12 ways to tell you live in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk:
1) You call an 8-minute drive to work a commute.
2) Everyone you know works for one of six companies. Everyone’s salary is ultimately paid by one of two.
3) You find yourself describing the previous winter to newcomers. You find yourself exaggerating the depth of snow, the temperature, and practically everything else.
4) You find yourself asking such questions as “Can you buy a bike here?” or “Where can I buy a light bulb?”
5) You watch all your sports on TV after midnight.
6) You watch the latest blockbuster films 3 weeks before their release in the US. You are almost used to them having been recorded in a Malaysian cinema with a video camera.
7) You doubt anyone at home will believe you when you describe the Russian women.
8) If you are stationary at a junction for more than 90 seconds, you start complaining about the traffic.
9) Items on sale in the supermarket become topics of conversation.
10) Drinking in a nightclub until 7am is, for the first time since college, socially acceptable.
11) You have three dates permanently etched in your mind: next leave, date you leave for good, estimated date when Gazprom boots all the expats out.
12) Wars rage, governments fall, stock markets crash, trophies are won, kings are born, cities are destroyed…and you know nothing about any of it.
And a further 15, promoted from a comment courtesy of “BearBait”, who I was reliably told was supposed to be working today:
13) You think nothing of paying USD3000 for an apartment refurbished with leopard skin touches, a dodgy boiler, pneumatic door bolts and an alcoholic living in the stairwell.
14) You start to eat mayonnaise with everything.
15) You dont blink at paying USD10 for 4 dubious looking tomatoes in winter.
16) The smell of apartment stairwells is compellingly comforting.
17) Its suddenly completely normal to go camping in the middle of nowhere and meet 30 men in camo who want you to drink vodka shots, eat boiled eggs and salted tomatoes (grown in their dachas).
18) You describe the death toll in terms of construction accidents, road fatalities, icicle impalings and bear munchings.
19) You are no longer phased by swarthy men drinking their 2nd Baltika at 8am on your way to work.
20) If a Bubushka approaches when you are a queue you give her wide berth. You’ve been here too long when you shove back.
21) You always keep spare change for the incredibly jolly legless man at Dom Trgovli Rynok.
22) You plan your vacations around the melt season in April/May.
23) During home leaves you become overwhelmed in Tescos, then you see they sell Baltika and you buy it for nostalgia.
24) The first time you forgot to deactivate your apartments alarm 5 men in black armed with Kalashnikovs burst into your foyer.
25) You can discuss the finer points of the latest Uaz Patriot.
26) You walk carefully like a penguin all winter in Northfaces finest ice boots being overtaken by impossibly glamorous Russian ladies in skyscraper high heels.
27) You find a copy of your companies HSE safety measures from your induction and realise that you socialise in all the black zones.