Kiev, Ukraine Report of what it's like to live there - 06/04/18
Personal Experiences from Kiev, Ukraine
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
Previously lived in Manila, Philippines.
2. How long have you lived here?
3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
We had an apartment, a fairly big one, close to several metro stations and a 30 min walk from Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square). There are plenty of excellent apartments, and a lot of the embassy employees choose to live in apartment buildings downtown. Some houses are also available.
Public transport is rather cheap and easy to use, especially Kyiv metro. There is some traffic, like in any other big city, but it can get pretty bad in winter (everyone changes tires according to the season) and periodically they close major streets downtown for big international events, that does not help the traffic either.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Generally speaking, groceries and household supplies are easily available, but if you want specific American goods like chocolate chip or maple syrup, these might be harder to find and/or they are more expensive than in the States.
Vegetables, fruit, and berries, especially if you buy them at the local markets (not grocery stores), are excellent and cheap, especially in summer.
I'd also recommend a very nice butcher's shop on "Sichevykh Striltsiv" street called "CARNIVORA", it's close to a lot of the embassy apartments and their meat is excellent. If your Russian allows, you can even call and preorder the meet you want. This is what we did for Thanksgiving; we ordered a ginormous turkey (we didn't know the size beforehand), it was very good.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Quacker Instant Oatmeal and chocolate chips.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are so many choices of restaurants in Kyiv, pretty much anything you can think of, from traditional Ukrainian to Japanese, to artisan burgers, and a lot of them deliver but be ready to wait anywhere between 1-2,5 hours for your delivery. Georgian food is extremely popular and is generally well prepared.
Some of the popular restaurants with good food and good prices are:
Fujiwara Yoshi (Japanese)
Vino et Cucina (Italian, with an outside playground for kids and "animators" - adults who take care of the kids while their parents are enjoying dinner)
Like a Local's Wine Bar (only Ukrainian wines)
Okhota na Ovets (Asian fusion, one of Dima Borisov restaurants, a famous Ukrainian restauranteur, all of them are excellent. http://borysov.com.ua/en/dima-borisov)
One thing that expats love is the "Street Food Festival" held regularly in warmer months, super fun and has all kinds of things to do both for kids and adults. Even pets are welcome :)
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We used the embassy mail for the US shipments. Nova Poshta is a privately owned local post service, and it works well for delivering something within Ukraine.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
I know that household help is available. Typically people hire nannies and/or someone to come clean the house and cook occasionally, though we've never had anyone.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There is a gym in the embassy, I know people who work there use it. There are several yoga studios in the city, between US$8-17 a class.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
ATMs are common, especially downtown, and safe. I've used them a lot and never had any problems. All big stores and restaurants usually accept credit cards (but tips are cash only), cash is used at the local markets, "festivals" (kind of markets), and smaller shops.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Local language classes/tutors are available and affordable. It is necessary to have some basic Russian and/or Ukrainian at least to figure out how to weigh your potatoes in a grocery store. Kyiv is mostly Russian speaking.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes, absolutely. I worked on the local economy, and used public transport every day. I , but that could happen in any big city, just beware of your surroundings and don't stick your iPhone in your coat pocket in a tram:)
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
A car that would survive the potholes on the roads, lots and lots of potholes.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
High-speed home Internet access is available, cheap, and takes a couple of days to install.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
We used a local provider, it's also very cheap and easy to use, just buy a sim card at any store.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
No quarantine. We brought a pet with us and there are plenty of vets and pet stores (with good but at times expensive pet food) throughout the city.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
It's Ukraine, people dress up, especially going out :).
Health & Safety:
1. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
The air gets very dry in winter, people use humidifiers a lot.
2. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Seasonal Affective Disorder. Yes, winter is dark and long, but not as bad as in Russia (or even Wisconsin, for that matter).
3. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Four seasons, with hot summers and snowy winters.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are three international schools: Pechers School International (PSI), Kyiv International School (KIS), and Kiev Christian Academy. I believe there is also a small German school. Most of the embassy kids seem to be either at PSI or KIS.
2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Kyiv is excellent for all, there are lots of things to do: there are 2 or 3 movie theaters that play films in English, a gorgeous opera house (with regular ballet and opera performances), there is a yearly theater festival, plenty of parks and activities for kids, and of course bars, cafes and nightclubs are in abundance too.
2. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Must visit: Odessa, Kamenets-Podolsky, Carpathian mountains.
3. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Cross-country skiing in winter (at Goloseevsky park), skiing in the Carpathians, riding a bike in Mezhihirie, and president Yanukovich's residence-turned national park. Hidden gems: Sobi-Club, just outside of Kyiv, is a kind of hotel, with a spa, swimming pools, barbeque areas, pine trees and absolutely fantastic banyas.
4. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Yes, from old Soviet artifacts to contemporary art. There are plenty of things to choose from at local flea markets.
5. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
I think it was great to live here with kids: the city is very green with numerous parks and playgrounds, there is always something to do. Groceries are very cheap and eating out is not very expensive either. Proximity to Europe makes it fun to travel in the region.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your:
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Mikhail Bulgakov "White Guard" - is about the events of 1917-1918 in Kyiv.
5. Do you have any other comments?
A lot of people extended, I have not met anyone who said they did not enjoy living here.