscow Metro is now my bitch, thanks to the super app by Yandex: it knows where you are (yes, Milan, New York, London, Paris: there is free open wifi (almost) everywhere in the Moscow Metro, shame on you !!!), you touch where you want to go and it will show you the route.
On a translittered map you can actually read out should you need to ask for directions.
Secondly, weather. This is my first time in early spring, the weather was quite nice, but still hovering not enough far from 0°C to leave the coat at home; however, russians need a good oil shock to teach them to be a tad thrifty with their heating: any close environment is at least 5 °C too hot. If you will spend your day in a conference room, dress lightly to avoid overheating.
Thirdly, timing. Russians put italians to shame. You set an appointment for 11AM which effectively means “sometimes during the late part of the morning”. Or later. Pack a book: since you’ll be waiting you might as well use the time productively.
Then language. No, they don’t. Speak english, I mean. Hotel receptionists, store clerks, policemen, metro employees, restaurant waiters, taxi drivers none of them does – and this is an international metropolis that’s bursting at the seams with international business transactions; yet, unless you climb the corporate ladder quite a bit, do not expect english literacy.
Which does not mean you can’t get by. I bought metro tickets, coffee, food, a SIM for my phone (to avoid being ripped off by Voda) and I topped it up after a couple of days. All without speaking a word of Russian (except “Spasiba”) with people who did not speak a word of English (except “You’re welcome!”)
And while we are on language, the alphabet is not as hard to fathom as it initially seemed: I can read the greek alphabet and there are quite a few commonalities so I bet in another week I would be able to read with decent fluency. Which obviously does not mean understanding, but a surprising number of Russian words are actually simply translittered from other languages (French, English, even Italian) so you will be surprised at the number of signs you can actually figure out