Introduction to Ukraine

Ukraine is the largest country in Europe, and it’s regions are a land of vast extremes.  From heavy industrial centers to mountains, and the sea – it has some of the most unique and beautiful landscapes in the world.  Ukraine is a country with a difficult history and it struggles with its Soviet past more than its neighbors. Its citizens speak both Ukrainian and Russian.  Or a mix of both known locally as Surzhyk. Throughout the capital and largest city, Kyiv, you will find many orthodox monasteries, churches, museums, and relics to its past under the Soviet Union, and it would take months to properly see Kyiv.  This history has made people resilient. And with that, comes a feeling of national pride. Ukrainians love Ukraine, and they want Ukraine to succeed. The youth are driving Kyiv to the forefront of the European art, music, and culinary scenes all while paying homage to their beloved homeland.  If adventure is what you’re after, head out of Kyiv and there is enough to keep you busy for ten lifetimes.

Note – In general, Ukraine is safe to travel to.  However, Crimea, Donetsk, or Luhansk regions are NOT safe to travel to.  While that holds true, the remainder of the country maintains the same safety rating as Italy and France.

Ukrainian Culture

Many people assume that there is no cultural difference between Ukraine and Russia, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  To start, the majority of people in Ukraine speak Ukrainian first and Russian second. The further east you go, the more Russian you will hear, while the further west you go, the more Ukrainian you will hear.  Typically, the further west you go, the more traditional the Ukrainian culture will be. Furthermore, the traditional dress and dances in both nations differ as well. Some Ukrainians even wear vyshyvanka (local embroidered shirts) as part of their daily attire.  Ukrainian’s are also some of the friendliest people in the world. Whether it’s the vodka speaking or not, that remains to be up to debate.

There are many notable holidays. Maslenitsa week which entails making and eating pancakes for a week.  During the Kievan Rus period, it was thought that the pancake resembled the sun, and this holiday was meant to see off the winter and welcome the spring.  Another unique tradition is Provody, where it is customary to visit the graves of your ancestors, and leave some food and have a snack to commemorate them.  This is rooted in the pre-Christian traditions of the Slavic people. An entire article could be written on culture and tradition.

Ukrainian Language

Like other Slavic languages, it is one of the most difficult languages native English speakers can learn.  There are roughly 35 million Ukrainian speakers worldwide, and the most notable literary figure, who wrote in Ukrainian is Taras Shevchenko.  Ukrainians will be delighted to hear you speak, even at a basic level in Ukrainian. The further out of the major cities you go, the more this rings true.

Ukrainian consists of seven grammatical cases that change the endings of nouns depending on their use in the sentence, three genders, and a derivative of the Cyrillic alphabet.  Once you overcome the foreign-looking alphabet, you’ll understand it isn’t as hard to read as you thought. Slavic languages are largely phonetic in nature, which means words read as they are spelled.  Some areas that are easier than English include the number of tenses. There are three tenses – present, past, and future. Compared to English’s 12.

As there are significantly fewer speakers, there aren’t as many resources available to learn Ukrainian.  Though, one of the best resources to begin learning Ukrainian is a free course, created and maintained by the National University Of Kyiv-Mohyla.  It will introduce you to some vocabulary and basic grammar rules.  Additionally, you can work through the Ukrainian Duolingo course. If you are in Kyiv, there are many language schools available, one recommended school is Tolstoj Language School.

There are several Ukrainian conversation clubs around Ukraine and in several large western cities. Meetup.com is a great site to look for Ukrainian conversation clubs. If there isn’t a group in your city, create one! If you are in Ukraine, here are some of the conversation clubs: 

Couchsurfing
Internations
Meetup

Expat Hangouts/Resources

Once you arrive in Ukraine, you will more than likely want to make friends with both locals and foreigners. Several resources will be extremely helpful in assimilating into life in Ukraine.  A lot of the resources are focused on Kyiv as it is the largest, and most international city in Ukraine.

Expat Groups 

Expatua.com
Expat Arrivals

Kyiv

Internations
MultiNationsKyiv
Couchsurfing
In Your Pocket 

Expat Facebook Groups

Kyiv Expats Facebook Group
Odesa Expats Facebook Group
Lviv Expats Facebook Group

English News Sources

Kyiv Post
Business Ukraine
Unian

The following sites are all in Russian, but they provide lots of information about great new restaurants and upcoming events that may not be featured in the expat publications. It will give you a much more local look at the city. 

Ukrainian and Russian Language Resources

The Village
NashKyiv

Where to Look for a Job

Finding a job in Ukraine will be challenging if you don’t know where to look and are afraid of networking. While Linkedin is not as commonplace in Ukraine as in other parts of the world, its still an excellent resource to begin your job hunt.  Here is a great guide on how to find a job using LinkedIn

LinkedIn Groups

Business Events and News in Ukraine
Ukraine Connections
Ukraine Executives
Eastern Europe IT Network

The most popular job board in Ukraine is Work UA.  For a lot of jobs, you will need local language skills.  However, if you are in IT then you can expect most places of employment to use English as the primary business language.  Most of the job boards below should also offer English teaching opportunities. Keep in mind that the salaries will likely be local level salaries.

Job Boards

Work UA
Headhunter
Rabota UA
Djinni

Recruiting Firms

Recruiting is still in its infancy in Ukraine.  Unless you work in IT, there are very few options. This will be updated as more companies become available.

Ukraine Tech

Executive Search Agencies

If you have considerable experience and highly in-demand skills, there are executive recruiting services that you can use. Here are some of the best:

AboutHR
Boyden
Amrop
Morgan Philips Executive Search
Pederson & Partners
Personnell

Co-working Spaces

To find a co-working space in Ukraine, Coworker.com is the best resource to browse all of the available options. 

Visas

Visas are always a complex topic, and the information provided varies depending on the applicant’s country of residence.  We will cover the basics here, but for up to date information be sure to check your country’s agency for your requirements.  Additional resources include the State Migration Service of Ukraine and VisaHQ.

The main types of visas include Transit visas (B-Type), short term (C-Type), and long term (D-Type).  They can only be applied to valid passports that will remain valid for at least 3 months past the end of your trip.

Transit Visas (B-Type)

B-Type visas are issued when a foreigner or stateless person intends to transit through Ukraine and each transit period does not exceed 5 days.  They can be issued as a single, double, or multiple entries. Depending on your supporting documents, it can be valid for one year.

Short Term Visas (C-Type)

C-Type visas are issued in cases where a foreigner or stateless person intends to stay in Ukraine for a period of up to 90 days in a 180 day period.  They are issued as a single, double, or multiple entry visa and valid for six months or a maximum of five years depending on your supporting documents.  Depending on your country of residence, you may not need to worry about this visa. Wikipedia has a nice list that you can check – otherwise VisaHQ referenced above is also excellent.

Long Term Visas (D-Type)

D-Type visas are issued when the foreigner or stateless person intends to apply for a temporary residence permit.  It will allow you to stay in Ukraine for more than 90 days and is issued as a multiple entry visa. If you would like to stay in Ukraine long term, feel free to drop us an email at contact@expatriant.com and we can personally discuss your options with you.

Residency

Below you can find a few in depth articles we have written detailing the options for residency.
Legal options for residency in Ukraine
Temporary residency through founding an LLC
Cost of acquiring temporary residency in Ukraine

Cost of Living

The daily cost of living in Ukraine is very low compared to Western Europe and North America, and it is the cheapest country in Europe.  However, some imported goods such as electronics and clothing can be more expensive.

As far as costs go, Numbeo provides excellent data on the local prices in Kyiv and Ukraine as a whole.  A couple could live relatively comfortable on $1500 in the center of Kyiv while if you move outside of Kyiv, $1000 or less is sufficient to live comfortably.  Keep in mind, that the average person in Kyiv makes $400 per month.

Taxes

Depending on where you are coming from, living as an expatriate in Ukraine can be favorable from a taxation perspective.  The federal income tax is a flat rate of 18% with an additional 1.5% military tax. Now, if you are a freelancer or an independent contractor – it is possible to reduce your tax liability down to 5% as long as your income does not exceed 5,000,000UAH.  The value-added tax or VAT is 20%, but in general, the cost of goods still remains lower than in most western countries. For more detailed information regarding taxes, Nexia has an excellent 2019 Ukraine taxation guide.

Housing

Finding an apartment in Ukraine is a challenge, especially for those without local language skills.  For the most part, traditional real estate agencies do not exist as they do in the west and as such, the majority of the market is moved by word of mouth and personal connections.  The most used platforms for advertising real estate in Ukraine are lun.ua and olx.ua but they are in Ukrainian and Russian.  One thing to be aware of is that if an apartment looks too good to be true, it probably is.  It’s very easy to get scammed, and as a foreigner, you are especially vulnerable. In Kyiv, the average price for a one-bedroom apartment will run about $400 – 800.  One thing that you can do is rent an Airbnb for a month or so, and then try to negotiate with the owner.

Apartment Hunting Resources

Classifieds
olx.ua
lun.ua

Expat Groups
Kyiv Expats Facebook Group
Odesa Expats Facebook Group
Lviv Expats Facebook Group

Banking

Banking in Ukraine is no small task.  If you require a personal banking account, be prepared to work.  While you can legally open an account in Ukraine as a foreigner, the process is prohibitively difficult.  Theoretically, providing your passport, proof of address, and providing the origin of funds is generally all that’s needed to open an account.  Sometimes there is a small administration fee, around $3. As mentioned, it is hit or miss, and if you do not speak Ukrainian, or Russian it will compound the level of difficulty in opening an account.

Depending on your requirements, it may not be necessary to have a local account.  It would be worthwhile to check with your bank regarding partnership agreements with banks in Ukraine as they may waive ATM fees.  Typically, ATM fees will be 2% of the transaction or a fixed price such as 50uah at Raiffeisen Bank Aval which allows a maximum withdrawal of 20,000uah ($780 as of 2019).

Now, if you’ve decided an account is something you need, you may be happy to know that with the local currency, the hryvnia(uah), offer upwards of 10-12% interest, but inflation in Ukraine currently outpaces that.  Accounts are insured up to 200,000uah, or about $8000. It’s also fairly common for banks in Ukraine to become insolvent and file for bankruptcy. To avoid such issues, we recommend that you stick to larger international banks such as Raiffeisen Bank Aval, Credit Agricole, or UkrSibbank. 

Healthcare

Ukraine, in theory, has public healthcare for its citizens.  In practice though, it is not entirely truthful. State-run medical facilities, which exist in all major towns and cities, often lack the most basic supplies from bandages to syringes and equipment.  Therefore the responsibility for supplies falls on the patient. State hospitals are also usually understaffed due to low wages and due to this, it is customary to pay the doctors, surgeons, nurses, and anaesthesiologists directly.

Emergency care, on the other hand, is supposed to be free to everyone – even those without state insurance.  Though, once your condition is stabilized, the above also applies.

Now, there are also private clinics and hospitals in Ukraine that provide independent doctors and specialists.  These are funded largely by private insurance, and as such – used by a small minority of people, and often used for serves deemed not essential.  These hospitals and clinics are well equipped and happen to be much more comfortable than state hospitals. There are no waiting lists as the fees are significantly higher, usually making it infeasible for the ordinary citizen.  Compared to western medicine, however, it is relatively affordable. A trip to a private physician will cost 500-1000uah or $20-40.

Private Clinics (English speaking)

Kyiv

Boris
Dobrobut
Doctor Sam
Oberig

Kyiv, Lviv, Odesa / Other

American Medical Centers
Oxford Medical (has many other locations)

Comprehensive Medical Resources in Kyiv 

US Embassy

Dental Care

Dental care is expensive for local citizens and therefore not common.  Thus, all dental services are private. They can be found in most major cities, and normally around where the income of the citizens is in the amount that can afford dental care.

Kyiv

Lumi Dent

Kyiv, Kharkiv

German Dentistry

Pharmacies are found throughout Ukraine with many in large cities being open 24 hours.  In comparison to western countries, costs are much less expensive. Keep in mind though, that most of the pharmacies will not be accessible with English.  If you find that you need something, and do not speak Ukrainian or Russian, try out the onsite pharmacies at Doctor Sam (Kyiv).

Education System

The Ukrainian public education system includes 11 years of free schooling that begins with four years of primary school starting at age six and is followed by two levels of secondary school.  Ukraine has a long tradition of education. Following the completion of the public education system, there is a wide range of universities that provide both free of charge and fee-paying education. 

With the above said, the education system in Ukraine is wildly inconsistent.  Moreover, the schools in villages, small towns, and second-tier cities are not comparable to those in Kyiv.  They lack funding for teachers, materials, and even classroom facilities.

Historically, Ukraine has had a great education system overall.  Particularly in Mathematics, and the sciences. There are several well-ranked universities in the country, though few offer programs taught in English.

Notable Universities with international programs

Ukrainian Catholic University (Lviv)
Ivan Franko University of Lviv (Lviv)
Kharkiv National University (Kharkiv)
Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv (Kyiv)
National Technical University of Ukraine (Kyiv)

3 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks Andrew for the fact sheet. I am a real estate consultant from Malaysia and speak a little Russian but can read and write it ( also know 5 other languages). I have been to Ukraine four times now since 2010-2017 and have registered a company in Ukraine in August 2016. I also have a bank account at PrivatBank. My next trip is in 2020 and I may need your assistance in doing commodities trading (import/export) and investment in real estate.

  2. Very nice and useful blog, thank you!
    As a local, I would suggest few additions:
    a) Flat hunting best to be done via domik.net portal (which mostly directs you to estate agents) or alternatively via flatiko.com.ua (direct landlord to tenant site)
    b) Private healthcare. There used to be 3 largest private healthcare providers: Medikom, Boris, and Dobrobut. Now the latter two merged, but still keep separate brands. Boris-Dobrobut is better equipped technically, but Medikom has arguably better doctors and quality of care.
    c) I think, Kyiv Mohyla Academy also offers opportunity for international students (postgrad).

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