Kiev, Ukraine Report of what it's like to live there - 08/06/09
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?
2. How long have you lived here?
1 1/2 years.
3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
U.S. Embassy- Government.
4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:
It's about 10 hours from New York to Kyiv on the direct, but I think that is going away.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Nice large apartments.1/2 the housing is a few minutes walk to the embassy the other 1/2 is about a 30 minute walk or so.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Fruits and veggies are cheap if you go to the outdoor markets. Other groceries are about the same price as in the states. Some things are more, some less.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Peanut Butter, salsa, mexican food... Most things can be found on the economy.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
McDonald's and a few sandwich shops are about it for fast food. There are lots of restaurants that range in price from cheap to pricey.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
None that we've had any problems with.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Pouch system through the embassy
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes but they are very pricey! If you are with the US Embassy there is a gym there, otherwise bring your own stuff.
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?
Mostly a cash economy. I do use our credit card at well known businesses like the big grocery stores and some of the clothing stores.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes not sure which ones though. Catholic and Lutheran for sure.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
I don't think I've seen any newspapers, you can get TV through the internet company. I think the price is ok.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Any bit of Russian is helpful with that said gestures go a long way. One really should know the cyrillic alphabet, numbers and a few simple phrases.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Uneven sidewalks that people park on, crossing main streets often involves taking stairs to go underneath the street which don't have elevators... This is not the easiest place to get around with a stroller, a wheelchair would be a nightmare.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Public transportation is good. Lots of buses and a good metro system that is dirt cheap. Taxi's are very affordable and seem safe.
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?
We have a small SUV and has served us well. You often have to drive up on the sidewalks to park.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
$30 buck for high speed.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Everybody has one. You can buy more minutes at almost every street corner.
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, just proof of vaccinations.
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Good vets, some that will even come to your house. We've never used a kennel though.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Not unless you speak Russian.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
People tend to dress up here a little more, especially the women who seem to always be in stilletos regardless of weather.
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
2. What immunizations are required each year?
TB tests for sure, Typhoid and Hep A are both strongly encouraged.
3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Petty crimes; pick pocket, wallet scams. Like anywhere else keep a good eye on your wallet/purse/pockets. Seems to be a lot of protests in front of the embassy and downtown.
4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Health care is getting better as more and more private run clinics open. For major things it is best to go back to the states or where ever you feel comfortable.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot summers, cold dry dreary grey winters.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
No experience as my child is small but have heard good things about both of them.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Most people seem to go with nannies ($5-6/hr)but there is a Montessori and several Ukrainian ran preschools that get good reviews.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
With the schools... yes. Otherwise I don't know. There is a gym class for toddlers.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large. Lots of Americans, Germans, French...
2. Morale among expats:
Pretty good. Everybody gets a little down during the gray winter months though... just have to keep yourself busy and occupied.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Yes, if you make it happen.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I think this city offers something for everybody. There is a pretty active night life but also a lot of family centered things to do. There are quite a few large indoor play areas at the malls, movie theatre/bowling ally, restaurants, ect for when the weather is bad. Lots of nice parks and beaches for the nice weather.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Some with racial, but haven't really heard of much.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Lots of beaches on the river and lakes, beautiful churches and monastaries, parks, historical sites, monuments, nice indoor play areas, bowling alleys, the movie theater plays English movies once in a while.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Beautiful handcarved wooden Santa Clauses, Art, Nesting dolls.
9. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes it is a beautiful city with deep historical roots but I think 2-3 years is plenty.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Need to hurry through a meal at a restaurant,
3. But don't forget your:
Patience and aggressive driving skills.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
Everything is Illuminated - a movie with Elijiah Wood
7. Do you have any other comments?
We've been very happy with our stay here, and think it was an excellent place to be for 2 years. I regret not exploring more of the small towns outside of Kyiv and not touring more of the museums here.