According to a study by Expat Insider, the climate, economic situation and language difficulties make Moscow not the most attractive city for foreigners. At the same time, expats in the Russian capital appreciate the ubiquitous access to high-speed internet, as well as the variety and accessibility of education and services for children. Our heroes know Moscow perfectly and speak perfect Russian, although they were born in Europe, the US and Cuba. What makes them live far from home? Or has Moscow been their home for a long time?

Bob Protexter: got to know Russia through... baseball

In 1988, in the small town of Sioux City, Iowa, Bob Protexter read an article stating that the USSR would be forming a national baseball team. That year, the 21-year-old student was working in an ice cream factory, studying history and playing on the varsity team. The article in the newspaper kept him busy. Bob decided this was his chance to become a real baseball coach, like his father.

For several years he looked for a way to get into the USSR. But no one would listen to the young man. He finally managed to get into the US-Soviet Economic and Trade Council, and in 1990 Bob found himself in the Soviet Union. He began to coach the Mendeleyev University of Chemical Technology, lived in the dormitory with the students of Mendeleyev. The athlete remembers that time with nostalgia.

"There were hardly any establishments where you could have dinner after 8 p.m. People would walk into casinos with guns. It was like our time in the Wild West! But it was so exciting!" - American says enthusiastically.

Bob turned out to be a man at risk: in the 90s he saw tanks in the city center, the bombing of Ostankino and the demolition of the Dzerzhinsky monument. He didn't care much about politics, but he liked to be in the middle of things and feel the spirit of change.

During his first year in Russia, Bob received a salary of 250 rubles - this money, he said, was enough to buy a good meal in the United States. But the athlete was fueled by the dream of participating in the Olympic Games as a coach of the national team. That was the main reason he was there.

The team under him did perform well, but never reached the Olympics. In 1996, Bob returned to America. He was at home coaching and doing selection work for many years - many Russian players were able to go to the United States because of him. He participated in the Olympic Games with the Russian team: in 2002 in Salt Lake City and in 2010 in Vancouver. However, as a member of the administrative staff. And in 2014, Bob Protexter went to Sochi. But already as a regular fan. And the athlete found it terribly boring: he dreamed of being in the thick of things again, not in the stands.

Finally, in March 2019, he returned to Moscow. Bob was on his way to the same adventurous city, but he found himself in a different world. 

"You know, from 2014 to 2019, Russia has changed even more than from 1996 to 2014. It was more interesting before! You could go out on the street and catch any car, even the police and ambulance once picked me up. Now there are paid parking lots and cameras everywhere, no one cuts anyone off. The roads are full of foreign cars, not Ladas or Zhiguli! I walk into a pub and I don't know where I am, in which city of the world? Because the places inside are foreign. When I got home, I asked my friend: "Where is Moscow? Where is my Moscow that I remember? "And he replied, "Not anymore." As for the Russian youth, I think they are no different from the youth of any country in the world. They just look at their smartphones and live in them."

And yet, the American is back for the long haul. Bob Protexter is on the coaching staff of the Russian national baseball team. And he's working with his former protégés - those he coached here or helped sign contracts with American clubs. Former and current athletes have become his best friends. And their loyal friendship is another reason why he wanted to stay in Russia.

"People always receive me well everywhere, so I didn't have any difficulties, then or now. They say that neighbors don't know each other in Moscow. I know my neighbor. Sometimes he helps me, if you ask him. He is a good guy. And my friends in Russia have always helped me. Recently I had an injury, I had to have an operation. And I don't have a medical policy. I texted my buddies in a messenger chat asking them where I should go. So I didn't have to do anything else: they raised the money for the operation themselves and arranged with a private clinic. I was back on my feet in no time. That's the kind of friends I have!"

Jorge Sevilla: The Russians are very curious.

Chef Jorge Sevilla left his native Cuba in 1995, due to the difficult economic situation. And he found himself in Russia. He already had friends here: the Cuban had been an exchange student at Tula State University during the Soviet era.

The foreigner felt the contrasts of the turbulent 90s: rapid increases became a reality, but went hand in hand with risks for life. As soon as he arrived, Jorge found a job as a dishwasher in a restaurant in Red Square, and a month later (!) he became the chef of a new Cuban establishment. Two years later, he opened his own restaurant with live music and a Cuban atmosphere in the center of Moscow. It was a successful business: the place was full every day of the week.

"And then the hard part began. It turned out that the local organized crime group had its eye on the restaurant. The gangsters were demanding $8,000 a month from me! A lot of money for those days. But here's what I did: I deducted everything they ordered from my restaurant that month - they never paid the bill. This is the change I gave them back. So we lived.

In 1998, the restaurant had to close again, and Jorge thought about leaving Russia for good. But a stroke of luck occurred: the director of a consulting company, who had heard about the Cuban chef, wanted to invite him. He was to help the customers with the opening of the culinary department of the supermarket. Jorge was not yet familiar with this field, but he decided to try his luck. In fact, the chef is still involved in this field.

Later, Jorge's boss invited him to participate in many projects: the Cuban advised to open restaurants not only in Moscow, but also in Samara, Stavropol and Saint Petersburg.

Finally, in 2004, the founders of the future high-end gastronomy chain found Seville. They wanted to open a store in which the food in the culinary department would not be inferior to that in the restaurants. And with the help of a Cuban chef, they really nailed it.

"We opened the first store on Bolshaya Yakimanka. It was a bomb. We lost all the chains that were considered high-end," the expat proudly recalls.

That same year, Jorge married a Russian woman. The family is now raising three children: Enrique, 14, Gabriela, 12, and Luis, 4. Together they have gone through happy and difficult times. But the most difficult one probably has to do with the move to Spain.

"Despite the years I spent in Russia, I didn't understand many things here. In 2011, I received a residence permit in Spain. I thought I would feel at home there - everyone spoke my native language. I thought the kids would be better there too. I was sure I was doing everything right.

The family moved to the resort town of Denia, and in 2014, Jorge opened a restaurant there. Everything went well at first, but the chef didn't consider the many nuances of doing business in a European country, from the taxation system to the mentality of local customers.

"The taxes turned out to be huge, the holiday season was very short and the customers were conservative. They were very wary of new dishes. I am used to Russians being very curious, they are willing to try, to experiment with food. The Spanish eat the same things they did 40 years ago. It's hard to make a name for yourself in such conditions. Maybe I chose the wrong city and the wrong time. But Spain didn't work for me.

Jorge found himself in a very difficult financial situation. Russian friends and partners came to the rescue. Jorge didn't tell them about the problems, but when they came to visit him, they understood everything for themselves. And they called him back to Russia. At first, the Cuban came only for two weeks, to help prepare the New Year's holiday menu. But immediately after the New Year's vacation 2016, he returned to Spain to close the business and give the consul his residence permit.

"I think I was the only person in Spain to do it - he had such a surprised face! - laughs Jorge. - I brought my family back to Moscow. I was very well received here. On the first day of work, some of the regulars came up to me and said, "I see you're back. I said, "Why?" - They replied, "It tasted good."

One of the main reasons to worry about moving is the kids. Jorge was concerned that after the relaxed approach to teaching in Spain, where students didn't even have homework, it would be difficult for them to study in Russia. The curriculum here is much more thorough and the discipline is harder.

"In Spain, the kids had a lot of free time, I didn't like that. But here, they are always busy. And recently, my oldest son came to me and said, 'I like the fact that here it's not customary to 'turn yourself in' if you've asked to be disbarred or if you've done something wrong. I was very surprised when I found out," shares a foreigner.

Jorge confessed that after his return he felt Moscow and the energy of its people in a new way. According to him, even on the roads, everything became more cultural.

"Leaving brought me a lot: I realized that I had real friends here. They were the ones who supported me, who helped me with money, with work. They cared about me. I never managed to make close friends in Spain. I also realized that I like the scale of Moscow - I need a lot of space. But most of all, I like the fact that I can do what I like. I have a reputation. And I would never trade that for anything else."

Hans Kupper: One year in Moscow equals five years

The introduction of Hans Kupper, a guest from West Germany, to Moscow began on May 9, 2000. At that time, the German citizen was looking forward to the festive greeting with everyone, without sincerely understanding what it was for. And a year later, he moved to the Russian capital to work - at the invitation of a consulting company. At the time, Hans had no idea that he would be here for a long time.

"In 2001, Moscow was a dirty and dark city. But the main challenge for me: there was no normal bread. I couldn't eat the Borodinsky and white breads here. A store on Smolenskaya Street saved the day. The only place where I could buy bread," recalls the expatriate. - But now - Moscow is ablaze with colorful lights, and the baguette here is better than in Paris!"

Both Moscow and Hans have changed over the years. He has had time to work in various businesses, start a family, and divorce. Küpper now sells services to clients from all over the world in a firm where, until recently, he was the only foreigner. Two months ago, he hired a Chinese assistant. "Today, my new employee was very nervous before the presentation, constantly asking, 'What are we going to talk about? What are we going to interest the partners in?" And I calmly replied, "Relax. Everything will be fine." I think I learned that in Russia. Now I am ready for absolutely different situations, for all kinds of surprises.

As for the disadvantages of living in Russia, Hans points to the amount of unnecessary paperwork. But in other respects, he likes life in our country. In any case, he is not going anywhere in the foreseeable future: "Of course, there are things I don't like here. But where is the best? I can go back to Germany at any time, but I would get bored very quickly. But when I retire, I will certainly come back home. In the meantime, I am full of strength and energy.

The expatriate is in close contact with other foreigners, he often meets people from all over the world and helps them to adapt and do business in Moscow. But he particularly emphasizes the willingness of Russians to always come to the rescue.

"I have Russian friends that I have known for many years. And I know that if I suddenly call them and say 'Please help us! - they won't ask why. They will say, "Of course!" And I will do exactly the same thing. This will not happen in Germany. The Germans will first ask, "Why?"

When asked who he is now, Russian or German, Hans answers confidently: German. As soon as he opens the door to his apartment, he plunges into another world: he turns on the German radio, watches Netflix in the original version and grows chili peppers on the windowsill. It is true that he names his favorite cat Tatiana after a Russian name. In fact, the German expat received her from a Russian colleague. One day Hans mentioned that he liked cats and his subordinate decided to surprise him. The cat is now 16 years old and still full of vitality and energy. There is no other way in Moscow, the foreigner is convinced.

"For me, Moscow is life in its purest form. In the extreme. There are also negative aspects. But on the whole, there is much more good than bad. I know many foreigners who left here and regretted it. They regret it and want to come back. Many of them say that they had an active life in Moscow. How many opportunities there were: to work, to meet new people, to get acquainted with cultural and night life. When I came here, I was told that life in Moscow was equal to three years of life elsewhere. I think they were wrong. One year of life here is equal to five! When I leave here, I will be able to look back and see a time full of experiences, action, life.