10 Things About Living Abroad

I’ve now been in Saint Petersburg for almost five weeks! So I thought now would be a good time to make a list of things that you discover about living abroad, but only from living abroad. As I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t told or warned of any of these things before setting of on my trip abroad.

  1. Not living a train ride away from your best friends and family is sad and at times very difficult, but that’s when Skype is your invaluable friend! Equally, the famalam back home won’t always understand that sometimes things aren’t completely right as rain one hundred percent of the time, and that’s when it’s great to have friends who are also on their year abroad, and also understand where you’re coming from, and also are feeling the same feelings of missing friends, and feeling slightly isolated from all things British.
  2. The foodstuffs that you are used to won’t always be readily available in the supermarkets. So improvising meals and scouring the city may become part of your life. (BUT WHEN YOU FIND THE HUMMUS IT BECOMES YOUR MOST VALUED POSSESSION.. also valid for Peanut Butter and any kind of Asian foods)
    The discovery of hummus after five weeks in Russia
  3. Pasta may or may not become a staple in the first few weeks, simply because it’s so convenient and an easy fall back. When you become sick of pasta, you then realise there are so many other options, you just have to experiment.
  4. Living in a foreign country is really challenging.
  5. Having to speak and be constantly aware of people speaking in a foreign language is very tiring. But obviously is great from the learning point of view.
  6. It is possible to include dill in almost every meal. The Russians do this very well.
    Dill in the soup, dill in the salad…
  7. Queuing is so different in different countries, and also different depending on what building you are in.
  8. Some people will be mean about you not being able to understand what they’re saying the first time around, some won’t care but a lot will be understanding and try to speak slower and simpler for you.
  9. Public transport can be a mare. With buses, trolley buses, mashrutskas and trams to manoeuvre, as well as a metro map! It can all get a bit much sometimes, especially when the buses don’t seem to have an exact timetable, sometimes they turn up, and other times they don’t. One thing you can guarantee is that there will be a conductor on the bus who is shouting down the bus to find out who’s paid and who hasn’t but once you know what you’re doing, it’s all good.
  10. Finally it’s okay to find that everything isn’t always as amazing as it is made out to be on Instagram and Facebook. Perhaps this should be my first point, but I’ll make it my last anyhow. There is a huge misconception that spending a year abroad is a bit of a holiday, but the reality is very different.

I most definitely have missed out some key points or quirks about living abroad, and if you have any other suggestions that feel free to add them in the comments. Hope you’re having a good time if you are abroad also, or if not hope everything is well!


Ziferburg – Цифербург

Ziferburg: noun a very German sounding name, a difficult place to find, very pleasant to work in, well worth the twenty minute hunt for exactly the right place.

In my last post I mentioned that in one of our guide books, a cafe named Ziferburg was supposed to be opposite Gvostiny Dvor, but on my explorations I discovered that the location had run into disuse. I also mentioned that online, they apparently had relocated, and on Tuesday, Kelly and I made it our mission to hunt down this place and try it out.


First of all, I feel you should know that it was honestly one of the most challenging places to find yet. The address given on their website is indeed correct, but the actual cafe is in a building that isn’t well signed, and it is on the first floor (in English terms)/second floor (in Russian terms), and then when you get to that floor you have to distinguish between two different cafes and various other rooms!

We made it in the end. The person behind the till explained to use exactly how the place worked, and we got to choose our own clock as a way of identifying us, then all we had to do was ask for a latte, pick somewhere to sit and start working.


The atmosphere in the room which we were in was kind of strange. There were a group of people conducting a sort of photo shoot, but very quietly. There were another group of four people playing a card game in one corner. And then there were people sat out on the mini balconies just chatting. Then there were others, who like us had brought work to do and were sat very studiously scribbling away at whatever assignment had fallen their way.


In the two hours that we were there I had a latte, a couple of biscuits – which were pretty nice – and then in the last hour, the cafe staff broke out a watermelon, which we accompanied with some herbal tea – I went for green tea, whilst Kelly went for a hibiscus tea (каркаде).


Ten out of ten would definitely go back there again of an afternoon. It’s a great way to break up the day after having classes all day, and to rewind, get the homework done, but also chat and relax a little, without the constant pressure that someone might want your seat having bought some beverage slightly more recently that you.

Ah yes, I forgot to mention, that this cafe works on the basis of you pay for the amount of time you stay there. So you can help yourself to tea, ask for coffee or cocoa, and then also help yourself to the items of food that were on the table.


I have added a link to their instagram page if you click on the word, because their website is rather confusing. There are a couple of linked cafes of the same style across Europe, and on the main website they list out the various towns which they are based in, so it will be interesting to visit the equivalent cafes but in the different countries at some point!

Time Flies

Another week and a day has gone by so quickly, and I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write up about anything, which just goes to show both how busy things have been and how any time I’m just chilling, it’s a much needed rest to recuperate ready for the next day.

Anyhow, here I am with a little update.

This week’s post will be a little more food and cafe orientated than before, simply because I have been to quite a few cafes this week and I have pictures from them.


Number One – Marketplace, Nevsky Prospect

There are at least two of these restaurant/cafe/bar places along Nevsky, and the food, cakes and coffees are brilliant!

Honey Cake

It’s the perfect place to just nip in for Kaffee und Kuchen after classes, or for a quick and reasonable meal in the evening. The food ordering system is a little different to what I’m used to, but once you learn what to do, it is actually a system that I prefer, because the service in many restaurants here isn’t great. How it works is, there are different sections of cuisine, and you go to the section that you want to purchase from. You ask them what you want, they might tell you exactly what your dish is called and then you go to the cashier, tell him/her what you’ve ordered, you pay for it there and then, and then bring back your receipt to the place where you’ve ordered your food, collect it and take it to wherever you’re sat. Having typed that all out, it looks and sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is, I promise.


For desserts my particular favourite is the Honey Cake or the Chocolate Caramel Cake. Of course, I am yet to try the others, and they all look delicious, so I am looking forward to testing out the other desserts in the time that I am here, and my favourite might change in the weeks to come.



Number Two – Bonch / КОФЕЙНЯ «БОНЧ», Bolshaya Morskaya Ulitsa

I love this place so much! It’s so relaxed, it’s really near to a metro station, and their savoury, sweet and drinks are just perfect.

This week I went there twice:

the first with the intention of getting work done, and the lighting and atmosphere is perfect for doing just that. I ordered an Ice Latte (латте айс) and Kryssa ordered a hot chocolate – word of warning a hot chocolate here can either mean a very thick almost mousse like liquid or what I would normally have as a hot chocolate. Of course, both varieties are delicious, the thicker one can just be a little unexpected sometimes.


And the second as a refuel after visiting the State Hermitage. So I ordered a Tiramisu and a Halva Cream Coffee, both of which were absolutely delicious!


Everyone who I’ve taken here so far, has really liked both the food and the atmosphere. It’s safe to say that it’s pretty high up on my list of favourite cafes.



Number Three – Кофе на кухне, Nab. Reki Fontanki

Not the easiest place to find, but definitely one to visit again! It was well worth the many road crossings and bridges to eventually find this place. Although pretty small, the cafe manages to fit in lots of customers without it feeling too crowded. There is a pleasant mix of table heights and quirkiness.

Of course, we couldn’t go there and not try out the food. So I ordered a Tomato Wrap (Ролл с томатом), a chocolate milkshake (Молочный коктейль шоколадный) and a cheesecake (Чизкейк). All of which were very delicious and all of which I would highly recommend. And Kelly ordered a Tuna Wrap, a cappuccino and a cheesecake as well.


I would also like to give them ten out of ten points for the fact that when I attempted ordering in Russian, they didn’t instantly switch to speaking to me in English, but rather spoke in Russian slightly slower and slightly clearer, which was really nice of them and made my day, because it felt like I was actually achieving a part of the purpose of my year abroad – to be able to hold a spontaneous conversation in Russian.

Also according to Kelly’s guide book, they make vegan friendly muffins. We didn’t however enquire after those, so I cannot tell you for sure if this is the case.

General Notes

  1. We found that a lot of the places that are listed in guide books, online or on Google Maps, are either not where it says it is, or have been closed for a while. Whilst exploring I accidentally stumbled across one of the cafes that we wanted to visit only to find that it was very much closed, under construction or perhaps relocated.

    formerly Ziferburg – according to their website, they’ve relocated, so I will check this out and update as and when I find out
  2. If you go to a cafe that turns out to not be so “cafe-like”, don’t be afraid to go find somewhere else. Most of the time they don’t mind, as long as you’re polite and greet them as you leave.
  3. Might come as a shock… BUT ..don’t expect them to speak English. The majority of people who you come across will be very pleased that you are attempting to order in Russian. Of course there are some who get impatient, but don’t let that put you off. It’s so much more rewarding to at least attempt to speak in Russian, rather than to start off in English and to then later realise that you could’ve said it in Russian. It’s also really good for your confidence for speaking in an unprepared situation.
  4. This one applies to anywhere that you might buy things – so the supermarket, shopping mall, grocery store, restaurants and cafes. Always be prepared for them to ask if you have the 27 roubles to make the change that they give you back simpler. It may seen counter-intuitive to you but that’s just how things work here. You get used to it.

Peterhof Palace

Just a taster of the impressive fountains at Peterhof on Saturday! So much shiny! So much water! So much rainbows! So much goldeness!

We did go inside the palace, but photography is forbidden, so there’s nothing to show for that. It is well worth going inside, if only to enjoy sliding around with the shoe socks that they give you to put on. But in all seriousness, the rooms are breathtakingly detailed and ornate!


First Week in Russia

Just a catch up, so it might be a bit of a long one.

I’ve now been in Russia for a week! The weather is just as temperamental as I remembered, the Russian language is still hard to get your head around and the buildings are still just as beautiful!

The day we arrived was a beautifully hot day, so wearing a thick pink coat on the plane and then lugging a suitcase up and down subways was not a smart choice, but nonetheless one that I made and followed through.

view from aeroplane

The following two days it chucked it down with rain, but we started our university course in the buildings surrounding the stunning Smolny Cathedral.

Smolny Cathedral

At last on Wednesday, we had some beautiful weather so after lectures, it was nice to go out and explore the city a bit. Hopping on the metro is not a task for the uncertain. The acceleration and deceleration of the trains is enough to make you wonder if the train driver forgot that there’s a station coming up, but the speed of them is necessary for getting you from A to B in the least possible time. You just have to keep in mind that the escalators down to the platforms, although also very fast, they are incredibly long, and for some lines you have to even take two sets of escalators. It’s all worth it, because you come out of the metro station, and the building is pretty impressive.


Ploshad Vosstaniya is at the Moscow Railway end of Nevsky Prospect, and is a stone throw away from Galeria, a huge shopping mall that’s almost always packed full of people. Having visited there on Thursday for a few essentials, we made our way home, picking the worst time: rush hour.


Then on our day off from lectures, we visited Alexander Nevsky Lavra, and saw the graves of many famous Russia people such as Dostoevsky and Tchaikovsky.



And of course, what graveyard would be complete without the pensive cat…

“Why don’t I have a map of the graveyard??? Now I’ve got to read all of the stones!!!!”

Just around the corner from the graveyard, was the actual monastery and they did some bell ringing for nearly twenty minutes, which started off quite nice and pleasant but after a while, it kind of felt like you were in some really intense movie with a really huge scare coming up, so I wasn’t such a huge fan of that.

This is already a pretty long post, so I’ll wrap this up here. We did visit Peterhof on Saturday, but I’ll post a little later the pictures from that stunning place of many many fountains and much much gold.. wow