December 4, 2007

Living in Belarus

Posted in Jenn, Belarus at 5:50 am by Jenn

I know, I said the same thing; Belarus is located in Eastern Europe between Russia and Poland. Belarus gained it’s independence in 1991, with the fall of the Soviet Union. Perhaps the most significant historical facts are that over 30% of the population perished during WW2 and that most of impact from Chernobyl occurred in Belarus. Today the population of Belarus is about 10 million with a large number living in Minsk, the capital city.


Minsk is a clean and safe city and I am comfortable walking my dog alone late at night. There are a lot of cultural activities (sports, theater, museums) for entertainment. The language barrier makes going to the movies difficult, and there are no newspapers or magazines in English. Though sometimes it is fun to peek at the gossip magazines and try to figure out what is going on. Are you familiar with the Cyrillic alphabet?


The official language is Belarusian, but Russian is more commonly spoken. The country held its first democratic election in 1994, though the current political environment is less than democratic. If you know Russian day to day living is much easier. The Belarusian people do not readily speak English, though most of the younger (20-30’s) people seem to be able to understand it.


Many people in Minsk have cars, but the roads are crowded and it is easy to get around on foot or by subway. There are still traditional outdoor markets, but in the past 3-4 years several hypermarkets (like Wal-Mart’s) have popped up. You can find most items you need for day to day living though the quality is sometimes not what you would find in the US. The money is the ruble and it is all paper. There are about 2150 rubles to a dollar, so a million rubles (about $500) is not near as impressive as a million dollars.

There are many restaurants thought not a lot (only McDonald’s) of fast food. Pork, potatoes, mushroom and sour cream are found in many traditional Belarusian dishes (though not always at the same time). Borsch is a traditional Belarusian soup made from beets. It is served cold or hot.


This is my first winter here and I definitely didn’t bring enough warm clothes. It is COLD in Belarus with winter temperatures around 10-20F so far and they say it will get colder, summer temperatures are supposed to reach the 70’s. July is the warmest month (hurry up July). So, if all this sounds great and makes you just want to book the next flight, wait. You’ll need a Visa in addition to your passport.


I blog about my day to day life in Belarus on Learning to Walk in Stilettos.- Jenn, 38, Belarus



  1. Ruth said,

    I took one look at that alphabet and thought – OMG! I cannot imagine trying to learn that. How are you doing with it?

    I’m so glad you’re writing about this experience. Thank you!

  2. sjsmart said,

    Believe it or not, the alphabet is a piece of cake compared to all the rules related to the language. Speaking is much more difficult than reading. I still have lessons twice a week. I’m getting there. I know two verbs now!


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