From accommodation to public holidays - all you need to know about relocating to Ukraine
As relocation experts, at Move One we understand how important it is to familiarize yourself with your potential new home before making the big move, and of course to have a seamless transition when settling in your new destination.
Therefore, to make your relocation as hassle-free as possible, Move One profiles a country every month, providing an in-depth look at Relocation, Immigration, Moving and Pet Transportation issues, which could pose problems for expats. This month, we take a closer look at relocation to Ukraine.
Covering 603,628 square kilometres, Ukraine is the largest contiguous country on the European continent, bordered by the Russian Federation to the east and northeast, Belarus to the northwest and Poland, Slovakia and Hungary to the west. Once one of the economic cornerstones of the Soviet Union, it has been independent since the dissolution of the Union in 1991, although the transition process was difficult and involved a profound eight-year-recession, later compounded by the global economic downturn.
Ukraine is home to 46 million people, 77.8 percent of whom are ethnic Ukrainians, with a significant Russian minority (17 percent), and whilst Ukrainian is the official and dominant language, Russian is also widely spoken. There is a pronounced societal divide between the Russian-speaking Eastern half that politically and spiritually sides with Russia and the Ukrainian speaking Western half that is more European in its outlook and attitudes.
Property Market in Ukraine
The World Bank defines Ukraine as a ‘middle-income state’, and whilst not considered to be systemically unstable, has ongoing issues with underdeveloped infrastructure and transportation, corruption and bureaucracy. A recent report from the Bank stated that “the major risks to further sustainable development of the country are increases in public debt, unemployment and inflation, as well as lack of efficient structural and legal reforms.”
The modern economy has been dramatic in its peaks and troughs, having the world record for highest inflation in one calendar year (1993) and the world’s second highest growth stock market gain of 130 percent (2007). The economy is currently enjoying a period of stability and growth, having achieved a positive rate of around 4.3 percent in 2010 with a further five percent projected for 2011, fueled by rising exports, cheaper gas prices and the co-hosting with Poland of the 2012 Euro Football Cup.
Ukraine is still struggling with both its Soviet legacy and the aftermath of the dissolution of the Union. When Russian control was removed, the economy contracted so severely that life for the average citizen became a struggle, and significant proportions of rural Ukraine simply returned to a quasi-feudal agrarian barter economy. The attempts at repair in the early 1990s instead resulted in spectacular hyperinflation, stabilizing only after the introduction of new currency, the Hryvnia, in 1996. By the end of the decade, the GDP had fallen to nearly half of what it had been in 1991.
The recent economic downturn might have seriously derailed the Ukrainian economy, given its reliance on the commodity market, but in November 2008, the IMF approved a stand-by loan of $16 billion, and another $15 billion in July 2010.
The DTZ Property Times 2011 Report for Ukraine succinctly surmised that the current government policies on the property market suffer from the same inadequacies as those of the previous governments. House prices have consistently fallen in Kiev over the last few years, despite the overall economic recovery. The average house price in Kiev in November of $2,402 per square meter was 43 percent lower than its peak price in August 2008, and is 9.3 percent down year-on-year. Property prices are not expected to rise within the foreseeable future.
The current market deflation and stagnation is despite a colossal housing boom between 2005 and 2008, driven by foreign buyers encouraged by pro-west President, Victor Yushchenko’s ‘Orange Revolution’. From 2002 to 2007, the average property price increased 562 percent and was a prized investment amongst British, American, Emirati, Cypriot and Canadian buyers. The investment bonanza quickly pushed prices in downtown Kiev beyond the reach of most citizens, and just as quickly collapsed back down when the market for Ukraine’s main product, steel, dropped out in 2008.
Due to what analysts have characterized as ‘corruption, political instability and a complicated regulatory system’, the actual supply of apartments barely increased even during the boom, and still only continues to grow during the current recovery. According to the 2010 Ease of Doing Business report by the World Bank, Ukraine was ranked 181st out of 183 countries for the ease of obtaining construction permits, mostly due to how deeply mired the construction permit process is in corruption. There are only a handful of significant construction companies active in the market, all of which are directly linked to the local authorities. In Kiev, nearly 70 percent of the new residential buildings are built by companies that belong to the KyivMiskBud holding company, in which the Kyiv City State Administration has a large stake.
The Ukrainian housing shortage is acute, and in 2009 alone the value of new construction projects fell 48.2 percent to $ 4.78 billion, following a fall of 16 percent in 2008, according to the State Statistics Committee. Developers are facing critical financing problems, construction projects frozen all over the city, and the market of existing housing is being artificially depressed by cash-strapped owners trying to offload.
“The state of residential development in Ukraine is very bad. Some 75% of Ukrainians cannot qualify for bank loans and, at the same time, developers cannot secure loans on favourable terms to continue construction,” said Sergiy Maksimov, president of VAB Bank.
Lypky is amongst the best neighborhoods in Kiev, and as such, is the most popular with expats. Property prices in Lypky dropped 11.5 percent in March 2010, averaging around $950 per square meter. The second most popular expat destination is Obolons’kyi, Kiev’s embassy and administrative district, where the housing market is down 13.2 percent year-on-year to around $345.5 per square meter.
Rent rates are down an average of 50 percent since 2008, and most prices have switched from being in foreign currencies to being in Hryvnia to avoid the worst of the currency fluctuations.
There are no legislative obstructions for expats to own real estate in Ukraine, aside from undeveloped or agricultural land, and the Land Code of 2002 permits foreigners to lease land for a maximum of 50 years subject to state registration. Landlords will usually ask for a two months deposit upon signing of a contract, but given the current market they are often flexible
Health Care in Ukraine
The Health Care policies of the current and preceding governments have had roughly the safe efficacy as real estate policies. Despite extensive attempts at reform, the Ukrainian birth rate continues to drop and the mortality rate is high and still climbing. In 2008 alone an official census reported a negative five percent population growth, and the life expectancy for a male is only 68 years.
The Ukrainian National Health Service officially offers free health care for the whole population, but a critical lack of funding, overseas labor drain and low wages for doctors have meant that under-the-table payments have become the norm, and most doctors have to ask for some form of service fee.
Expats using the national service will face staff with limited or no English, lengthy waiting lists for non-emergency treatment, medicine shortages and conspicuously lower cleanliness standards. If you are on any prescription medicines, take adequate supplies with you. Tick-borne encephalitis, Lyme disease, Crimean-Congo fever and rabies are frequent problems, and there are even occasional reports of Cholera and Hemorrhagic Pneumonia outbreaks. The Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) has reported that Ukraine has amongst the fastest growing rate of HIV/AIDS in the western world.
Clinics in Kiev:
JEHF (Joint European Health Force)
Phone: 494 3438
Dobrobut Childrens Clinic
Laser – Vision
Phone: 484 1090/ 223 2435
Notes: full service eye clinic, examination, and optical shop.
Ukrainian German Clinic
Phone: 503 9393
Notes: Offers consultations with specialists by appointment. Open Mon-Fri 8:00 – 20:00; Sat 8:00 – 15:00; on Sunday is closed.
Nesterovskiy Pereulog 13/19
Phone 272 4900
International Ophtalmological Clinic
Ivana Lepse 65
Phone: 251 2101
Notes: Private OBGYN
Phone: 206 2000
Notes: Center of diagnostic medicine. Offers 24 hours first aid assistance.
Artema 10/ Sichovy-Striletska
Phone 272 1109
Yaroslaviv Val 37/1
Phone 455 9482
Shevchenko Boulevard 17
Phone 234 2286
Mothers and Children Pharmacy
Phone 278 3249
Cost of Living in Kiev, Ukraine
(ukranian hryvnia – UAH)
|Meal for 2, Inexpensive Restaurant||37,53||300|
|Meal for 2, Mid-range Restaurant||62,54||500|
|Medium Latte @ Starbucks/Costa||3,13||25|
|Fresh Milk (1 liter)||1,13||9|
|Sugar (1 kg)||1,25||10|
|Tomatoes (1 kg)||1,00||8|
|Chciken filet (1 kg)||3,75||30|
|Apples (1 kg)||2,50||20|
|Domestic Beer (Obolon) (1 bottle)||1,00||8|
|Heineken (330 ml bottle)||2,50||20|
|Pack of Marlboro Red||1,88||15|
|Lipton Tea (25 bag box)||2,25||18|
|One-way Ticket (local transport)||0,25||2|
|Monthly Transport Pass||11,88||95|
|Taxi (5km, downtown)||3,75||30|
|Gasoline (1 gallon)||3,00||24|
|Fitness Club, Monthly Fee for 1 Adult||100,07||800|
|Cinema, International Release, 1 Seat||12,51||100|
|Pair of Men’s Levis 501||125,09||1 000|
|Old Spice Deoderant (stick, 2.25 oz)||3,75||30|
|Palmolive Soap (Bar, 80g)||1,75||14|
|Colgate Toothpaste (reg. tube)||1,00||8|
|Johnsons Baby Shampoo (15 oz.)||3,13||25|
|Tide Detergent (Powder, 33 oz.)||1,50||12|
|4 x Duracell ‘AA’ Bateries||4,00||32|
|Windex Window Cleaner (32 oz)||3,13||25|
The Ukrainian Language
The official and state language is Ukrainian, with Russian as a widely spoken second language especially in eastern and southern Ukraine. Most people will have at least some Russian, but the instance of English speakers in Kiev is slim, dropping off to effectively none outside the city limits.
The split between Russian and Ukrainian language is a complex question, and a 2001 census asking what people’s primary language was received completely different answers after even a small restating of the questions. Ostensibly, 67.5 percent of the population declared Ukrainian as their native language and 29.6 percent declared Russian.
During the years of Soviet influence, Russian became the dominant language at the expense of Ukrainian. Post-independence, a policy of ‘Ukrainization’ was introduced, along with legislation, re-stabilizing the state-appointed primacy of Ukrainian, but it is a measure slow to be adopted amongst the Russian influenced eastern provinces. In eastern and southern Ukraine, Russian is primarily used in cities, and Ukrainian only in rural areas that were beyond Soviet influence. There is also a minority of speakers of Crimean Tatar, a language protected by cultural legislation.
English is not widely spoken outside of international business circles. Translators are not likely to be necessary for business meetings, but for day-to-day living, getting a basic command of either Ukrainian or Russian will make things significantly easier.
Education in Ukraine
Despite the systemic failings of many of Ukraine’s other areas of civil infrastructure and institutions, the level of education remains high, with 99.4 percent literacy rate. Almost three quarters of Ukrainian adults have either secondary or higher education, and there are a number of colleges and universities nationwide, most of which are in Kiev, Lviv and Kharkiv. In December 2009, the government completed a three-year, $45 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Threshold Program, in partnership with the US Congress, designed to promote transparency at all levels of government, including combating corruption in higher education.
Expats will find several options for international schooling for their kids, however they are mainly concentrated in Kiev and can be challenging to find in other cities of Ukraine. The major international Kiev schools include Pechersk School International, Kiev International School and the British International School.
Kiev International School
phone: +380 44 452 2792
Meridian International School
phone: +380 44 433 9748
Kiev French School
phone: +380 44 200 1993
Climate in Ukraine
Ukraine has a temperate continental climate, primarily influenced by the humid air from the Atlantic Ocean. The west and the north receive the significant majority of the precipitation, and June and July are usually the wettest months, while February is usually the driest. Winters vary from cool along the Black Sea to cold farther inland, and summers are warm across the greater part of the country, getting very hot in the south.
Expat Life – Living in Ukraine
For a comprehensive guide to the ins and outs of Ukrainian culture, and the what to expect as part of the acclimatization process, please click over to Move One’s article covering tips for expats relocating to Ukraine.
Popular traditional dishes include varenyky (boiled dumplings with mushrooms, potatoes, sauerkraut, cottage cheese or cherries), borscht (soup made of beets, cabbage and mushrooms or meat) and holubtsy (stuffed cabbage rolls filled with rice, carrots and meat). Ukrainian specialties also include Chicken Kiev and Kiev Cake. Ukrainians drink stewed fruit, juices, milk, buttermilk (they make cottage cheese from this), mineral water, tea and coffee, beer, wine and horilka (Ukrainian vodka).
The business culture has some distinct attributes from that of the US or Western Europe. Institutions, such as the World Bank, have noted that the Ukrainian attitude towards business environment is not always conducive to attracting investment and return custom. Nearly all of these traits are abating as a modern western business culture becomes more popular, but visitors are likely to experience them in some form and degree.
Expats have frequently observed that punctuality is not highly valued for appointments or scheduled meetings. Long-standing expats have even complained that after being in Ukraine for long enough they find that they themselves start automatically turning up ten minutes late. Appointments are not set in stone, and cancellation or rescheduling at the last minute is not considered bad form, so frequent confirmation of any given appointment is recommended and may be an appreciated gesture as it gives the other party a chance to postpone.
Expats who have conducted business extensively in Ukraine have noted that external forces and ‘force majeure’ play a far bigger part in commercial activities than they do in the West. Ukraine does indeed have a problem with creaky bureaucracy and corrupt institutions, but such external forces are far more frequently blamed for unfulfilled responsibilities and missed deadlines than European partners might be used to. Ukrainian businesses often anticipate such problems, but hope for the best and tend not to warn their western partners of the potential snags and likely delays.
Another aspect to doing business in Ukraine is the value of personal contacts and semi-social networking, that can sometimes seem to have more in common with Middle-Eastern practices than Western norms. This has been attributed to the top-heavy and antiquated regulatory systems that would otherwise make doing business nearly impossible. Personal meetings (although likely held late or rescheduled entirely) are valued a great deal more than telephone or online conferences, and personal contacts within the government bodies are prized above all else.
If your business is going to be conducted either directly with or partially with a government agency, make sure you have a local expert on your team. A good one. Government bodies will often have overlapping spheres of influence and responsibility, enacting entirely conflicting mandates and policies. Transparency is still a distant goal for many departments, and it may be necessary to have someone with skill and experience in offering tokens of goodwill to officials in order to expedite transactions.
Management styles tend towards the authoritarian, with managers expecting a subservient attitude toward their authority and for decision-making power to be absolutely and exclusively concentrated in their own hands. On the other hand, co-worker relationships tend to be a lot warmer than in the West, with birthday and anniversary gifts commonplace. It is also common for job vacancies to specify the age, sex, and marital status that will be considered for a job, and many people find it virtually impossible to find work after the age of 45. Job discrimination against young, married women is common.
Companies based in Ukraine may employ foreign nationals after obtaining a work permit, which will require a deposition that a Ukrainian national cannot do the work being offered.
Work permit application is complex and expensive and must be filed at the Center of Employment of the Ministry of Labour of Ukraine. A local agent or expert supplied by your employer will be an enormous help, as most of the procedures and officials you encounter will not speak English.
Street crime is a serious problem in Ukraine. The turbulent economics of the last twenty years have created a pronounced poverty gap, meaning that foreign visitors may be perceived as wealthy and as easy targets for criminals. The latest public CIA report on Ukrainian security describes the police as “poorly paid, motivated, trained, and equipped, and also are considered to be one of the most corrupt organizations in Ukraine….Ukrainian law enforcement provides no adequate level of deterrence to street crime, and is not able to investigate crimes to any minimal level expected in Western countries.”
The vast majority of reported crime is non-violent and non-confrontational, including pocket picking, purse snatching, and theft of personal items from parked cars. Cases of assault, mugging, or armed break-ins involving small caliber firearms are rarer but do occur. When violent assaults do occur they are usually unarmed, as armed criminals tend to be members of organized criminal groups that very rarely target foreigners.
Although the majority of expats never encounter problems with crime in Ukraine, there have been increasing instances of racially motivated attacks over the past few years. Kiev-based ultra-nationalist and Neo-Nazi activists have conducted unprovoked attacks in prominent downtown areas commonly frequented by tourists, targeting Asian, African or other non-European ethnicities. The police response to these crimes has been negligible. The US Embassy reports that in numerous instances violent hate crimes have been spectator by uniformed police officers who did nothing. The same report warns that if you are the victim of sexual assault or rape “you should expect little assistance from Ukrainian law enforcement.”
The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) Annual Crime and Safety Report for Ukraine warns of local businesses using tactics of harassment and intimidation against foreign businesses and interests. These tactics include physical threats, un-notified termination or amendment of business licenses, and arbitrary ‘inspections’ by officials incentivized by local business owners.
What to see, Where to Go
Ukraine possesses high potential for tourism and entertainment. Apart from numerous historical sites, including old castles, picturesque national parks, various architectural constructions, there is an entertainment infrastructure partially left from old Soviet times currently undergoing redevelopment, including zoos, parks, theaters, and newly built movie-houses, skating rings, stadiums.
Crimea has been a popular holiday and settlement destination for centuries, attracted Greek, Venetian, and Genoese settlers and leaving the place with a fantastic Mediterranean culture and architecture. Well worth dedicating some time to exploring the charming towns and resorts.
Referred to as the ‘Green Pearl of Ukraine’, the mountain ranges are full of popular resorts and tourist centers. Nature parks, forests, lakes, streams and outdoor sports abound.
A charming medieval town with narrow marble paved streets, filled with eclectic architecture preserved in its original form. Lviv was once the capital of the mighty Galicia-Volyn Kingdom, a dynasty now long since disappeared.
The ‘Pearl of the Black Sea’ is the third largest city in Ukraine, and the biggest tourist and trade destination on the Black Sea. A mild climate, warm water and sunlit beaches prove to be a big draw all year around.
Considered to be a masterpiece of landscape architecture, the park was built at the end of the eighteenth century and is spread over 1,547 hectares on the outskirts of the ancient town Cherkassy. An artwork writ upon an epic canvass, it is a composition of water, land, architectural works and sculptures.
Public Holidays in Ukraine
January 1 - New Year’s Day
March 8 - International Women’s Day
March-May – Orthodox Easter
May 1 – 2 – Labor Days
May-June – Orthodox Trinity
June 28 - Constitution Day
August 24 - Independence Day
If you are considering moving to Kiev, Ukraine, Move One’s relocation services include city orientation, home and school searches, immigration as well as door to door moving services worldwide and cover packing of personal effects, warehousing, pet transportation and fine art shipping. Should you need help with your corporate or individual relocation needs, or if you would like to receive a free moving quote, do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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