The shorter the day, the longer the night – Чем короче день, тем дольше ночь – Je kürzer der Tag, desto länger die Nacht

As you may have guessed from the title, the days are getting ever shorter here in St. Petersburg. So this post is going to delve a little into the reality of living in a city where the sun hasn’t shone in many weeks. It’s not all greyness and it does get better, so stick with me.

So these shorter days are not helped by the constant blanket of cloud which covers the city. If anyone has ever lived in a country or city which doesn’t get sunlight for long periods of time, then you’ll know that living like this is actually pretty tiring and challenging. It can be pretty hard to pull together the motivation to keep on with the everyday task, because all you see when you look outside is grey cloud, grey pigeons, grey buildings and bare grey tree. Hence it has actually been quite a challenging few weeks.

What, you might ask, have I done to try to deal with it? well that’s what I can share with you. The things that have helped me to cope a little better with so much greyness.

  1. skyping and messaging my best friends

    I have some amazing friends, if they’re reading this then I hope that they know how amazing they are. I don’t think there has been a skype session where I haven’t felt better having talked even about random things.

  2. drawing and being a little creative

    this one is a big stress reliever. I brought a notebook with me to Russia, in which I draw and write all sort of creativity and being able to do that is a huge help. There is just something about taking a break from the hustle of the day and all the tasks that weighing down on me and taking a moment to just draw something and completely focus on that instead.

  3. meeting up people

    obviously if you are in a strange city and you don’t know anyone, then this one can be difficult. But I have been so fortunate to make some great friends here, and on difficult days it’s been great to meet them up and to just get work done together. Sometimes we don’t even talk that much because we’ve got homework to be doing and vocab to be learning, but to know that you have people that you can agree to meet up helps with forcing you to get out and about despite the grey weather.

  4. finding your comfort zone

    okay, this one has been tricky here in Russia, because I am almost always outside of my comfort zone, in that you always have to be ready for someone to speak to you in Russian, or that you might have to do something at short notice, or the thought that something might crop up is constantly there. However, if you can find places in whichever city you are in, where you know that if you go there, you’ll feel relaxed and you can have a clear head, whether that’s a cafe which is closer to home, or a space where you feel productive, or even just walking about the city and the metro with music in. Whatever works to make you relaxed and can then wonders for dealing with the gloominess of a grey day.

Wishing you all the best wherever you are, and I hope that the sun shines for you tomorrow, because when the sun shines and the sky is blue, everything just looks that little bit better.

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)
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    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.
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    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!