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 Post subject: Contrasting life in Russia and the UK
Post Number:#1  PostPosted: 10 Feb 2012 15:22 
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Joined: 28 Oct 2008
Last Visit: 01 Dec 2018 19:13
Posts: 3622
Location: Surrey UK
Gender: Male
Status: Married
Her/His Country: Russia
RW_here_since: July 2008
Times_to_FSU: Too many to remember

I have lived in the UK for nearly 40 years (far too long) and at the same time I have visited Russia many times, too. Naturally, I have spent far too long time observing life in both countries and I must admit, lately, I am not itching to get back to Russia very soon. The past few years huge changes have taken place in the world, the UK was not immune to these momentous events and today, I find life in England not very exciting, mostly a bit boring, because everything is so orderly, neat and controlled.

I am married and living with a Russian woman for nearly (8 years*) and I have accumulated enough experience from both countries, England and Russia to compare and contrast the two countries.

(* Updated November 2016)


I was born and grew up in Greece in similar living conditions like the Russian people and often find English people a little annoying with their fake politeness and pretence. English customer service it is generally much better than the one you experience in Russia but behind the initial smile there is a cold veneer of distance and indifference and I get the feeling of not real warm welcome.

The Russian people don’t smile unless they have a reason to smile, shop assistants rarely bother to move their backside when you enter a shop or hide their misery, do not offer much help or make you feel welcome with a smile and Russian people tell it how it is.

One thing my wife noticed, since her arrival in the UK, is how there are fewer people on the streets. We are living in a small village in England and it’s often possible to walk for long time and only see just very few people. Everybody hides in their house, probably watching TV or playing on their computer and it's also amazing how a little snow in the ground brings most of the younger people out, like a couple of days ago. No surprise then, according to the press, that the majority of Brit’s are rather obese in comparison with the slimmer Russians and their bad drinking habits.

In Russia it could be -35c or +35c but the streets are always full of people just walking, going for shopping or for many other reasons and of course exercise in fresh air.

The British have a great sense of entitlement. They expect and demand every aspect of their life to be easy and perfect and they complain about the foreigners that come here and get their jobs, accepting minimum wage pay!

If you don’t want to work ... No problem, the government will provide everything through a generous welfare system and it's no surprise then that the UK is the top destination for asylum seekers and economic immigrants from all over the world.

In Russia the benefits system is so poor that there is a stark choice, either work or starve.
Bear in mind if you marry a Russian woman it is your duty to help the old parents with a monthly retainer.

Russians are accustomed to non existent customer service, a government that couldn’t care less, bad public service in the various state departments, bribery and misery. The pensioners who sit in the street all day trying to sell a few flowers or vegetables do so without a single complaint. They need money so they have to do something, anything in order to survive. Despite the problems in Russia, I’m always amazed at how well some "clever" (well connected) people that know to work the system, do there.

Some of our Russian friends are in their 40′s and 50's, yet managed to buy themselves flats (for cash, no need for a mortgage), have new cars, go on holiday a few times a year and live comfortable lifestyles.

In comparison most people I know in the UK are heavily in debt and mostly rely on credit cards to pay the bills. A lot of Russian people inherited their flats from the Soviet times, so with their monthly or weekly income, only have to cover the utility bills, which of course are much smaller than in the UK, food and clothes. As a result they often have a great deal of disposable income once the bills are paid.


There is still a lot of relative poverty in both countries and in Russia poverty can often be extreme, but most Russian’s we know make a determined effort to study, work, support themselves and try to improve their lives. My wife and I, are amazed with the number of Russian people we met on holiday, in Greece, France, Spain, Portugal and Venice, where we have been lately!

In the UK I see a lot of apathy and I often wonder if Britain is on it’s way to becoming a third world country?

Salary comparisons

Comparing salaries and cost of living between the UK and Russia it not an easy task.
It’s not as simple as just converting pounds into roubles or vice versa, because costs are different and a Russian salary sometimes goes a lot further than it would do in the UK.

The calculations below won’t work for big cities such as Moscow and St Petersburg because prices there are ridiculous but for the small provincial cities in Russia, I think that they are reasonably correct.

Lets say that you earn £15k a year in the UK (a low amount and well bellow the £22K National average), I would estimate that your standard of life will be roughly equivalent to a Russian earning 15k roubles a month, rather poor and miserable. An income of £20k a year in the UK will equate to 20k roubles a month in Russia and so on.

If you are earning 40-50k roubles a month, in a provincial city in Russia, your level of comfort will be roughly equivalent to a Brit earning £50k a year. With this kind of income you can have a very good size modern flat, a car, pay your bills, go on a foreign holiday and live well.

The past 2 years in the UK all we hear from the millionaires running our Government is "Austerity measures" and savaged cuts in every aspect of public life to pay the huge debts left to us by the previous Labour government. The truth is that we’ve given the banks billions of pounds of taxpayer money to stop them collapsing and now the people are going to suffer and pay for it”.

What amazes me is that so few people question the need for these measures, which do not work, as the stats show and today we have a double dip recession. The UK media is deadly silent and in general fully supports the government and have very little criticism for the guilty banksters. The austerity measures are cutting sharply into every day life of the people, huge structural changes take place in every aspect of private and public life but amazingly, I have seen very few programmes in the UK that questioned the bank bailout and the current Government’s policies. While nearly 3 million people are unemployed in the UK the banksters of course are receiving billions of pounds in bonuses and the Government that is the biggest shareholder, thus the owner of these banks........ does nothing about this shameful practices as it's customary that failure in the UK, by the banksters and politicians, is rewarded by bonuses and other honours (knighthoods and Lordships) as they are in each other's pockets.

Petrol (gas) prices in the UK are now £1.39 (70 roubles) a litre vs Russia £0.56 (26 roubles) a litre. The UK should have cheap petrol, because we have the North Sea oil etc, but the government add tax, vat, fuel duty and more until about 80% of the price is tax. The result is that it’s quite possible to spend more than 35% of your salary just getting to work. Three years ago to fill up completely the tank of my car was costing me around $30-£35. Now I watch with amazement the petrol counter hitting £70-75 with most of my money disappearing in tax. The oil prices have gone down over the past year from the $120 a barrel to around $80 today but the formula that calculates the taxes on fuel makes sure that we still pay higher prices despite the reduction in cost by the petrol companies.


The UK doesn’t make anything anymore, most factories have closed and everything is made in China. Many offices and customer services industries are being relocated to Asia where costs are cheaper.

Some people say that manufacturing is doing well in the UK. Yes, the few industries that remain are indeed streamlined, successful and efficient, but take a look around your house. Where is your TV, laptop, router, printer, kettle, clothes and just about anything else made?

Yes, it’s all made in China.

I feel truly sorry for the young Brits who leave University with hopes and dreams, only to end up stacking shelves in supermarkets or sit at home on unemployment benefit.

In the UK University fees raised sharply meaning many students will graduate £50k in debt, which is not the best way to start a career. It disadvantages not only the students but also the British economy. We should not penalise young people in this way, education should be free, as it's in Scotland, which is part of the United Kingdom..

“Things can only get better” sang the British Labour party back in the 1990′s.

Unfortunately, for many British people, the economy and life is only getting worse.

My wife’s impressions from her trip, last year to Russia, are that things are improving over there. Many people, driving new foreign modern cars, families buy new larger flats, salaries and pensions have increased and people’s lives becoming more comfortable.


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