‘It's Striking How Prejudices about Moscow Are All Incredibly False’
HSE Open Talks, at HSE Day in Gorky Park this year featured a wide range of lectures in English showcasing the ever increasing numbers of international professors and researchers at the university. Among them was Emiliano Catonini, Assistant Professor at the International College of Economics and Finance. He gave a lecture To the Heart of Decision-Making on rationality and irrationality in economic choices. HSE English News asked him to share his impressions of living and working in Russia.
— How would you evaluate your teaching in a foreign country? Do you teach in English?
— I teach in English. Teaching in Russia is not very different than teaching in Italy, there is a cultural similarity between Italians and Russians.
— How is communication with students going? Are some aspects of it strange or hard to accept?
— Communication with students is going pretty well I would say. If I really have to find some issue, I could say that sometimes the students expect from me too detailed instructions before taking action, while I assume them to be more proactive and take initiative.
— Could you name three things about working and living in Moscow which you like?
— I like to work in Moscow because I found a very friendly working environment here. My colleagues are cooperative and the students are good. I also like to live in Moscow because the city has a great vibe and it's not like any other city in the world. Plus, people tend to be helpful and outspoken, instead of being just formally kind.
— Have you managed to travel across Russia during the two years you’ve been at HSE? If yes, what did you like most of all and what strikes you as totally unacceptable?
— I travelled to Novosibirsk, Saint Petersburg, Sergiev Posad and Nizhniy Novgorod. Most of all I liked Nizhniy Novgorod, it was winter, covered in snow like I have never seen in Moscow. It's closer to how one imagines the depths of Russia. Something I find unacceptable? How people drive. It's scary sometimes.
I like to work in Moscow because I found a very friendly working environment here. My colleagues are cooperative and the students are good. I also like to live in Moscow because the city has a great vibe and it's not like any other city in the world. Plus, people tend to be helpful and outspoken, instead of being just formally kind
— You speak Russian and that must be a great help in Moscow. What are your favourite places for fun and entertainment in Moscow?
— I speak only a little Russian, just enough to have a simple conversation in a shop. However it helps a lot, not so much for practical purposes but not to feel like an alien. Being able to understand most things written around is necessary for me to feel at home.
My favourite places for fun and entertainment are the island and Neskuchniy Park, the chaise longues in summer are irresistible.
— What do your relatives and friends say about your living abroad?
— They have all been very positive from the start, with few exceptions. People are divided between those who say, 'wow, what a cool adventure to live in Moscow', and those who say, 'oh, can you survive there?' It's striking how prejudices about Moscow are all incredibly false. People abroad tend to think it's dangerous, instead it's safe, it's grey, instead it's colorful, the food is bad, instead it's good, it's expensive, instead it's not, the weather is horrible, instead apart from autumn it's dry and sunny, it's unfriendly, instead it's welcoming.
Anna Chernyakhovskaya, specially for HSE News service