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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A New Home for Moscow Expats




Wondering where to get your hair cut? How much to tip the waitress at the Starlite Diner? How to buy a decent bed in Moscow?


And then there are the truly serious questions, such as what terrible fate awaits you if you whistle indoors or shake hands across the threshold of the apartment door.


The answers - and those to nearly every imaginable expat conundrum - are to be found at the new World Wide Web version of the Expat List, a listserve, or e-mail service, that goes out to 1,700 users, Russian and expatriate, in Moscow and abroad. The list and the site (http://www.expat.ru) lets expats buy and sell everything from books to Mercedes, offer apartments for rent and hunt for nannies, catch up on gossip and share the joys and the slings and arrows of life in a foreign city.


The expat.ru site has a phone directory, a survival guide and all the messages posted to the list. Messages posted to the site, in turn, are posted to the list. For local expats, the site provides a meeting point. For Russians, it provides a glimpse (if they really want one) into the lifestyle and mentality of those baffling foreigners in their midst. And for potential expatriates contemplating a move to Moscow, it provides a foot in the door, offering phone numbers, advice and even new friends.


Nicholas Pilugin, founder of the list, kicked off the new site last Friday. "What I originally started out to do was a web site like this," said Pilugin, who is president of Wordsmiths Communications. "When that project stalled, I started the list."


"But the list has certain limitations. It's just a pipe that spews information and leaves the person on the receiving end to do what he will."


The web site imposes some order on the flow of information available through the listserve's e-mail messages. On the web site, the messages are sorted into searchable categories. In addition to the daily digest of messages, there are separate forums for restaurants, buyers and sellers, jobs and parents. There is even a personals forum - empty so far.


And, though the web site is less chaotic than the listserve, it preserves the list's steady stream of hot air. But it channels it.


Those wishing to avoid the daily round of petty insults and cheeky banter that floods the listserve may wish to stay away from the Hot Topics forum, where the opinionated and passionate launch into topics such as a recent intense debate on the Italian royal family, and a fake obituary for a list contributor who was said to die of "terminal stage venereal infection."


Instead, they can concentrate on the useful information that is the site's main selling point.


Pilugin has included a "Survival Guide" link that tells how to get to each airport by metro and bus, which train stations serve which cities, when Russian public holidays are scheduled, and how to observe Russian etiquette and customs ("It is a serious breach of etiquette to refuse a drink. Russians have a hard time when someone wants to stop drinking, but can understand if someone doesn't drink at all").


Pilugin and his designers have included hundreds of phone numbers for local businesses. "Not everybody can just pick up the phone book. If you are sitting in Germany or Japan, there is no phone book to pick up," Pilugin said. "And if you're home in the evening, and you don't have a directory at hand, it's nice to have something online."


The site is even designed to fix a common torment of Moscow-based Internet users.


"We've kept the design simple, with the graphics at a minimum. A lot of people here don't have very good Internet connections," Pilugin said. "People can load it up even withbad phone lines."