Ukraine is one of the largest countries in Europe. It gained its independence in 1991 after long years of being a part of the Soviet Union. The country has a very rich, albeit conflict-infused, history. Currently, Ukraine’s future looks promising, as it establishes closer ties with the European Union, resists Russian influence, and reimagines itself as the cultural center of Eastern Europe. Recently the country has also become a global mecca for IT outsourcing and it's economic growth is trending upward. However, political conflicts of the past still linger in the present.
A lot of people are curious about what life is really like in Ukraine, especially as a foreigner. The Ukraine's Soviet past has given many expats the impression that it is grim-faced and gloomy, but those who stick around for a while will discover that the pros outweigh the cons in this Eastern European country. Individuals who enjoy a good challenge will find life in Ukraine to be a new and wholly captivating adventure.
Many expats move to Ukraine for its low cost of living. Foreigners moving to Ukraine will find that accommodation can be inexpensive, even in metropolitan areas. However, buying and renting property should be done with caution and possibly with a lawyer, as there are reports of expats being scammed.
Compared to the rest of Europe, the Ukraine has an astonishingly low cost of living, while this becomes increasingly expensive in the larger cities. In many cases, the renting and buying of property is cheaper than in a comparable city in a developing country like South Africa.
After finding an apartment, you will be involved in the move-in process which will be relatively easy. In most cases, a background check or damage deposit are not required. A double-sided lease is filled out by hand, signed by both parties, the first and last month's rent is handed over, and the deal is made.
Read: Kyiv Real Estate Market in 2017
If you travel in Ukraine make sure you have good international health insurance. However, in case of some minor illness, you can buy just about any medication from the pharmacy for peanuts. No need to make an appointment, miss work, wait several days if not weeks, get a prescription as it is in the UK or the US. In Ukraine you can pop into the pharmacy, say the name of the medication and they simply hand it over (as many packets as you want, in case you want to stock up).
The word is getting out about healthcare in Ukraine and each year brings more medical tourists to the country. Dental work is one of the most common requests and English-speaking dentists are becoming increasingly common in large cities.
Ukraine has a rich cultural history and the lifestyle of its people is characterized by good food, deep friendships and a love of nature. Unfortunately, the Crimean crises currently renders Crimea inaccessible to Ukraine, and corruption is a problem in many aspects of life in the country.
Food is plentiful and relatively cheap! Although one cannot expect the variety of foods found in the US or Western European countries, it is adequate by most standards. Ukraine is making the traditional new again by using traditional methods to make food that appeals to the contemporary palate. Expats should try local favorites like a steaming bowl of borsch (beet soup) with a creamy dollop of sour cream on the side. If this does not appeal, thin pancakes filled with anything from strawberry jam to garlic-fried mushrooms will surely fill the void. Everything from cherry dumplings, cabbage rolls and cold summer soups to delicious honey cake is on offer.
It probably doesn't come as a shock that alcohol (especially locally produced beer and wine) retails for much less than it does in other countries.
The language is tough, but once you learn the basics it starts to make sense. Once you can read cyrillic, you can start recognising shop names, food on menus, street signs and so on. Then, make sure you pick up absolute basics such as numbers (for haggling in the market), food and drink names and polite greetings such as dobry den (good day), vybachte (excuse me), djakuyu (thanks) and bud’laska (please). That’s enough to get you around day to day.
A common theme in the advice provided by expats in Ukraine is bribery and corruption. On a broader scale, everyone seems to agree that bribery and corruption are hurting the Ukrainian economy and government. After 70 years of indoctrination of the Communist ideology, the populace here cannot grasp the concept of business without corruption; good customer service; hope for better future and the value of planning ahead, saving money and investing in education. Getting anything done officially takes a lot of time, patience, and the occasional “extra fee” for officials who must "earn for themselves".
Hopefully this situation will be changing with time, as the country is establishing closer ties with the European Union and other countries, which show a great level of support in fighting the corruption.
The geography of Ukraine is bewilderingly diverse, and this means there is a lot to see and do. The massive Carpathian Mountains cross Western Ukraine before descending south into Romania. This area is a veritable paradise for nature lovers. Depending on the season, it's filled with an ever-changing combination of skiers, snowboarders, hikers, hunters, mushroom pickers and fishing enthusiasts.
Getting around the Ukraine is easy. While some people prefer to fly or drive, most travel by rail. Trains criss-cross the country on short day trips and overnight journeys. The long-distance trains are left over from the Soviet days. They are functional but not fancy, offering three classes: private room, shared compartment for four and open compartments with bunks. Bed linens are provided and it's possible to purchase tea and snacks onboard or from a platform vendor. On longer journeys, riders quickly fall into a travel routine of sharing food with neighbors and watching the scenery go by. New high-speed trains now cover some routes and offer conveniences such as Wi-Fi.
Cellphones are mainly pay-as-you-go in Ukraine, with free calls within the same network. SIM cards are inexpensive and can easily be bought on any street corner. Dual SIM cell phones are popular, making it easy to switch between networks and save money on calls. High-speed Internet can be hooked up at home for a very reasonable price.
Read: Where to Rent an Apartment for Long Term in Lviv
Source: www.escapeartist.com, www.expatarrivals.com, www.expatexchange.com, wanderlustlanguages.com. Images: shutterstock.com.