Torben Goedecke is a German-Brazilian student who has been studying at High School of Economics since September. For the three months spent in Russia, Torben has had time to visit many cafes, restaurants, bars and other entertainment venues. He shared his impressions of the visit to these places, and about his life in Russia.
Torben, why did you choose to study at High School of Economics?
I’m an exchange student in the language faculty. I chose the HSE because it is supposed to be one of the best universities in Russia. I like it because many people speak English, the buildings are nice and most students are very ambitious.
I want to be fluent in Russian because I always had the dream of becoming a diplomat. In Germany to be a diplomat, you have to speak many languages. I hope when I return to Germany, this year will have been successful.
Where do you live in Moscow?
I live in Dormitory 1 next to metro «Prospect Mira». It is supposed to be one of the best dormitories because it is very close to the city centre. We do not only have international students here. Most students are Russian. That is very interesting. As a student who does not work in Moscow it is almost impossible to afford a flat somewhere close to the university buildings. So, I had the opportunity to live in one of the dorms. I am glad to live here because I can speak Russian to all the other students, and it is exciting to meet new people every day. The women in the Café downstairs are also quite nice.
Do you like your dormitory?
As mentioned before, I can say it is one of the best. I had the pleasure of visiting another one, it was far outside of the city and they had no restaurant. Also no international students.
Do you cook in your dormitory? How does it usually happen?
Many people choose to cook downstairs. To be honest I am quite lazy when it comes to cooking. One reason is the café we have downstairs. It offers very good food, for a small amount of money. In addition, the best thing is that is has amazing opening times.
Do you usually eat out? What are your favorite places?
I try to avoid it, but I do it too often. Restaurants are rather expensive in Moscow, even though the Euro is strong right now. I do not have any preferences. I choose restaurants and cafes all over the city. Russia has many different cultural influences. Therefore, there are lots of different kinds of food.
What is the differences between Russian food courts and German?
I think German cafes are more fancy and expensive. Nevertheless, to be honest I like German cafes way more. We have more cafes which are unique.
Where do you think the service is better?
In Germany it is almost obligatory to give a tip. That is why people who works in these restaurants/cafes try to be polite. Sometimes in Russian places people seem stressed. But maybe it is a cultural thing. In America people who works in cafés or restaurants are even more friendly than in Germany because it’s recommended to give 20% tip.
What shocked you in Russian cafes?
The quality of food in «Шоколадница». One time I ordered pasta and it was half cold. I payed like 600 Rub. That was a sad day. The pasta was even hard. I prefer to pay a little bit more and get a good quality/service/atmosphere.
What do you like in Russian cafes?
As a German, I love bread. In some places, you can find bread which is almost as good as in my home country. In most other countries I have visited, it was impossible to find any bread with good quality. I appreciate that. Russia has a huge selection of different foods. I tried Uzbek food and it was so tasty. I want to try as many different restaurants as possible. I feel like they are different from European ones. Also Ukrainian restaurants were always very interesting for me.
Do you know restaurants like Macdonald’s that you can find in every county? Are these cafes in Russia different from Europe? What is the difference?
I don’t really eat in fast food chains. However, a week ago I ate in «Vapiano» that you could find all over the world. The Russian was an exception. I did not receive a card when we entered. It was more like a good restaurant with very nice service. Also it was not like in the others, because you can watch them cook.
I found a German restaurant in Perm and it was completely bad and overpriced. They tried to serve German dishes and beers. But the names were wrong and the ingredients were also different. It was funny to see it anyway.
How do you usually relax?
By sleeping or going to swim in my fitness club. Also, the banja is always something I enjoy. Sometimes I go to the nightclubs. Some of them I visited were fun. But one of the most famous in Moscow — «Облака» — was strange because it felt like a place with prostitutes. It is extremely fancy and expensive. The girls are beautiful but they talk to men the age of their fathers. Not because of money, I guess.
What problems does the Russian service sector have?
I think some people don’t know how bad fast food chains like McDonald’s are. For example, McDonald’s is nowhere in the world as successful as in Russia. That is very unhealthy for the Russian population. Also most good places are too expensive for the average people who don’t live in the west of Moscow. Overpriced. Vegan places are also not as easy to find as in New York, for example. I like to compare these cities but in the food sector Russia can still improve. It is important to eat healthy, and eating meat every day is not perfect. Even though it is really delicious.
Photo: Sofi Fillipova/RS