I grew up on a diet of Cold War spy stories and Second World War history books and so jumped at the chance to come and see what it was all about.
Moscow is often described as the New Wild West and, while that may have been the case in the early 1990s, its not really an accurate description any more. Certainly you know as soon as your plane lands that you are no longer in comfortable Western Europe. All the signs, and adverts are in seemingly impenetrable Cyrillic script and everything and everyone has the bustle and energy of an Asian and not European destination.
The city itself is alive 24 hours and I love this. Traffic jams at 3am are not ideal, but they are part of the non-stop culture and buzz of the place. I no longer find it unusual to do my grocery shopping at 4am after a Saturday night out. Shops, bars, restaurants, cafes, clubs, karaoke, even dry-cleaners just never close. Muscovites sometimes tell me that the city is not friendly, but I find that as soon as people discover you are
English, they are incredibly friendly and genuinely helpful. Throw in a few Russian words to your conversation and you have a friend for life! Russians pride themselves on their hospitality and it really is very genuine and kind.
We are based in Moscow Capital City, a new business development on the Moscow River along the lines of Canary Wharf, about 2km from the Kremlin and Red Square which are at the very heart of the City. The development is still very much a work in progress, but one day aims to be a genuine international rival to the likes of New York, London and Hong Kong. I live on the outskirts of the city centre and so can walk to work in 15 minutes, which is ideal. Moscow’s metro is also nearby and it is cheap, reliable and in places magnificent. The Bolsheviks removed much of the
marble and chandeliers from the palaces after the Revolution and installed them in the metro stations for all the people to enjoy. Many are still there today and have become one of the tourist highlights of the City.
The work is challenging, fascinating and exhausting all at once. The deals are huge and impressive and many of the sagely wisdoms that you learn in London just don’t apply here. The legal market is well developed – and still developing – and clients and advisers alike are savvy, sophisticated and know exactly what they want. Anyone thinking they can turn up from London and show the locals how things should be done soon gets a rude awakening!
Winter has arrived now, which of course means plenty of snow – it’s all still a novelty for me and so I am enjoying it very much. The other week it was minus 26 degrees Celsius during the day, which was about as cold as I have ever been I think, but around minus 10 is more usual and gives the city a ski-resort feel, which is great. I am confident that I can survive my first Russian winter and am looking forward to the challenges and adventures of 2010.