German Business Club Summer Meeting at the Lev Tolstoy House in Moscow

the Russian Residence Permit

Selection_006I have recently had to renew my residence permit (Vid Na Zhitelstvo), which was issued four and a half years ago. Recalling the experience of gathering all the documents needed to apply for my ‘temporary’ residence permit, and then the full residence permit, the prospect of renewing my permit did not fill me with joy.

My enquiries started at my local ‘passportny stol,’ where residence permit holders go once a year to ‘re-register’, once a year. Re-registration means proving that you have not been out of the country for more than 6 months by showing the stamps in your passport. A simple form is filled in and bank statements showing that one has more than 120,000 roubles in a Russian bank account, or a valid work contract are shown. This process usually took me about 30 minutes.

At the Passportny Stol I was told that to get my Vid Na Zhitelstvo renewed, I needed to go to the Federal Migration Service УФМС for the Moscow Central Region which deals with residence permits. The address for this office is on Bolshaya Polyanka 33/41, phone number: 8 499 238 4178.

Naturally enough, any encounters with Russian officialdom usually require more than one visit. Queuing comes as default, however on my first visit I waited for all of five minutes before a pleasant 
but official female officer told me that to get my residence permit renewed I need to firstly get my passport translated into Russian and the translation certified by a notary. Then a form needs to be filled in which contains no complex questions apart from stating one’s provable income. I asked if I could not answer this, the answer was
 yes, as long as I proved that I had
 a minimum of R.120,000 in a bank in Russia. I chose to take the capital route. So I then proceeded to get
 a letter from my bank stating how much I had in my account. As my account is in a Russian affiliate of a western bank, the statement was in Russian, and this was enough.

I was also given a paying-in slip to take to a Sberbank, to pay in R. 2,000. I was relieved to discover that no medical is necessary. I was not asked to prove my address or produce any other documents such as a marriage certificate.

On my second visit I had to wait
 considerably longer: 
two hours in a very
 hot corridor. This time I
was asked to re-write certain answers in the application form 
in the correct way. For example one cannot write ‘No’ to the question about whether one has been arrested whilst living here. One 
has to write ‘No, I have not been accused of having committed any crime,’ not just ‘no’. In other words, it is necessary to repeat the question. It is advisable to study ‘correctly filled in forms’ that are pasted on the walls, or take a picture of them and ask 
a literate Russian friend to help you fill them in (in comparison to help offered by literate foreigners with a masters degrees in Russian!). This time I was asked for more financial information. I was asked to supply statements showing the flow of money through my Rouble account and a letter from one of my employers stating that 
I was employed on a regular basis. The letter did not have to state how much I was paid. Luckily all of this was not a problem.

My third visit also entailed a long wait, and this time I was informed that because my passport expires 
in a year, my new Vid na Zhitlestvo would only last one year. But the officer said that if I managed to get a new passport before my present Vid Na Zhitelstvo expired, and presented it within the next three months, I would get a new one for the full five years. On refection I guess it was pretty stupid of me to presume that it could be any other way as the Vid Na Zhiteltsvo is not a passport in itself, rather a document allowing one to enter
 and leave the Russian Federation without a visa, and work here legally. It is issued on the basis of a full, foreign passport, but it is not a passport in itself. On my fourth visit, my documents were accepted. On talking to the
 rather interesting people who 
I got to know whilst queuing
 up; I gathered that each case 
is individual and the officials 
can basically ask for any further documents that they see fit, however the rigorous examination of one’s reason for existence that is carried out when applying for the original residence permit 
is not repeated. Prolonging the permit is more akin to confirming that you are the same person, and that you still have the means to support yourself.

Driving in Moscow

Selection_010Driving in Moscow can be scary for the newly arrived, driving expatriate. It takes a few months and some getting used to. For starts, we drive on the right here, something you shouldn’t forget, particularly the morning following a night out when one’s concentration may not be at its best. I have been driving here for a number of years and don’t particularly enjoy it, but I think I now know how to do it. Here are a few of my experiences, and a few tips that you might find useful.

Selection_011New expat drivers
Language, Moscow traffic police and the road signs are perhaps the biggest worries for many foreign drivers here. We now have fantastic technology, that can speak to us and guide us in any direction, in any country in the world. You can use your car navigation system, or your smart phone. Bart, Basil Fawlty, Darth Vader or almost any other celebrity voice, will guide you through the tangled web of Moscow roads. You do not need to speak Russian, however if you get terribly lost, Russian will help if you need to stop and ask the way but even then you can use your phone translator. When I have been lost in Moscow, Russians have always been happy to help.

The driving experience
Moscow roads are Big, Busy and Bad. Traffic jams will stretch your nerves but please keep calm. Russian drivers are calm, they are used to it. They watch television and they don’t tend to get angry. They are resigned to their road fate. I have seen women knitting in traffic jams, cats in cars and dogs at the wheel. If you don’t like knitting, do Sudoku, a crossword puzzle or watch a movie on your smart phone. I don’t recommend doing these things while actually driving, but in case of traffic, allow plenty of time to get from one place to another. It’s usually better to drive in Moscow at the weekends or during national Russian holidays, when many Russians are away or at their dachas. Moscow roads are huge, with many lanes in each direction and turning left is hard to impossible here. You can only turn left when you see a broken white line or at traffic lights. Roundabouts here are as rare as an honest politician. On any Russian road, always get out of the way if you hear a series of unpleasant get-out-of-my-way electronic barks, from a police car. They have the power to ram you out of the way or even or worse if you block their path, so scram!

Carry your documents with you at all times. That is, a Russian driving license or international driving license, a car insurance certificate, road-test certificate if your car is over three years old, and car registration document. The traffic police stand by the side of the road with a white stick, you will be waved over to stop and asked for all your papers. Some traffic police take a bribe, while others do their job according to protocol. I have seen cars in Moscow with one headlight, no headlights, no car plates, no windows and some looking as if they have just left an off-road car race, where the car had a fight with a tree. I am not totally sure how some cars drive on the road here at all or what the traffic police look for when they stop a car. I have had a broken indicator (signal light) for six months now but have not fixed it, as many Moscow drivers don’t usually bother to signal at all when turning. Drivers can be aggressive and manners and politeness can be considered a waste of time. Try not to use your horn, as you never know who is behind the wheel in front of you. I have seen drivers get out of the cars to fight and argue when they have been hooted. Lane-sharing is common here and even expected and encouraged. This is when a car drives over the line, into your lane. Russian drivers are usually very impatient, I have seen them overtake on the inside hard shoulder (lay by lane) and overtake the car in front, on a road zebra crossing. There are new rules on parking in Moscow. You are not supposed to park across a road, on zebra crossing and offenders can be fined, but most drivers ignore this and park on zebra crossings, on the pavements (sidewalks) and almost anywhere else they want to.

Tyres, petrol & washing your car
Each new winter and summer season, you will need to change your tyres. Russians usually do such things at set times of the year; such as in October and April. Take your car to an official dealer or to one of the many car-tyre changing places in Moscow. There are some at petrol stations and a guy will swap your summer for winter tyres, from about 800 roubles. Make sure they balance the wheels and put your tyres into plastic bags to stop your car from getting dirty. Petrol (gas) is very cheap here, as Russia has lots of it. Usually but by no means everywhere, a man will fill up your car for you at petrol stations. This service is usually free but tip them if you want to. Strangely, unleaded fuel is in a red pump, rather than a green one, as it is back home in my own country. Make sure you don’t put the wrong fuel into your car, it does happen to the novice driver here. In most garages, paying for fuel is the opposite to back home, you pay for your petrol first then fill up. Be careful to choose a reputable petrol station, as sometimes fuel can be dirty and it will damage your car’s engine. You must carry a fire extinguisher, a reflective jacket and a first aid kit with you at all times. If in doubt, ask your embassy for full car equipment rules.

I was amazed to find out that it is illegal to wash your own car here. I found out the hard way, when one day an angry Russian came up to me in my yard and began shouting at me to stop washing my car. The reason is that local authorities do not want people making a mess of the yards between buildings, which in the centre of Moscow are very cramped. You can only get your car washed at a car wash which can be found at big petrol stations, sometimes in car parks, at shopping centres and sometimes at big dedicated car washing places. In the winter, the roads get full of dirty black snow, so you will need to visit a car-washing place regularly. Prices start at about 300 roubles. It begins to get icy here from about November, so make sure you put anti-freeze into your cooling system, as well as non-freezing cleaning liquid into your windscreen-washing system, before the ice comes or you will be unable to clean your windows. The main Moscow roads are usually cleared regularly of snow. If you do have an accident and are not injured, be ready to spend a long time registering the accident with the police. You have to call the traffic police immediately as well as your insurance company and should not move your car an inch away from the place where the accident occurred; even if you are blocking a major road. The police officer will come and take details, photos, measure the road, and this can take a long time. Without having the police check everything, you will not be able to make any insurance claims.

Personally, I only drive once a month, to go shopping in a large supermarket, as I am a bit nervous of driving in Moscow. I am nervous because of aggression and because of the awful traffic but if you have a family, a car for shopping is essential. Just remember, keep calm, use your mirrors often, watch speed limits and try not to use your horn. Be assertive, plan the journey, use your car navigation or smart phone. Always have plenty of fuel and in-car entertainment, for any potential traffic jams. Always carry your papers and have all the required equipment in your car. In the winter, keep your windows, car plates and headlights clean of black snow or ice. Happy driving.
Jay May, English dad in Moscow


Selection_013Would you like to take a break with a difference from the humdrum of Moscow life? Would you like to go fishing, horse-riding, ride in a horse drawn carriage, go quadracycling, participate in master classes on cheese making and meat preparation, go on picnics deep in the forest by horseback, or just take it easy in a beautiful lake-shore wooden Russian home, all at very reasonable prices? If the answer is yes, the ecologically friendly agricultural and eco-tourism centre Bogdarnya, which is a three hour drive or two hour train journey west of Moscow, is for you. Here you can enjoy all that authentic Russian culture and traditions have to offer, but with western service.

Weekend breaks for families

Facilities at Bogdarnya are extensive enough to offer a huge variety of activities and programmes for groups and individuals, yet all programmes can be tailor-made to suit the unique demands of the individual or group. Families may wish to go kayaking together for example, or parents may wish to let the children join a supervised group of other children whilst they enjoy some well-earned time off.
Finding a farm where children can play with rabbits, collect eggs from hens, brush down a pony before going on a trek, feed horses and sheep is surprisingly difficult to do in Russia. A special ‘touch zone’ has been set up at Bogdarnya to let children do exactly this. Other organised activities for children include experiencing the wilderness of the Russian countryside on camping trips deep into the forest, going kayaking, going on a barbeque, boy-scout type camps, arts & crafts activities, horse-riding lessons, or simply learning how to find and pick mushrooms in the forest.

Families may also wish to visit Bogdarnya during a Russian festival, as all the main traditional occasions are celebrated with great style with period costumes and authentic food and entertainment.

Selection_014Individual sightseeing tours in the ‘Golden Ring’.

Bogdarnya is situated within easy striking distance of two gems of the ‘Golden Ring’ of special spiritual centres: Vladimir and Suzdal. Using Bogdarnya as a base, you can explore these towns and other less known centres of Russian architectural and cultural interest.

Master Classes

Visiting a farm where of meat and dairy products are produced by hand means that you are visiting a centre of knowledge that can be shared. At a master class of meat appreciation, you can learn how animals are reared, what they are fed before slaughtering, and how this alters the taste of the meat. You can also pick up important tips of how to cook your favourite meat dish, so that it not only looks good but tastes great as well. Next time you are at a steakhouse, you will be able to tell just how good the meat is, and how old it is.

Cheese is something few of us have ever thought of making ourselves, yet this is exactly what a master class on cheese production at Bogdarnya will teach you. Through learning how good cheese is made, you will be able to distinguish more easily between good, bad, and excellent cheese, as well as equip yourself with the skills to make your first cheese yourself, if you want.

Selection_015Whatever you want in terms of a break or holiday, you can find it at Bogdarnya. Give us a ring and find out what we can do for you.

Tel: 89039615880


A 20 bedroom hotel in the heart of the Bogdarnya complex will open by October, whilst meantime off-complex hotel accommodation is only 20 minutes away.
Lakeshore traditional Russian cottages with all modern facilities are also available


Horse-riding and lessons

Camping and fishing


‘Animal Touch Centre’ for children

Master classes in meat and cheese preparation

Celebration of traditional Russian festivals


Quadracycle lessons and forest tours

Excursions of horse drawn carriages

Sauna and Banya

Parties and weddings

Corporate events (conferences, team bonding, annual events)

Mark and Lois Gilbert


How did you come to be working and living in Moscow?

Mark: We’ve been living here a little over 4 years, going into our fifth year. I had been coming back and forth here for 6 years. The travel became too hectic, so I suggested to Bombardier that I’m happy to stay if you move me here, so here we are.

How did you survive in the beginning?, did you have difficulty adapting?

Mark: We rented a flat, work was busy, I was travelling a lot into the regions. For my recreation I do a lot of running, swimming and cycling to keep fit. I still run six days a week, and now I go out with the Moscow Street Riders on the weekends, when we can do 100k plus on one ride.

Lois: I’m somebody who will jump in and start doing things wherever I am. The first day I was here, I joined the AWO and the IWC. Eventually I started working on their boards, and I became totally involved in Moscow life in a different way from Mark. Right now, I am volunteering for Sochi 2014, I’m interview international volunteers for the Olympics and am very involved in the wine and cuisine culture in Moscow.

How did you get involved with Sochi?

Lois: I was involved with both the Vancouver and London Olympics. When the Olympics was first announced here, I approached the Sochi 2014 team and told them that I have relevant experience. I didn’t think that there is a culture of volunteering here, but I was wrong. They had about 200,000 people apply for volunteer jobs, about 5,000 are international volunteers, so we are working our way though that. It is interesting that their PR office has asked me to speak to a lot of different people about volunteering and the culture of volunteering. We always thought that the culture of volunteering is not here, but we have had people coming off the street and saying: I want to be a volunteer. It is surprising and heart-warming how many Russians are coming forward.

Do you think this could be the beginning of a new Russian national idea?

Lois: This is definitely the beginning of something, the excitement of the games has really caught hold, and this is something that people want to become a part of. To me, this is really exciting.

Do you speak Russian?

Lois: I try, I’m not very good. We have a zone at work where we can only speak Russian, so I go and talk to anybody who is there in Russian. Russian was actually my first language; my grandparents were Russian. They immigrated to Canada in 1899, I spoke it as a little child, but you know when you get into school, your knowledge of a second language stops pretty quickly if they don’t speak it at that school. My writing and pronounciation are quite good, I can’t say the same thing about my vocabulary skills!

Mark: I speak enough to get by.

What was doing business here like at the beginning?

Mark: From a work perspective it wasn’t bad, because I had already been travelling here for some time. I had been working with commercial airlines, which were buying western aircraft, they had people who spoke English, so I didn’t really have to speak Russian to do my job. I think the most difficult part was having lived a life of travelling, staying in hotels etc., to then all of a sudden coming here and moving into my own flat and having to look after myself. This was much more of an eye opener than I thought it was going to be. After that, it was fine.

How do you find Russians to do business with?

Mark: At the end of the day, business is all about relationships. So you have to get to know your customers fairly well if you want to be successful. That takes time, so a lot of things that might go faster in the West, like negotiating a deal, putting everything together, finalising everything can take longer. Most companies here have one single person who makes the decisions, but decisions have to be vetted by a group, and this process can be bureaucratic and very time consuming. This needs to be factored in.

Do you find Russians reliable, honest business partners?

Mark: I find them honest. When they tell you things, that’s usually the way it is. You may not like that, you might want to change it, but in the end of the day you come back to the position they adopted in the first place. This may not be very easy to communicate to people from head office who come over, because their business environment is so different.

Lois: I find Russians need time to get to know you, if you find somebody that you have a connection with then it seems to go a lot faster. Russians don’t seem to like the departure side of things too much. If you are going away, they will cut things off quite abruptly, they wont hang around and be emotional.

What are the main difficulties that you experience when living here?

Lois: Trying to get work done in the apartment. We have a relatively good landlord so things get done in a decent time, but major projects sometimes get left undone. They come and view it, say yes we are going to do it, but things only get done after a long time. This is not something we are used to. If we hire a contractor to come and do something, we expect it to be done in a certain time. For example, going and buying a washing machine and getting it installed. You would think that the guy who delivers it would install it, but no, you have to have a plumber, then the guy to remove the old machine and all that sort of thing, all the jobs here are very compartmentalised.

So how do you get things done?

Lois: I just continually persist. I keep on and on to the landlord, and they are very good to us now. I recognise that the worst thing to do is to lose my cool and start shouting at people, that gets nowhere. I actually found it relatively easy to fit into the lifestyle here. Even though my language skills aren’t that good, I am still able to get what has to be done, done.

On the business side Mark, it must be really difficult now because you are up against local suppliers?

Mark: 10 years ago there were only Russian aircraft, but we looked at the market and thought that there was a lot of opportunity for us to be able to participate. We realised that this is going to take a while, this is not something that is going to happen overnight. We persisted, and successes were seen by the company, and that helped. Now Russia is an international market like many others.

So it’s a long-term business, long money? It also means that you need to be around for long time?

Mark: Yes, it’s long money, but it’s the company that decides if I am going to be here for the long term or not, not me. Eventually the company will hire more local people, there are many good people around, but I am in no rush to leave.
I cover the entire CIS as well, so you can take what you learn here with you, but they are all different and have their own personalities, which is something you have to bear in mind when you are talking to people. It’s not just one country, is a collection of countries, and they are all different one from the other with some similarities.

What’s the main thing you need to remember when you are doing business in Russia?

Mark: Be patient, work with a trustworthy partner or group of people. Apart from listening to them, you have to work with them very closely. You can’t sit back and put your western ways of doing things in front of you, you’ve got to find out what the issues really are, and deal with them.

Lois: I agree, you do have to develop a relationship so that people can trust you, you have to be yourself. For me, the answer is just to be friendly, and I am lucky because I am an easy-going person, and I will talk to anybody, I didn’t find the experience of moving into Russia overwhelming.

You are both Canadians, is the Canadian community in Moscow active?

Lois: There is a good Canadian community here; I coordinate the activities of the Canadian Women Club in Moscow, although the only main activity we are doing as a group activity now is a Thanksgiving Dinner. I would say that outside the embassy, there are a couple of hundred Canadian women who are in contact with me. We have taken part in the International Women’s Club charity drives and generally stay in contact with each other.

Is there a Canadian school here?

Lois: There isn’t a Canadian school, but there is a Russian Canadian who runs a school which has been expanding quite rapidly recently.

What about on the business front, is there a Canadian business club?

Mark: Yes, I am a director of the Canada Eurasia Russian Business Association, which is going strong.

What do you find to be the most interesting element in Canadian-Russian relations?

Mark: Both countries have a lot on common: both are large and are bountiful in raw materials, but Canada’s population is very small in comparison to Russia’s. There is a lot of exchange in the resource sector. We don’t have the power that the Americans or Brits do when it comes to issues, we try to keep in the centre as much as we can.

Do you feel overshadowed by the Americans?

Mark: Not really, because the Americans are doing different things in Russia. Some of our board members are Americans and visa versa.

How is business going between Canada and Russia?

Mark: It’s growing. There is the oil and gas sector and the aerospace sector, which are the two strongest segments.

Lois: There are a lot of small businesses like restaurants that are coming over to try the waters here. For example ‘Fresh’ a company from Toronto, a vegetarian restaurant chain which has just come over. Russian culture in Canada is growing as well. There is a very large Russian community in the Toronto area that tend to live and shop and do everything in the same general area.

Like Brighton Beach?

Lois: No, it’s much more integrated. They are bringing their restaurants and stores over to Canada. There’s a totally Russian store just north of Toronto called Yummy. The clerks only speak Russian, the food is just the same as in Moscow. We have a pretty open door policy to Russians.

Canadians respect authority and pay their taxes, the country seems from a distance to be quite conservative. How do Canadians react to being in Russia, which at times can be a reckless?

Mark: A lot of people who are coming over have already done business here, and have been exposed to Russia. A lot of people have misconceptions about how difficult everything is here, but when they have come through customs and check into their hotels, they seem to say, Oh, we didn’t realise that this is such a modern place! They don’t necessarily see all the underlying issues which you see if you are living here, but usually they find that their preconceptions are not right.

Moscow Personalities – Biker Peter Dick

Selection_023Interview by Peter Hainsworth

What are you doing here?

I moved here in April 2010. My background is in IT, the same as my wife, we both worked for the same company. She came over to the UK office, in 2008, on a training course she was running, and that was how we met. I subsequently applied for a transfer here, but because of the financial climate at the time, they asked us to wait. We waited three months, then another three months, then another three months, they said “can you wait another three months please?”, and I said “no”. I said “We have put plans into place, if you can’t put it into effect now, then I’m leaving”. So I left, and came here without a job. Prior to working for that company, I had worked for myself as an independent IT consultant for 13 years and some of that consultancy work involved running training courses, so I had no problems teaching and doing presentations. I did a TEFL course and got involved with a guy here who was setting up a school. We started off in August 2010 – two of us and about 20 students, He was a brilliant teacher but I was the better administrator. He said: “I’ll do the teaching, you run the school.” Over the next 15 months the two of us built it up to a school with 7 teachers and over 300 students. We were doing very well, but the school wasn’t mine. I was making him a lot of money. I walked away, in October 2011, mainly out of frustration. We’re still friends. I had proved to myself that I could do this, and running my own school became my long-term plan. In the meantime I have been doing some freelance teaching work, and some IT freelance consultancy work. I also do some voice recording and have done one film recording! Apparently, my voice is normal middle-English, which the Russians like. I have recorded the sound tracks for maybe 40 or 50 different walking tours all over St. Petersburg, Vienna, Moscow, Paris, London and Istanbul. So I have three feathers in my cap at the moment: teaching; IT Consultancy and voice recording!

Selection_024What bike do you drive, did you ride it here?

My bike is a Yamaha FJR 1300, that model replaced the Yamaha FJ 1200. I saw a review of it in the motorbike press it looked like a beautiful machine. I was a consultant at the time, earning a lot of money, so I just went out and bought one, on the September number plate. I’ve been a member of the FJR Owners’ Forum ever since. I go to various FJR meetings in the UK, I’ve made a lot of friends through it, this is the longest I’ve had any bike, it’s an amazing machine.

I came here in April 2010, and left my bike in my brother’s garage. I missed it so much that in September I flew back and rode it here. That took me three days and was a real adventure! I admit that I lost my rag with the border guards. Sometimes you need to show them that you are not prepared to tolerate their nonsense!

Since I’ve been living here I’ve ridden to Volgograd, where my wife’s parents live. Because my bike is still on British plates it has to leave the country every four months, so last weekend I drove to Ukraine, down the M2 just to be able to cross the border to be able to get a three month visa which can then be extended to 12 months. That was a pleasant weekend. The last three hours coming back on the Sunday was – interesting – because of the weather. There were dreadful thunderstorms, flash flooding, not pleasant to be on a bike, particularly with some of the idiot drivers around who created “bow waves” with absolutely no consideration of others. They have a small focus zone, and don’t think about other road users. Driving standards here are appalling.

Riding in Russia is an experience, and I think that, in order to improve driving standards, everyone should be forced to ride a motorbike for two years before they are allowed into a car. I think that driving standards would improve dramatically, because their awareness of other road users would be become much better.

Is there a bikers club here you are a part of, or do you communicate with other bikers in some way?

We set up a group on Facebook called MERC – Moscow Expat Riders’ Club – which now has about 20 members, most of whom I have met. We do try to organise rides out, but we’re not affiliated with any Russian biking group. Occasionally we will meet out at Sparrow Hills, where the big biker groups hang out, but I’d rather be riding than sitting there talking. Over the last two years, at the end of April, beginning of May, there’s been the Harley Brothers’ Festival, which has been held at Bor, which is about 35 kilometres South of Moscow. This used to be linked with the government, now it is a private hotel complex. Very Soviet, but very nice.Harley Davidson is very big over here because Russians like anything American. Personally, I’d rather have a bike that works!

Apart from all that, there is a kind of fraternity amongst bikers. When you’re riding and you see another biker, you always acknowledge him or her. If you see another biker stuck by the side of the road, you invariably stop to offer assistance.

Selection_025So Yamahas are reliable?

Very. There are various categories of bikes. Most of the Harleys that you see here are what’s classed as cruisers. They make a lot of noise, people hear them, there’s a lot of chrome to be polished. It’s the classic 50s, 60s style bike. Russians are very image-conscious; they like to be seen with their bikes. Mine is classed as a sports-tourer, a sports bike with touring capabilities, with panniers on it. It’s got decent seats for long distance riding, so I prefer mine, the best bike I’ve ever owned.

What does the wife think of it?

She loves it. She was very nervous when I told her about my biking life, back in 2008. She told me a story about when she was 10, and her father bought her a push bike. She had this beautiful bike but she cried, because she was scared. So I said, fine, we’ll go for one ride. I won’t drive quickly, if you like it that’s fine, if you don’t, that’s also fine. I will never force you to go on a bike again. So we rode from Wokingham, where I lived at the time to Ascot. I stopped once on the way, and she said this it is fantastic. She’s never looked back. The next FJR event is being held in Llangollen, in North Wales, in August this year, and we are riding together, on the bike, all the way back to the UK. I will take it more slowly, we’ll take three or four days to get there.

What’s slowly?

As the driving conditions permit. A lot of the roads in Russia are of very poor quality, with potholes and everything else. I cruise at 120, 130 km an hour if I’m with somebody.

And if you’re not with somebody?

A little bit quicker. I cruise on my own at 100mph plus, when out of built up areas. You don’t get to my age and be a biker if you don’t drive carefully. I don’t take risks.

So it is the feeling of independence that you get out on the open road?

Yes, I love the feeling of freedom, the ability to be able to filter through traffic jams and everything else. In Russia you are shown some courtesy, but there are some drivers who resent the fact that you can avoid their traffic jam. You can see when a driver has seen you in his mirror and has moved one way or the other to block your way. One advantage that people on Harley’s have is that their bikes make a lot of noise. So they will rip the throttle to let people know they are there. My bike is like a Rolls Royce. Revving the engine doesn’t do any good.

I don’t suffer fools gladly. I think I’m better being my own boss, I do like the independence. I get very frustrated, very quickly, with bureaucracy, which is a problem living in Russia. I wouldn’t like to drive a car in Moscow. I think the metro is unbelievably good. The efficiency of the system, the frequency of the trains, the fact that they run from 5.30am to 1am in the morning, it’s a brilliant system, nevertheless, if you use it between 7.30am and 9.30am you can be physically in contact with about 5 or 6 other people simultaneously, because they are so closely packed in around you. Walking down the street, you’re walking round cars which are either double parked or parked on the pavement. Now they are introducing a parking charge system, and you can usually tell a street that has this system because there are no cars parked there. It’s just moving the problem. I don’t think that it’s solving the problem. I don’t know what the answer is, maybe working from home.

What about the traffic police here, how do you handle them?

I’ve been stopped by the police 4 times in just over 2 years. The first time I was stopped was 2 or 3 days after I brought my bike in to Russia, and I committed a cardinal sin of crossing a double white line. The policeman signaled me to stop and pulled me in. I phoned my wife and she acted as an interpreter, and, shall we say, we managed to “resolve” the situation. I was then pulled up three months later, it was a random check, they wanted to see paperwork, documents. I pulled the lot out, he could see that they were foreign. He didn’t even bother to look at the number plate at the back of the bike, or translate the documents. The other two times was within 20 minutes of each other at the beginning of this season. I think the police had been given instructions to check all motorbikes because it was the start of the season. On the first occasion I was asked where I was from, I said England. He said ah, Manchester United, go! Twenty minutes later, the same thing happened. I think they realise that English people have their documents in order, so really I’ve had no problems with the police.

What about speeding, don’t you get stopped for that now they have all those cameras everywhere?

The cameras are forward facing and bike number pates are on the back, fortunately. I always have a little heart flutter when I cross the border because I’ve been told that if there are any unpaid fines, they won’t let you out of the country. They’ve not tracked me down yet, must be because I keep within the speed limit (laughs).

A coffee making machine started created continuous scraping sounds making further meaningful conversation difficult.

If you are an expat biker, Pete can be found on his facebook page: