One of the biggest identity (and loyalty) shifts I’ve had since moving to Russia regards currency. Though many western foreigners negotiate their salaries to be pegged to the Euro or the USD, this has never been an option for me, so my salary exists within the whims of the Russian ruble. And though it is certainly interesting to have a seven figure yearly income, it can be stressful to watch the currency markets constantly in flux.
Today, 1 USD equals 31.16 rubles. When I first arrived the rate was around 29.5, and in my eight months here the rate has ranged from about 29 to 34. (I don’t totally understand the math, but this article states that the ruble had lost 12% of its value relative to the USD at this low point in May). Considering I spend most of my time in ruble-using Russia, this fluctuation doesn’t affect my daily life when buying groceries or going to see a movie. However, it does make a big difference in comparison with my single greatest expense right now: paying back my student loans in the U.S. These payments must of course be made in U.S. dollars, and aside from the actual value I lose exchanging my rubles into dollars and through wire transfer fees, the relative value of my income compared to the value of my outstanding loans is always in flux.
And this challenges my American patriotism, because though I want the U.S. economy to strengthen, I whole-heartedly root for the ruble over the dollar these days. When it comes to the greater scope of currency wars the intricacies of the issues can be a little too mathematical for me, so for now I’ll stick to knowing lower USD to ruble exchange rate = good for me.