— When did you first see Moscow? What were your impressions?
Moscow has become my second home town. I feel just as comfortable here as in France.
— Eight years ago, I set out for Samara on a student exchange. We flew via Moscow, so I decided to stop off here for two weeks to get to know the city. My first impressions: the cold, crowds of people everywhere, bustle. To be honest, I was somewhat disheartened, but I still decided that I must come back here some time, and not as a tourist.
I started really trying to learn Russian, I read a lot of Russian literature, talked to Russians and watched Russian television channels. In my fifth year, I told my parents that I was thinking of working in Russia. They supported me, advising me to do my pre-diploma work in the Moscow branch of Mazars (where I am working now). This was in the spring, and my impressions were now quite different – warmth and beauty! I acquired Russian friends, with whom I later travelled round Russia. After defending my diploma, it was proposed that I should stay in Moscow on the permanent staff of Mazars, and I didn’t think twice about accepting. Now Moscow has become my second home town. I feel just as comfortable here as in France.
About Catherine Trotin
She was born in Tours, the capital of the French département Indre-et-Loire. She began learning Russian at 15, as her third foreign language, after English and German. The first time she came to Russia – to Moscow, St. Petersburg and Samara – was in 2005 on a student exchange. She graduated from the Université de Haute Bretagne – Rennes II. She carried out her pre-diploma practical work in Moscow in the Mazars Consultancy Company. Since December 2007, she has been working in the Moscow subdivision of Mazars as manager for marketing and public relations.
— But surely there must have been some adaptation period? What problems and difficulties did you encounter?
— Primarily, it was difficult for me to speak Russian. I was very shy – I was afraid I would not be understood because of my accent. Attitudes to foreigners in Moscow can be quite cool. At first I did not know my way round the city very well, and I asked passers-by the way, but many of them would not stop to help me. At the ticket office, they didn’t understand where I wanted to go, and this was due to my accent. I had to spend a long time explaining. Now I buy tickets directly on the Russian Railways website in just a few minutes. I must say that the online services nowadays make life easier for foreigners in Moscow, and not only for foreigners.
— What do you find surprising about Moscow?
— Sometimes I do not understand why it takes many years to repair some buildings, though it would seem that they could be restored and put in good order much more quickly. Anyway, Moscow will always surprise me. It is not so easy to understand the mysterious Russian soul! However, I have to say that recently, Muscovites have been producing nothing but a good impression on me.
Moscow will always surprise me. It is not so easy to understand the mysterious Russian soul!
—When and how did you start learning Russian?
— I was 15 at the time. I studied in high school where we had a wonderful Russian teacher from a Russian family which had emigrated to France after the revolution. It was she who inspired my love for the Russian language. It penetrates deep into the soul. It is something more than just words and sound. The Russian language has its own music, its own rhythm, and I like it very much.
—In the West, the stereotypes of Russia as a country, let us say, not completely European, still survive. Have you come across this?
— My French friends who have never been to Russia want to know if I eat well here, and what form of communication I use with my family and friends. They apparently think that nothing much has changed in Russia since the time of the USSR, and honestly don’t understand why I feel so at ease here. I try all I can to dissipate their fears, explaining that their ideas of life in Moscow in no way correspond to reality.
Mazars, which was founded in France in 1940, now operates in 71 countries around the world. It specialises in auditing, bookkeeping, taxation and legal work in connection with deals. It has been in Russia since 1995. More than 150 people are employed in its Moscow and St. Petersburg offices, both Russians and ex-pats. Mazars offers comprehensive business solutions to a wide range of clients – from major trans-national corporations to small businesses and individuals.
— You have been to St. Petersburg a few times. How do the two Russian capitals differ, in your view?
— St. Petersburg is a calmer, more moderate city. Moscow is harsher and more dynamic. I would call it “a vampire city”; it constantly requires a person’s energy and sucks it up. Yes, Moscow takes a lot of strength, but gives a lot in exchange. Work, amusements, social life – you don’t get bored in this city.
— Which way of moving around Moscow do you prefer – taxis, the Metro or a car?
— The Metro. I am only just learning to drive a car, but in any case, it’s much more convenient to go to places by the Metro, because of the traffic jams. The Moscow Metro is the most convenient, beautiful and comfortable of all those I have seen. There is no problem finding a taxi at any time of the day or night. For security reasons, I prefer to order one by telephone, not flag one down in the street.
— Where and how do you spend your free time? Do you have any favourite places in the city?
Yes, Moscow takes a lot of strength, but gives a lot in exchange. Work, amusements, social life – you don’t get bored in this city.
— I very much like the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theatre. It has a great company with a fine repertoire, and sensible ticket prices. Of the cinemas, I prefer the “Five Stars on Novokuznetskaya”. They show foreign films there in the original language with subtitles, which I like. My friend and I also sometimes go to the “35 mm” and “Pioneer” cinemas. A recent favourite is the Strudel Viennese café. I like places with their own atmosphere and cosiness, and this café is one of that sort. I may call in at the nearest places to my work for lunch – “Kvartira 44” or “Jean-Jacques”.
— Do you visit any cultural events or exhibitions?
— I certainly do. I love photo exhibitions, and frequently visit the Lumière Brothers Photography Centre. I call in at the “Vinzavod” Modern Art Centre. And in St. Petersburg, I make a point of going to the Hermitage, to my favourite gallery of the Impressionists.
— What is your favourite pedestrian route through the Russian capital?
— The boulevards and avenues in the Patriarch Pools district.
— Do you like shopping? Which Moscow shops or shopping centres do you prefer?
— I love shopping, of course. I most often go to the shopping centre of the district where I live. Previously I often bought things in “Okhotny Ryad” on Manezh Square.
— To what do you think the Moscow administration should devote attention to make it more convenient for foreign citizens to work and live in the Russian capital?
— It would be splendid if the names of Moscow streets were given not only in Russian, but in English too. The same applies to the Metro. There are only English names on the Moscow Metro map, but the signs for transfers and exits to the city from the stations are only in Russian. It’s hard for foreigners to find their way around. In St. Petersburg, I noticed buses with audio guides. It would be nice to introduce them in Moscow too.
—What pluses and minuses of life in Moscow in comparison with Western cities can you mention?
— There are plenty of pluses. You are never bored in Moscow. The shops, restaurants and beauty salons are open till late. In Paris, almost everything is closed by seven in the evening, which is very inconvenient for those who have to stay on at work. As for the minuses… Moscow life will not suit everyone. As I said, the city demands a lot of energy. It is not easy to live in constant motion and constant stress. But for those who are accustomed to an active way of life, Moscow is the best place to be.
For those who are accustomed to an active way of life, Moscow is the best place to be.
— How long do you plan on living in Russia? Could you stay here forever?
— I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it yet. At present it all suits me very well. My love for Russia was love at first sight, and I hope it is mutual.