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Out and About

Bringing Ex-pats to Russia

Organised by AEB Business, held at the Marriott Tverskaya Hotel on Tuesday the 25th of October.

Remember the days when ex-pats were a strange species of human beings to be found hanging around in the lobbies of the hotels where they lived? There were no housing facilities for them then, no schools for their children, and definitely no special relocation departments or companies planning their arrival and looking after them when here.

Things have changed a lot since those dark and dastardly 1990 days. Now there are a number of established companies (but few who really can do a good job), and many more dedicated in-house HR departments which deal with relocations. A whole industry has grown up, as was witnessed by the sheer numbers of people, one hundred and thirty, a full house, who attended. Seats were filled mostly by people from the HR business who work with ex-pats.

David Gilmartin, General Director of Troika Relocations gave a detailed overview, citing statistics, such as the fact that Russian attracts 4% of new locations for international assignments, and takes third place in the world in terms of difficulties for those assigned. These difficulties and solutions for them were elucidated on by speakers during the day.

Marina Semenova, Director of Tenant Representation at IntermarkSavills gave a detailed account of the most popular residential areas for ex-pats in terms of demand and supply of suitable accommodation. Anna Kovaleva, HR manager at Nestle, told the audience what it is like looking after 26 expatriates currently working for the company in Russia, and pointed out that the location and expectations of ex-pats in terms of housing and facilities varies greatly depending on whether or not they have families.

More hands-on experience was provided by Ross Hunter, the headmaster of the English International School Moscow, who gave a comprehensive account of post-school options for children attending foreign school here. His many tips and advice will hopefully filter through to parents and students who may fall into the trap of buying a product and not an education. He provided rapt listeners who were both entertained and intrigued with a veritable treasure chest of information about post-school university options both abroad and here in Russia at a new crop of UK-authorised higher education courses.

The afternoon session was dedicated to: Strategies for Successful Staff and Family Deployments, and filled the audience with awe that so much care and trouble is taken to ensure that the average ex-pat is well looked after. Page after power point page was given over to statistics about us! Interdean Relocation Services provided a multi-faceted relocation plan, as did Troika Relocations. Daria Samoyleva, the head of customer department at Blackwood, concentrated on the everyday problems which arise from relocation, and emphasised the importance of just having somebody there to help when needed, to sort out the little things like buying food when all the labels are unintelligible, or how to handle noisy upstairs neighbours.

Presentations were made by real live ex-pats, who explained the difficulties they encountered first hand, and how they overcame them. Their input is perhaps what made this conference outstanding. Some slightly shocking (but not for PASSPORT readers who have long been exposed to controversial articles about certain sensitive subjects) revelations, such as the fact that many ex-pat families do not move to Moscow because the wife is afraid of marital turbulence due to the voraciousness of Russian women raised a few eyebrows. Jennifer Howard from Standard & Poor’s made the interesting point that Russians’ perception of ex-pats has now changed, and asked how this, in turn affects ex-pats.

After lunch, a tremendous amount of technical information was given by speakers from the Pepilaev Group on secondment of ex-pats, migration legislation from Visa Delight and employment litigation from Beiten Burkhardt Moscow. In all, these AEB conferences seem to be going from strength to strength and show the demand for truly professional relocation services is actually there, and growing, so things can’t be that bad after all for us poor suffering ex-pats. Thank you AEB and Blackwood for organising this.

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