10 July 2006

Moscow: The Most Expensive City?

Before I ever set foot in the capital of the Evil Empire (what our folks used to call Soviet Russia then) I was warned about three things: Full of criminals, expensive living and girls. Anyway I haven't experience a lot of crime (not counting the official crima by the Ziya's -the police or the Militsiya-) and don't think the girls are no better than our friends back at Turkey - I don't mean the beauty of course, they have some magic tricks with cosmetics and they bring the best out of their genetic heritage-..

So the only thing I couldn't figure out is the expensive living.

Let's try to explain by the Maslow's hierarchy of needs:

1. Psychological/Safety:

All men needs a place to live with dignity
(from the Children of Sanchez)

..so you need a house to dig in. Currently, the real estate market is sizzling hot in Moscow and it seems that there is no end for the gap between demand and supply for the upcoming years. So the rents are skyrocketing (I haven't met anyone actually ever thinking about buying a flat in Moscow..it is maybe like buying a small tropical island off the Caribbean coast and ever building a hut from ivory on it). What you need to decide is where to live: off-the-city for newer and cleaner districts or in-the-city for better socializing and a more european feel.

It may be tempting at first to live in the semi-parisian streets of the old city, but the buildings are rotting and maybe haven't been taken care of since Stalin was still having a good puff of his favourite tobacco. And more surprisingly, they cost a fortune! You can rent a stable-smelling, dirty room for rents starting from 1000$ and a decent european citizen must need to pour in some more grands for a euro-remont (which is the term for the process of getting the houses ready for a real human being to live in). If you insist on staying close to where the moscovite life (=where the girls are) or your work is and can't pay some more for remont, you have to satisfy your needs with rusty plumbing, rotting woodwork window panes and a corridor or elevator(if any) with various types of domestic pet droppings.( I must say that russians like to have pets at home but I have to add that I have met a neighbor with a monkey...and having him piss on the corridor)

So you may have changed your mind and are willing to bear long rides of metro, bus or mashrutka (mini-bus) from work to home. Hopefully the evergrowing city and the respective unrest of the citizens must have alerted the Soviet leaders that their fellow comrades needed to sleep in houses after they work for long hours in state factories. So they have economized on housing as they did in everything except nuclear arsenal or space race. New housings were developed around the old town and new kvartiras (flats) are distributed to the happy comrades. That was a good idea for the start because the russian people were virtually unaware of their american counterparts' living standarts those days. A family of 4 would happily crammed in two room (or even one) flats.

Now some of those comrades are now capitalist dudes with mercedeses and bought bigger and better houses, leaving the districts for good. Their houses are now occupied by the non-rich russians (if any), expats and migrant russians from siberia, hopelessly looking for work in Moscow. The worst side of these districts is that they are far away from the center. What I mean is the filthy rides in a stinking metro wagon or ever-clogging roads to the center (even if there are 5 or 6 lanes). The houses (one room) range from 500 to 1000$.

I am now paying 900$ for a one room studio flat with euro-remont and it is pretty close to the city centre (even walking distance to Kremlin). What that house is worth in Turkey is around 400$. So housing in Moscow is expensive!!!!!

2. Biological needs

Take the guns from starving soldiers, they won't die
Food no lone won't ease the hunger in their eyes
(from The Children of Sanchez)

You may be a good cook, creating miracles with what is left in the fridge (that's who I am..preparing a decent meal from a can of beans, a handful of rice, ketchup and cheese :) ) or you may be always eating outside.

Moscow has millions of alternatives...from the deliriously expensive Italian Restaurants to simple shaurmas (a kind of doner/gyro). The first one may cost 300-400$ and the latter one about 3$. I don't think the food (if bought sensibly) is more expensive than other cities. Here are some examples:

Hamburger (McDonalds) 19R ~1$
0,6 Lt Coca Cola 25R ~1,5$
Shaurma 50R ~2$
Business Lunch (Salad+Pizza+Cola) in Pizza Hut 159R ~5.5$
Frozen Lunch (Matballs with Rice) 150R ~5.5$
0,5 Lt Can of Beer 30R ~1$
1 Lt 100% Orange Juice 40R ~1.5$
Loaf of Bread 10R ~.5$

These prices may vary from where you buy them; but may give you an idea about the prices in average. That is normal!!

3. Love and Belonging:

Maslow describes this level as follows: After physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, the third layer of human needs is social. This involves emotionally-based relationships in general, such as:

-sexual intimacy
-having a family

I don't know if anybody comes here to have a family but I can easily see that a lot of our fellow countrymen pay frequent visits to Moscow (or any former republic of Soviet Union with slavic nations). It is virtually easy to have "friends" in here. Although not tested in field, it is said to be in very direct relationship with your budget for a night-out. Here are some prices from well-known clubs in the city

Vodka-RedBull 150-400R 5-15$
Whisky(Single Dry) 200-500R 10-20$
Beer (0.5 Lt) 50-250R 2-12$
Tequila Shot 150-350R 5-13$
Champagne (Bottle) 600-1500R 25-60$

-End of Part I-

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