— Carrie-Ann, when did you first have this passion for travel?
— When I was a little over 20. It was then that I went on an eight-month backpacking trip. But I finally left Britain after working in a school And I still want to study other countries. I think I shall never lose my passion for travel.
— Did you travel alone?
— No!... I went with a friend who later became my husband.
— Didn’t your parents and friends try to persuade you to stay at home?
— They have always supported my desire to see the world. Of course they would like me to live closer. But I never felt pressurized to go back.
— How did you end up in Moscow?
— I came with my husband, who is also an English language teacher, and worked for two years as a governess in a splendid Russian family, bringing up and teaching the children.
But now I am working here on business for the agency Duke & Duchess International, which was founded in London in 2011, and of which I am the manager. Our agency specializes in the selection of highly-qualified professional nannies, tutors, governesses, private teachers and mentors to work in families, worldwide.
— What does the name “Duke & Duchess” mean?
— The name reflects and symbolizes the standard of the services we offer. To be a member of the Royal Family in Britain is very prestigious, it means paying great attention to education, having a certain class and etiquette. We try to live up to this standard.
— With which countries do you work?
— Oh, we have clients all over the world. In Russia alone, we have clients in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan and some other cities. Since we started, we have placed our candidates in homes in Great Britain, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Dubai, Saudi Arbia, Sri-Lanka, Monaco, USA, China, Africa, Russia and many other countries...
— Are your candidates for such posts also from all over the world?
— Most of them are from Great Britain, but there are also some from the USA and other English-speaking countries. After all, the main purpose of our agency is to place native English speakers.
— So an excellent knowledge of English is an essential requirement for a candidate?
— Yes, it is essential. We also have clients looking for bilingual specialists, native or fluent speakers of French, Spanish, Chinese, Russian...
— Do you not consider Russians as potential candidates?
— We have a small base of Russian-language candidates, but the priority, both for us and our clients, is specialists from Great Britain and the countries of Europe. However, from time to time our long-term clients in Russia ask us to help select Russian staff too to help about the house or to work with children.
— Does a candidate coming to work in Moscow have to know Russian?
— It depends. Some of our clients specifically prefer that the candidate should not speak to the children in their native language. The results of teaching English are then much better, After all, children have to communicate with their teacher in the foreign language.
But despite that, we do of course expect our candidates to acquire a basic knowledge of the local language. It helps them live in the new country.
— Do you speak Russian yourself?
— Before I came here, I didn't have any knowledge of Russian. But then I began learning. My Russian is still terrible, but it is only polite and well-mannered to have at least a basic knowledge of it. Although foreigners coming to Moscow today could manage without good Russian; the city is becoming more and more Europeanized. I have in mind both restaurant menus in English, and more English being taught in schools.
— Who selects suitable candidates, and how is it done?
— We have very strict requirements. We only consider candidates who have an outstanding CV as well as at least two recommendations from former employers. They are thoroughly interrogated by our consultants; we have groups of consultants in London, Moscow and Dubai. We scrupulously check the personal details of each candidate, we write to their previous employers, we ask for copies of the relevant certificates and an enhanced disclosure from the Criminal Records Bureau, and if necessary we ask the candidate to undergo a medical examination.
— Who are your consultants?
— All the consultants have had an education in teacher training and/or psychology, and also experience of working in families and in teaching institutions. An understanding of the situation from inside helps our team provide qualified assistance and consultancy, both to the clients and to the candidates, over the whole period of the cooperation process.
— Of the professions you agency offers, which are in the greatest demand in Russia?
— Among Russian clients, governesses are the most popular. This is not an easy profession, it includes certain obligations, in looking after the children’s needs and upbringing, but the main concern is to immerse the children in the English language, to help them overcome the language barrier and to enable them to learn to speak English fluently and without an accent. A governess also teaches the children all their school subjects, checks their homework, and may teach music, an additional foreign language or etiquette. The responsibilities of a governess include the intellectual, physical and emotional development of the children. She helps organize the schedule for the day and makes sure the timetable is observed. This includes being present for additional classes and also for additional cultural and leisure activities. Our clients are pleased when their children adopt British style: etiquette, manners and ways of communicating.
Many clients recognize the importance of teaching children a foreign language from an early age, therefore in Russia today, we are placing more and more English speaking nannies, who begin teaching the child when it is still in nappies (diapers).
— How do you find clients?
— They find us themselves. We work a great deal on the basis of recommendations.
— Do Russian clients differ in any way from those in other countries?
— Each customer has his own requirements, his own way of organizing family life. All parents want the best for their child, and Russian clients are in no way different in this respect.
— If it’s not a secret, do you have many clients in Russia? To employ a foreign tutor or governess is not a cheap business these days...
— New Russian clients are continuing to approach us. They look on an employment offer to a native speaker as an investment in the future of their children, in their education and career. At the present time, we have a large number of clients in Russia.
— Where are professional tutors and nannies trained?
— Our candidates usually have an education in the field of teacher training, and the upbringing and care of children. Most colleges and universities in Great Britain offer such courses. There are also colleges which specialize in training governesses and nannies.
— What impression did Moscow make on you on your first visit?
— I very much like studying new places and learning about cultural differences. That is what makes travel a real pleasure. Moscow is very different from what I expected to see. I needed time to get used to a new city. But now I like living here.
— Have you encountered any problems?
— Only the usual ones: not getting lost, finding the way, not buying kefir in mistake for milk... But once I had learned the alphabet and could read the signs in the metro, and labels on food products, life became a lot easier.
— What is the attitude of Muscovites to the English and to foreigners in general? Of your house neighbours, for example...
— Our neighbours are really nice people. They love my son and are always willing to play with him.
— You and your husband are veteran travellers. Have you managed to visit anywhere else in Russia apart from Moscow?
— Certainly! We’ve been to St. Petersburg, Sochi and small villages outside of Moscow. We would also greatly like to visit Lake Baikal.
— How do you spend your free time in Moscow? Do you have any favourite places?
— When you are in business and have parental responsibilities as well, spare time is limited. But I love sitting in Moscow restaurants, and walking in the parks in summer, particularly in Gorky Park. It’s great to watch people simply enjoying the sun.
— What do you like to order in restaurants?
— I like Japanese and Georgian cuisine.
— Britons are sporting people. How about you?
— I go to the gym, in winter I like to ice skate and snowboard.
— Are you used to the Moscow winters by now?
— I’m fully equipped with warm clothing, so I gain satisfaction from the winter. The city looks so beautiful when it is covered with snow.
— Are you renting an apartment?
— I looked for accommodation with the help of an agent whom I trust, and who speaks English. All the landlords I’ve had dealings with have been very pleasant people.
— Is it expensive to live in the Russian capital?
— Before the financial crisis, Moscow was a very expensive city, although not much more expensive than London. But now that the rouble rate has fallen, Moscow has become very accessible in that respect.
— You’ve been halfway round the world, so you have a good basis for comparison. Do you think Moscow is safe?
— Yes, it’s completely safe in Moscow. Fortunately, there have been no unpleasant incidents for me in Moscow.
— Would you recommend your colleagues and friends to come here and work, in business?
— Certainly. It is a great city, which has a lot to offer. It simply surprises me how many foreigners live in Moscow and consider it their home. As for starting a business, it isn’t easy but it’s quite possible.
— What, in your view, are the risks a foreign entrepreneur can expect to encounter in Russia?
— The risks for a business in Moscow are just the same as those in other countries. Here too you need time, effort and persistence for your business to succeed, and like anywhere else, there is the risk of failure.
— Does Moscow feature in your plans for the future?
— I don’t plan my life far ahead. That makes it more exciting. At the end of each long Russian winter I ask myself if I can live through another. So let’s see what next winter brings!