JA CLUB TALKS: Alex Devic
JustArrived.by continues to share with you the stories of foreigners about their life in Belarus. This week we have talked with a geologist from Italy – Alex Devic, who has already been living in Minsk for two years.
“In Belarus I feel good connection with people”
I moved to Belarus in the summer of 2018 from Vilnius. My job allows me to live in different countries, because I work on the sea as a geologist. I do one month working on boat and then spend a couple of months at home. So, I have already had an experience of living in Vilnius, Vienna, Rome, London and United States. Before I came to Belarus, I had been living in Vilnius for a year. But there I felt as if I was in a big village. While I was living in Vilnius, I came to Minsk a couple of times and found it really nice. I felt a good connection with people, so I thought: “Why not to make a longer experiment?”
“Far from the center I feel a bit out of place”
A month ago, I bought an apartment in the center of Minsk. To tell the truth, in the center, apartments are a bit old and rusty. When you go just a few stops outside or even more far away like Dana Mall the places are much more modern and beautiful. But I feel a bit out of place there because it is really far away. Now, when I live in the center, I can just walk down and in front of me there is Galleria shopping centre, cafes, the life.
“Imagine, almost 6 months on the boat”
I have been living in Minsk for two years, but I often coming and going for work or private trips. Me and my team we scan the seabed to make a sort of 3D picture of the seabed with the goal of either looking for relics like Titanic or for oil and gas. Last time we were investigating a wreck from the Second World War nearby Hawaii. Before that, we were looking for submarine near Patagonia. In the same project we were also looking for specific stones which can be used as batteries for mobile phones.
We are usually 60 people on the boat: officers who are sailing the boat, personnel who are cleaning and cooking, and the survey department: engineers, geologists. Social life onboard is minimum, and I get to be much disciplined when I am on boat. As when I’m on I tend to go out a lot, have not a best diet, drink some extra wine here and there.
Usually, I spend one month on the sea and then come back home. My last trip was in January. It should have been usual business trip for a month. But because of COVID-19 we couldn`t get away from the boat. New team could not come and replace us, so we were asked to stay. Imagine, almost 6 months far away working.
“In Belarus, it is a little bit more difficult to get full level of trust”
I feel connected with Slavic, Russian speaking people. People are interested to get in touch. However, sometimes it is a little bit difficult to get full level of trust. Here people keep more distance at the beginning. For example, when you go to the UK, everyone are very friendly, but they are not realistically interested in you. British can smile and say how happy they are to see you, but later on they do not remember who you are. Over here, it is opposite. If people like you, you will get to know it right away, and if they do not, you will get to know it right away.
“Everyone told me that I could not buy an old unliveable house just to get residence permit”
The main difficulty in moving to Belarus are the documents. I do not know the language so all the time I needed a person who knew Russian to do all the papers like visa, residence permit, registration for my period of stay. I always have to ask someone to go with me. Actually I still do!
In order to get the residence permit, I needed to have a real estate here. So, I was curious if I could buy a ruined house in the old empty village, just to show it as my property here. People were telling me that it would not work, because you need to demonstrate that you can live in that place. I had mixed feelings about it. So, I bought a super cheap house in the countryside, though it is impossible to live over there. I then went to the public office and demonstrated that place was not liveable, so I needed to rent an apartment in Minsk. Finally, I got my residence permit into my apartment in Minsk even so my permission was linked to that old house.
“I can imagine that here it is pretty complicated to get a better income”
I had mostly “vacation knowledge” about Belarus. I decided to move here out of blank when I did not know much about the country. But before moving to here I had friends who were Russians, so I understood Belarusian culture a little bit. I was glad I did not need to worry about finding job here or economic environment, because my income comes from somewhere else. Here I am just living. I understood here it is pretty complicated to get a good income in comparison to the UK for example. But it doesn’t really affects me, because my income comes from outside Belarus. So, here I just enjoy social life and hobbies.
“In Minsk, I do not see a lot of elder people in bars, there are mostly youngers”
I did not really have any problems with finding friends here. I spent much time going out and meeting new people. I noticed that in Belarus I do not see a lot of elder people in bars, it is mostly youngsters. In Great Britain, you get to see elder people (over 60) going out to restaurants and pubs in the evening. For example, even on Christmas or New Year is not uncommon for families to celebrate at pubs.
In Minsk, I have many favourite places. In the summer time – my fav it is definitely “Ember” restaurant with an amazing outdoor terrace. Lately I discovered “MICHEL” restaurant in Karla Marksa Street. The food is fantastic! “Maslow 6” is another new discovery, very nice. Also I enjoy the crossroad between Kamsamolskaja and Revaliucyjnaja streets. This place looks a little bit European and in summertime around 6 pm it is so nice.
Unfortunatelly my overall favourite venue, Vinny Shkaf, has been closed recently, for unclear reasons.
“Life in Belarus is super cheap”
The basic stuff such as food, rent, buying apartments, energy and gas, keeping a car – is fantastically cheap. Learning Russian here is super cheap too, even at universities. But if you want to go in the center to have a glass of wine, the prices are the same as everywhere else in Europe if not even a bit higher. However, generally, in Minsk, you can afford fancy lifestyle for much lower amount of money than, for example, in London.