Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Things That are Hard to Find/Very Expensive in Russia

I don't want to give anyone the wrong impression- you can find almost anything in Saint Petersburg or Moscow that you can in the United States. One exception is, of course, certain regional foodstuffs (Wisconsin cheese curds, Pennsylvania apple butter, etc.)
I can't vouch for other countries, but there seems to be a wide selection of restaurants and shops specializing in foods from around the world. 

**When I say a food is difficult to find, it usually is available at a big grocery store like Okay or Lenta, but I live in the city center, no car, and I walk to get my groceries from a shop about 30 minutes away. I don't have the big heavy duty plastic carrying bags or rolling bags some people use to carry groceries, so it just isn't practical for me (or many other city-dwellers) to ride the metro way out to a big store just to pick up one or two craving items on a regular basis.**

I would love to hear your thoughts! Is there anything I missed? Anything you'd like to point out from non-US countries? Let me know in the comments below


  • Peanut butter: This tops the list because it is probably the number one thing I hear Americans complaining about. It's really not that difficult to find at most big groceries stores, but it is expensive ($9-10 USD).
  • Salsa: This is another big one, but easy and fun to make at home when ingredients are in season!
  • Hot sauce: Similar to salsa, but worth noting separately that Russians in general are not fans of spicy foods. I had my mom mail me my favorite Texas Pete! (Tabasco is pretty accessible, and Siracha can be found in a few stores).
  • Nutella: I see this in almost every store, but it is surprisingly expensive! ($5-6 USD)
  • Cereal/Granola bars: I have only seen these once, and it was 87 rubles ($2.50 USD) for a Nature Valley bar at a store that carries lots of imported goods
  • Marshmallows: Russians in general don't seem to like marshmallows very much. American-style hot chocolate isn't that popular and I have NEVER seen it served with marshmallows (mini or otherwise). The only marshmallows I've seen were about $3 for a bag of stale, dried out plastic-y goo thank you.
  • Soy milk:A few cafes offer this (The Coffeeshop Company), and once in a while I'll see it at an Indian specialty store or big grocery store, but I think it is not always restocked right away. Almond milk is also almost impossible to find. (I found coconut milk in a specialty shop for $10 a small container, rice milk can be found at some Asian-speciality stores).
  • Ginger ale: Good luck.
  • Poptarts: Not that these were ever a very integral part of my diet, but I have not come across them in Russia. There may be a specialty import store, but likely the selection would be limited and they would be stale. 
  • Good cereal: Cold breakfast cereal with milk is not so popular here, so the options are pretty limited. Nestle dominates this market, largely corn-based flakes, pops (Kosmostars are everywhere) or chocolate balls. There are some "fitness" cereals, but are disgusting (packed with overly sweet dried fruit)...American cereals can be found at Stockman, but can run up to $20 for a box of Fruit Loops!
  • Baking powder: Not hard to find, but worth noting because so far I have only seen it come in tiny little packages.

Not Food

I have much less to write here as I buy food nearly every day and rarely other goods, but I didn't want to leave these things out!

  • Barbie Dolls: This actually sparked my blog post. Today I saw Barbie dolls on sale at a regular toy store for FIFTY DOLLARS. These were not some special edition collectors dolls, just the skinny-box, no change of clothes, beach makes me sad to think that most kids probably won't have the chance to grow up with the most amazing toy everrrr (in my opinion).
  • Nice bedding: Sheets and pillowcases here are pretty expensive compared to Stateside and are almost uniformly scratching and thin. No Egyptian cotton here...
  • American school supplies: They have a lot here, but the basic 3-hole punch folders, binders, spiral notebooks are hard. Also, most notebooks are grid paper, regular horizontal lines can take some digging.
  • English books and magazines: Very expensive.
  • Ovens: Maybe this is unique to me, but I only know two people who have ovens at home here.*Edit: I have confirmed that I am just a weirdo, and most people do in fact have ovens.
  • Big shoes: For both men and women large shoe sizes are hard to find. Much harder for women, especially since most women in Russia wear high heels very frequently, and when you do find a size over a US 9, it usually is a tennis shoe or orthopedic.

I know this list is not extensive, and I'm sure someone will say "actually, you can find x at this store..." but this is a generalized list of my experiences. Feel free to ask me any questions, and thank you for reading!

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