Are there any expats in Belarus?

At first glance, the answer is simple – of course they are. There are flight connections, five land borders with almost visa-free enter into the country. However, we tried to look deeper at the topic.

Chinese construction workers in Minsk

Let’s start with the official statistics of the National Statistical Committee of the Republic of Belarus.

About 7,500 people arrived in Belarus in 2018 as emigrants. It would seem, logically, that 7,500 people are expats, but that’s not so simple. We practically don’t see these people in the cultural context of our society. Why? The answer is simple, official statistics don’t provide accurate data on how many of those 7,500 people arrived from Africa, Asia or other countries, but we assume that more than 90% of foreign citizens moved into Belarus from countries with military conflict and economically underdeveloped countries. It seems to me that these people cannot manifest themselves as expats in the sense in which we imagine it, as well as full-fledged consumers of services. And participate in a full cultural exchange.

Speaking of labor emigration, it is safe to say that Belarus cannot pay competitive money even compared to Russia, not to mention the countries of Europe and other economically developed countries. Therefore, it is extremely rare to find a qualified foreign specialist, I would say extremely rarely.

Let’s try to take as an example such a country as Germany, which we see in this case. In the same year of 2018 367,000 emigrants arrived in the country, and more than 500,000 people temporarily arrived as labor migrants, and that’s not counting those who arrived on the grounds of political asylum.

It would be possible to end here, however I see another reason for the lack of expatriates in Belarus, and it is no less important.

In my clear conviction, foreigners here are not comfortable and not interested. Uninterested for the reasons: The climate for more than 6 months of the year is unpleasant, the services, to put it mildly, is not familiar, but the main thing is mental discomfort. In a word, it is very difficult to answer why this is so, but in general terms it can be described as follows: Belarusians are not cheerful, sly, unjustifiably proud, by the way unreasonably proud. This is understandable, the most difficult economic situation, terrible unemployment, complete insecurity both at work and in society. One goal dominates: “survive at all costs”.

Also let’s look at the popular site in Belarus for English-speaking people all around the world The total number of visitors to the site is not more than 700 people, and more than 80% of them are Belarusians (mainly young people with unspent illusions, whose goals they meet in order to leave Belarus, try to “push back and earn a penny for life, etc.” As for foreigners, if there are 100 visitors, it will be a great success.

So I came to the answer to the question whether there are expats in Belarus, in my opinion not, at least as I understand this word in the context of the European mentality.


3 Replies to “Are there any expats in Belarus?”

  1. I like your site, articles are interesting and I always listen to the podcast. But I can’t help but notice that you always put a negative light on everything related to the country.

    As an “expat” living in Belarus, yeah.. there’s lot of stuff to improve, but no place is perfect, and at the very least Belarus is a safe, pacific, clean, and interesting country to live in, which is much more than other countries can claim.

    1. Hi, Fabio.

      I’d like to apologize for not replying your message on time. I hope you’ll understand me in right way – most important I’m immensely grateful for your message and your feedback on my article.

      I understand and respect your critical opinion, since I myself has been more than eight years as an expat in different countries of Europe and America and I feel nothing else except love and gratitude to the people who have surrounded me those long years.

      I’ll try to explain to you why I write with a predominance of negative attitude toward Belarus and Belarusians. Let me assure you that I really love my country and my people; as is evident from my whole life and the life of my parents (two wars, wounds, hunger, poverty, etc.). Therefore, I assure you, that I know well about the good traits of my people.

      But the thing is that you can open any state-owned newspaper, or turn on any state TV channel and get only positive resonance about Belarus and Belarusians. But in my blogs I’m trying to share my thoughts to foreign guest that information which in my opinion can alert and make the reader vigilant towards negative things that have a place to be. Therefore, I certainly consider them that what is called “under the microscope” – for the benefit of visitors, which in my opinion is missing in the official media.

      Once again, I apologize to you if I somehow offended your guest’s feelings or just that of a third-party critic. In my turn, if you are willing and ready, or are in mood, I am ready not only to speak with you in writing, but also to meet with you in Minsk at a time convenient for you and for me. I think this acquaintance can bring us both great benefits.

      Kind regards, Serge.

  2. Thank you, Fabio, for you comment. I’d say that expat’s perception of the country is somewhat different from that of a native. I’ve been expat in Prague and many things didn’t notice or simply ignored there. I remember how one Czech man asked me what was my opinion about Czechs. I said politely ‘they are nice’. He ironically smiled and said, ‘Oh no, they are not nice’. After that I began watching them more attentively and had to agree with him.

    In our case we reflect insiders’ vision. Expats always live in something like a reservation. I remember I once said to a Canadian-Polish lady (working for the IT company) that Minsk is boring, and she vehemently objected, ‘No, Minsk is not boring!’

    Actually, I’m surprised that you admit being an expat. Most foreigners living here on a permanent basis by some reason don’t want to call themselves ‘expats’.

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