The so-called BRIC nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China account for a quarter of the world's land mass and their economies are growing rapidly. Much has been written about their cultures and their attitudes to business, but what do they think about us? We spoke to professionals from all four countries who currently live and work in London.
Anna Frost, 26, head of media and research at a London-based film production company
I was born and raised in Moscow, and moved to London in October 2012. I'd travelled to London a lot, and always been a bit of an anglophile. When I worked at Russian Vogue I came here all the time, and I always found it exciting. I had a lot of friends here, and I wrote guides to the city for Russian titles. Now I live here, I am really quite attached to the city.
The things that attracted me most to come here were contemporary art, architecture and, most of all, food. I'm always exploring and seeking new and interesting places, whereas in Moscow I was always out at the same five venues — it felt small in comparison. The fact that London has so many different neighbourhoods is one of the most amazing things about it. Moscow has a ring road: what's inside it is central, what's outside it is not. But London has diverse and interesting districts: you can live in one area for a while, and if you get tired of it, you can move just a short distance away and find a very different atmosphere. Not only do you have east, west, north and south parts of the city, but each of these has many neighbourhoods, too, such as Shoreditch, in east London, where I live.
London architecture is wonderfully mixed. You get Victorian, 60s and contemporary buildings all next to one another. Central Moscow is a mixture of Stalinist-era buildings and modern blocks, 20 storeys, with parking and concierge. In terms of classical arts — music, theatre — Russia has always been strong, but when you look at its everyday culture, such as exhibitions, talks, even the media, it's not exciting.
The media realm in Russia is mainly limited to luxury and fashion titles — the news media is nothing like as expansive as the UK's. The internet is available everywhere in the UK, but apart from big cities, major parts of Russia (small towns, villages) are still struggling for internet coverage with dial-ups and outdated computers.
The prices for fresh food in Moscow are beyond belief, so I really make the most of the food markets here. I love Maltby Street in Bermondsey on Saturdays, where I buy wine, cheese and meats. I'd always had an interest in food and written about the London food scene, and it was one of the things that really lured me to come and live here. It's so vibrant and exciting, with so many options — good options. Maybe the British have been inspired by the French, but food has really become an important part of the culture here.
Contemporary art here is great, too, if not as exciting as it is in New York. I like Victoria Miro, and I think it's a shame the Wapping Project has closed down. The Rothko Room at Tate Modern is wonderful, though usually crowded. I prefer smaller galleries on the whole, such as Greengrassi in Elephant & Castle — trekking down to south London in the rain to look at art has a certain romance. I'm determined to see and try everything here. In Moscow I just did my job — in London I go everywhere, I'm constantly discovering. I've started to learn about wine, I'm having French lessons again, I've taken up yoga...
London's multicultural population is very striking: within weeks of moving over here I'd met people from virtually everywhere. That's what creates London, in a way. It seems open, yet closed, both at once. If you know what you want in London, you can usually get it. In Moscow, if you want to go to a private gallery, you have to be invited, to be on a list — here, you can just go.
There can be misunderstandings between Russians and British: Russians come over as too much, too loud... Russians are willing to tell you their life story in a second, whereas British people are tremendously more reserved, with all their rituals, like saying please and thank you all the time. It's a small, crowded island, I suppose, so you have to be polite to each other. In the workplace, Russians are gloomier and more suspicious. Back home, I am considered 'old' in publishing at the age of 26 whereas here I am seen as young and overqualified. I had to halve my CV. So, career wise, things can move quickly in Moscow — here, good jobs are hard to get.
I love the weather here. In Moscow, you're basically in survival mode in winter, when -15˚C is normal. In London you never quite know what the weather will be like — you get used to that. The parks are great here; in Moscow we don't have the same thing. In London, in summer, the way people relax in your green spaces is really nice. But all the bicycles drive me mad when I'm crossing the road.
What do I miss? Caviar! And Georgian cuisine, which is incredible. You can't really find that here. But I love the pub culture, where you have your favourite places, where your friends go. I love Fridays in summer, when everyone finishes work and goes to the pub in a swarm. In Moscow, you go home, get changed, and don't go out until much later.
Finally, the British handshake is very firm! I used to have a nice, gentle, ladylike handshake, until I came to the UK. Now I know how to break people's hands. It freaks people out back in Russia.
More BRIC musings from Brazil's Ricardo Akeda, India's Karan Chanana and China's Elica Meng.
Now it's your turn
Have you moved from another country to London? We'd love to read your views on your adopted city. Email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll publish the best ones in a later issue of Business Life.
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