Call it hormonal mood swings, but I am apparently fixating on the similarities and differences of my fellow expats' experiences here in a manner that is extremely vexing and offensive to The Spouse. What I call "Looking out my window and making observations" seems to come across as "Hey! How come you're such a lousy provider?"
Certainly not the intent at all. I probably deserve a sound smack.
Take the volatile nature of real estate prices in Moscow. When we arrived here a year ago, at the peak of the pricing bubble, I thought The Spouse negotiated a very reasonable price with an even more reasonable annual increase. In the months since we signed, I have friends here who have had their landlords approach them, in spite of a signed contract, and ask for increases. They've had to pay up or move in many cases. Some have gently referred the landlord to their contract and escaped unscathed. But not all.
Since the economic downturn began in the fall, I've observed the reverse: tenants approaching landlords to ask for a decrease in rents.
Obviously, all of this begs the question "Does anyone here honor a signed contract?"
Yes, people do. But anyone who has lived in Eastern Europe has experienced the signing of a contract followed by the almost immediate disregard for it.
So, on the one hand the contract protects both sides from abuse. On the other, am I being a fool for not playing the "When in Rome Game"?
The Spouse is tired of discussing it.
He also doesn't want to hear me describe anyone else's situation, housing, or benefits package. Again, it never occurred to me that making observations would feel like judgments. I can understand that, and, of course, feel awful about it. But, as the accompanying spouse, I clearly have no idea what it feels like to be the one who brought the family along. Obviously there is a huge sense of responsibility coupled with inevitable (and unnecessary) guilt.
One of the other (many?) weird things about being an expat is that you are often sorted not so much by your socio-economic background as by your native language or passport cover. Yes, at home there are always wealthier neighborhoods and, even, wealthier neighbors. But I always found myself more or less among people who were pretty much on the same page.
Here (and, as I think about it, in all my expat gigs) it is quite easy to mix among the extreme ends of the spectrum. Some folks are here as students, doing the backpacker thing, using Lonely Planet guides to find adventure and stay on budget. At the other end are the company managers who get large and lovely apartments, drivers, and international school tuition all provided courtesy of the employer.
We are somewhere in the middle.
We have a comfortable life.
We are even saving money in the World's Most Expensive City.
But it is impossible not to measure oneself next to other expats. It isn't always even a catty thing (although, I won't lie: sometimes it is). The urge to talk about what I see is irresistible. Sometimes I find an appropriate ear with a girlfriend. But sometimes it seems like the only person I can talk to about this is The Spouse.
Clearly not recommended.
Chalk it up as a lesson learned. Some things are better left unsaid.
Waiting... - *In October on Manezh Square, outside of the Kremlin* It's the final countdown until the Olympics... Here's a link to an article that was in the "Russia ...
3 years ago