Kiev, Ukraine Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Kiev, Ukraine

Kiev, Ukraine 06/04/18

Background:

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.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission.

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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.

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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.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Quacker Instant Oatmeal and chocolate chips.

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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 :)

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Daily Life:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Transportation:

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:)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Pets:

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.

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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 :).

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes.

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Expat Life:

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.

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2. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Must visit: Odessa, Kamenets-Podolsky, Carpathian mountains.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Prejudice.

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3. But don't forget your:

Appetite!

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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.

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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.

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Kiev, Ukraine 05/23/17

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, I have had multiple experiences in Europe and Central Asia.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

New York, NY. There is a direct flight on Ukrainian International (UIA), although I have never taken it (but it's cheap!) Otherwise it's about two hours to the usual hubs of Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt, etc.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

There is a wide variety of nice housing available. Fairly large apartments in the city center for everyone who works down there (which is basically everyone except U.S. Embassy folks); huge houses near the Embassy for those who want them. Many wealthy Ukrainians live in nearby suburbs. Embassy commute time from the center is 15-40 minutes.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Great variety available at low cost. There are a few really nice supermarkets (like, live music and tanks of king crab nice) where you can get basically anything; there also are plenty of smaller supermarkets that are still pretty nice and have a pretty good selection, including imported fruits and veggies out of season. Oh, and they all have pre-made sushi! Covered markets are great from spring through fall. Even imported goods seem less expensive here; our family of four eats well for about $70/week on groceries.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Specialty flours and grains are hard to find locally or at the commissary. We brought some American hipster beer, which was nice, but there are more and more local alternatives available.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There has been an explosion in restaurants in the last few years. Lots of great new-Ukrainian, Georgian, Italian, continental, and more and more Chinese-ish options. There are Mexican restaurants but they are disappointing; also Thai and Indian are few and far between - but that is likely to change. A lot of places deliver, and there is a service called eda.ua that will pick up for you for a small fee. There also is a monthly "street food festival" in warmer months that brings together the many food truck-size vendors from around Ukraine.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We use pouch (no APO at Embassy yet) and it takes about two to three weeks. Local government post office is not reliable, but Nova Poshta, a private service, is a great way to send things around Ukraine (they also will handle money, so, for example, you can order from an online retailer and give Nova Poshta the cash when you pick it up at your local branch). They can do international mail too and are open late and on weekends.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Internationals are way overpaying (I've see Ukrainian ads for less than $2/hour for nannies), but $5/hour gets you wonderful, usually English-speaking help. People get really close to their nannies, who are general flexible about cooking, cleaning and errand-running as well. Non-parents at least have housekeepers who come in once a week. Good cooks are hard to find but can be found with a little work.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Embassy has an okay gym, but serious exercisers should check out the many local options. Sport Life is cheaper than the U.S. and some of them have pools; there are also really high-end options if you feel like spending $200 a month to get the gym of your dreams. Also lots of lap pools, crossfit and dance studios. Private trainers are very reasonable. Ukrainians are pretty fit, so if you are into a niche sport and have some language, you can find it here.

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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?

I've used credit cards at major retailers with no problem, although I generally use cash (and you have to at smaller places). Take caution with ATMs - those attached to major banks or in the Embassy are generally okay, but credit card cloning is an issue at smaller ones.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Definitely Catholic mass; not sure about others.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

The more, the better. Russian is still the de facto language of spoken Kyiv, but Ukrainian grows in importance every day. Young people try really hard to speak English with you, and in generally Ukrainians are incredibly generous in working to understand you and help you communicate. Good tutors are available for about $7/hour.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes - few ramps and curb cuts or accessible means of transportation. But people would always be offering to help (and genuinely trying to).

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Kyiv has an extensive public transportation network that is clean, safe, and absurdly cheap (less than 20 cents for anything). The trams are a bit slow, but generally everything runs frequently and you can figure out how to get anywhere on it. Taxis are also safe and inexpensive, and Uber is here now. An Uber from my apartment to the Embassy (a 15 or 20-minute drive) costs about $2.

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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?

People go a little crazy bringing SUVs here; I don't think you really need one, although you DO need snow tires or four-wheel drive. There are a lot of really nice cars in Kyiv, so don't worry about bringing something "too nice" - it's not. Parts are generally available. There is an occasional smashed window if you leave something in the car, although most buildings have guarded and underground parking.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, it's pretty good - we stream and Skype with generally no problem. The commissary can help you get it up within days of arrival. You can also buy a local SIM card and get cheap data on mobile devices.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Embassy staff get Blackberries, but most people wind up getting local SIM cards so they can have data, Uber and access to Telegram and WhatsApp, which Ukrainians like to use. We have KyivStar and also us it to call the States for about 1 cent a minute (crazy!).

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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?

Local wages are low and you need to speak Russian or Ukrainian (or both). Spouses generally work at the Embassy or one of the schools.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots - I know people who help with tech NGOs, orphanages, etc. Language skills are definitely useful.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Go ahead and try, but you'll never be overdressed for something here. Ukrainians, especially women, put a lot of effort into getting ready every morning, and it shows. Suits at work, and cool casual clothes the rest of the time. And you can decide any event is formal and wear a ball gown - you won't be the only one.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Honestly, fewer than pretty much anywhere else I've lived. There are occasional pickpocketings of tourists, and fights might occur after 2 a.m. outside bars, but I walk around after dark without concern. The babushki (i.e. grandmas) are pretty vigilant in shooing away anyone suspicious (and also letting you know if your child is inappropriately dressed for the weather). To add to the security, a lot of us live in buildings with rich Ukrainians who have bodyguards, who also patrol parking lots and the like. A car accident is probably what I fear most - there are some crazy (and probably drunk) drivers out there.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

None really, although seasonal allergies can be tough. Local routine care is pretty good, as are elective procedures (lasik, cosmetic stuff, etc) and very inexpensive. A lot of people have dental work done, and Ukraine is a world leader in fertility treatment tourism. However, for non-routine stuff, including most child births, we go to London.

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3. 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?

Air quality is pretty good - it's very leafy.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Food allergies are sort of a foreign concept, but people try to be helpful. You can get gluten free products at some restaurants and stores.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Winter is looong and dark - it can be an issue.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Similar to New England - long, very cold winters with a lot of snow, but glorious, sunny and not too hot from April through October. And even in the winter, there is plenty of fun stuff indoors and out to do.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Two good options plus a few preschools; everyone seems to find something that works for them.

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2. 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?

Great preschool options, both local and international, and generally much cheaper than the States. Our son went to a local (Ukrainian and Russian language) school that was open to foreigners for $500 a month. It's open 8-8 and serves a bunch of meals (he likes borshch, luckily!) While it's somewhat institutional in that the kids are all expected to behave and do the same things (and nap until they are six!), we found the teachers were loving and he got a lot out of it. There was a big emphasis on performing (including constant calls for insane costumes for plays). And his language skills are now amazing. We would definitely do it again. One thing to note is that in recent years there has ceased to be a purely Russian-speaking preschool, so those families looking for that have been disappointed. All of them speak at least a little Ukrainian, even though the kids are more likely to speak Russian at home.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, great variety. We did soccer and baby music, others have found good swimming, ballet, gymnastics, lego, etc. Less if you want to stick to English. Ukrainians take this VERY seriously; usually the challenge is convincing them this is just for fun and not so that your kid is in the Olympics in the next 10 years. But then again, they definitely teach kids about winners and losers and the importance of hard work - everyone definitely does NOT get a trophy!

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large - in the thousands. Many are men who have been here forever and are married to Ukrainian women. Morale is generally very high.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

It's been easy through kid stuff, but there are also meet up and expat-oriented groups; AmCham has happy hours. The expats are pretty social and accessible, as are many Ukrainians - many people worked overseas and came back.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Great for all, although, like a lot of places, tougher for single women - and in that sense, more so than most places! It's been great for us as a family - lots to do and a great attitude toward children, who are welcomed and fussed over everywhere. I've been at a nice restaurant at 9 p.m. and seen a family with small kids come in to eat, and nobody bats an eye, even at fancy places.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

It's getting better, although there is still a lot of fear and discrimination among Ukrainians.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Gender wise, it's fine, although women are expected to both look amazing at all times AND do much of the work. This is not a diverse place, so non-Caucasians should expect stares and comments, although more out of curiosity and surprise than malice.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Exploring this fascinating, beautiful and friendly city and country. The countryside around Kyiv and in Western Ukraine. Watching the huge changes since 2014. Not caring what anything costs because it is so inexpensive.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Lots of day resorts near Kyiv in the summer where you can swim, eat, get a massage for very little. We loved Odesa, Lviv and Kaminets-Podilskiy. There are few international tourists, so the whole country is a hidden gem!

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Somewhat - lots of embroidery, some pottery, and more and more interesting clothing designers.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The green trees, good restaurants, friendly people, many restaurants with playgrounds and "animators" (people to play with the kids), outdoor festivals all year round, ridiculous quality of beauty treatments, ease of getting anything done.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Honestly, it was nicer than I expected. I was right to invest in good winter gear.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, and I would stay here forever!

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Huge car, consumables, need for things to start exactly on time

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4. But don't forget your:

Nice clothes - they're still not nice enough! And your willingness to try new experiences.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

"Bloodlands," any one of the good histories of Ukraine, "Everything is Illuminiated."

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This post is really a gem, despite the hard work.

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Kiev, Ukraine 11/15/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, this was my third overseas posting with the US State Department.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

US (New York area). There is a direct flight on a Ukrainian airline to NY that is not expensive and takes about 10 hours. For official travel to the U.S., you need to change in Amsterdam, Munich, Frankfurt, or Paris. Total travel time ends up being about 18 hrs with layovers.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I was in Kyiv for two years (June 2014-June 2016).

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Work at the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Our housing was a nice, sunny three-bedroom apartment in the city center. Commute to work was 15-20 mins driving, though after work that could stretch to an hour in bad traffic (about 30-40 mins was typical). Most U.S. Embassy housing is in three areas: city center; old Embassy area (still considered the center by locals, but in a quieter area further away from the metro, but offering a faster car commute to the Embassy); and standalone houses scattered on the outskirts of the city (including some right by the Embassy, an increasingly popular option).


Housing varied - we loved our apartment, and lots of new places being added to the pool are very modern, stylish, and comfortable. Some older buildings are a bit tired, however.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Best availability of products we wanted of any of our three posts - and everything is very affordable. Because European products aren't traveling a large distance, high-end French and Italian goods were much, much cheaper than in the U.S. If you are looking for certain items of super-processed American food products, it might be tough - but the produce was lovely, nicer supermarkets had fantastic butcher and seafood counters, and Italian pastas, German cookies, French wines, etc. abound.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Selection for Asian cooking ingredients was limited. We also ordered some spices that were not available, or available only sporadically.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Restaurants are quite good and very cheap by US standards. For a classic Ukrainian feast, my favorites are Shynok and Hutorets. Another wonderful option not widely available in the U.S. is Georgian food - tons and tons of great options exist, but Shoti, Mama Manana, and Gogi were some of my favorites. There are tons of restaurants serving French, Italian, modern European, and American food. It is harder to find Asian food (though sushi is very popular, but the only place that aims at authenticity is Fujiwara Yoshi) and Mexican food.



We didn't order much takeout, but our favorite delivery options were Vesuvio or Il Molino for pizza, Chachapuri for Georgian, and Varennychnaya Katyusha for Ukrainian.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We used diplomatic pouch. For domestic packages (when we bought from Ukrainian craftspeople, for instance), Nova Poshta is the way to go. Unfortunately, the local postal service has a bad reputation, with packages often getting stolen or lost.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Household help is quite affordable. As a couple without children, we had a cleaning lady come for a half-day once a week, which was plenty (and typical for those without children). Families usually hired full-time nannies and full- or part-time cleaning help.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

I didn't join a local gym, but there were many. Prices ranged widely but seemed to be bit cheaper than in U.S. cities. Locations outside the center of town are cheaper than in the center.

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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?

Some expats refuse to use credit cards at all due to fears of fraud. We used ours frequently, in restaurants, supermarkets, and hotels, and never had a single problem. For ATMs, it is better to use one off the street, especially in a venue like an international hotel where the machines are well guarded.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Every bit helps. Some young people speak good English, but to run ordinary errands, you'll need language. Here is the complicated part: to really get by, you need both Ukrainian and Russian. I arrived with strong Ukrainian but didn't feel fully confident until I got my Russian to a decent level as well. Most shop attendants, taxi drivers, and waitstaff in Kyiv will speak Russian, but many more signs, menus, and all food labels will be written in Ukrainian. If you're working, all official and semi-official functions will be in Ukrainian. It is a tough call, and if you have the time and energy to learn some of both languages, it is worth it.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, unfortunately. Many streets have no crosswalks, just underpasses accessed only by stairs. Same for metro access. No curb cuts. I once saw a sign for a handicapped bathroom

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes. We didn't have a car and took taxis multiple times a day. Each ride was only a few dollars. The most popular taxi services offer low prices but cars in poor condition without seat belts. We paid more to use a higher-end service, mainly for the seat belts. Short rides were still only $2-3, and from the Embassy to home was $4-5.



I also used metro and buses a fair amount. They are super affordable (a metro ride costs only about $0.15). They work well, though the station density on the metro is not that great, meaning it can be a significant walk to or from the station. The U.S. Embassy is a solid 15-20-minute walk from the metro (people who claim it's a 10-min walk are lying or walk at superhuman speeds).

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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 did not have a car and were completely fine without it, given that public transportation and taxis were so easy to use and affordable. If you want to spend time at a dacha or something else outside of town but not in another city (in which case train is easier), then it could be really useful. You really can have any type of car, though some people prefer something with higher clearance given poor roads and large potholes. Snow tires are key for winter.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, it is available and affordable. We got ours installed quite quickly, within a couple days. The Embassy employees' association (AEEA) can help set up installation (though their service seemed a bit overpriced at $40).

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

We kept our home-country plan for our personal phones, but had local mobile phones from work. It is cheap and easy to get a local sim card, though sadly data is pretty slow (it was a huge deal when we got 3G!).

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Pets:

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?

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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?

Many U.S. Embassy spouses worked at the Embassy. Local salaries are very, very low. Some spouses worked at international NGOs's Kyiv offices or one of the international schools.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Some people volunteered in orphanages or in shelters for the many people displaced by the conflict in the east.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

U.S. Embassy is typical business attire. Ukrainians tend to be less constrained by U.S. ideas of business attire, though Ukrainian women always look stylish, whether wearing a day dress or jeans. Ukrainian men often wear suits, sometimes without ties. Outside of work, Ukrainian women often dress to the nines for weekend nights out. On the other hand, at least in Kyiv, the look is getting away from club-wear, and more young hipsters dress like they're in Brooklyn, with women eschewing heels for lace-up brogues or stylish sneakers. For expats, formal wear is sometimes required for balls or galas.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

We were never concerned, and street crime was far lower than in most U.S. cities. The conflict in the East really has no tangible effect on daily life in Kyiv, though sometimes there are signs of chaos creeping in, like bomb threats at the popular malls.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is not fantastic, and people were medically evacuated to London for anything serious. That being said, I got some routine tests done at local clinics and had a fine experience.

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3. 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?

After a previous posting in Beijing, we were thrilled to not worry about air quality in Kyiv. The worst it ever got was a few smoky days when there was a peat fire of some sort outside the city.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

It is important to know how to identify allergens in both Ukrainian and Russian, since restaurant menus can be in either one (though not both). Food in supermarket must, by law, be labeled in Ukrainian.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Some people found the winters tough and used lamps to help their mood. But the winters are not as severe as in, say, Moscow.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Overall climate is relatively temperate, though fall and spring are colder than in Washington, DC by quite a bit. The winters are not as severe as in, say, Moscow. Winter is long but not too harsh (though locals kept telling me I was there for two very mild winters!). The toughest thing I found is how slippery the sidewalks get, since no one sands or salts. After one snowstorm, sidewalks were fully iced over for a week afterwards, and most people fell down at least a few times.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I don't have kids, but Embassy families generally used two schools: Pechersk or the Kyiv International School.

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2. 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?

Yes. Again, don't have kids, but there seem to be a variety of options.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

I don't have a sense of the overall size, but it's not small but also not huge. Expats generally really love it, and many of the non-Embassy expats have stayed around for a while, often much longer than they originally intended.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There are various expat Facebook groups that can facilitate interactions; Kiev Expats and Kids in Kyiv seem popular. There are tons of cultural events: concerts, dance performances, festivals, art openings, etc. Going to Dynamo Kyiv soccer matches is fun. Going to a sauna with a group of friends is a fun winter activity.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

As a couple, we absolutely loved the city. I think we were best poised to take advantage of what the city offers. Most families also had great experiences - Kyiv is a very kid-friendly city, and small children go basically everywhere. However, some families placed in city-center apartments found that limited access to outdoor space was a problem. Single men also love Kyiv; single Western women seem to have the roughest time if they are interested in dating, sadly.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I have many LGBT friends who love it, but objectively it is not great. Pride parades get attacked every year, hate crimes have been reported, and a movie theater that was hosting films on LGBT issues got burned down. However, many urban, young Ukrainians are very open-minded. Gay clubs do exist though I don't have firsthand experience with how good they are.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

African-Americans and other people of color sometimes have issues with street harassment. While Ukrainians look more diverse than I expected (there are many Jewish Ukrainians as well as those from the Caucasus or Central Asia who moved to Ukraine during the Soviet period; there are even African-Ukrainians who immigrated after studying in Ukraine, or the children of those immigrants), it is still a relatively homogeneous country.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The best trip we took in Ukraine was a tour with Karpaty Travel to witness traditional Christmas celebrations among the Hutsuls in the Carpathian mountains, in the far west of the country. It was incredible and I feel so lucky to have gotten the chance to see a part of the country that feels foreign even to most Ukrainians. I also loved trips to Lviv and Odesa, both vibrant and beautiful cities (though very different in look and feel).



My mother and I also did a heritage tour in Western Ukraine to visit my grandmother and great-grandmother's home villages, which was deeply meaningful. We used West Ukraine Tours, and Andriy, the owner-operator, is very knowledgeable about genealogical research.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There is so much to do in Kyiv. Some favorites:


-Visit St. Sophia's, which is truly stunning. But so are many smaller churches. St. Volodymyr's is amazing, and I always enjoyed the singing in St. Andrew's.


-Opera and ballet performances are super cheap.
-Go to big cultural events and festivals in places like VDNK, a revitalized Soviet exhibition center, or Platforma, in old industrial space.


-Check out IZOLYATSIA, an art space in exile from Donetsk, in their new space, an old shipyard.

-Art openings at Art Arsenal, a stunning space.


-Organ concerts in St. Nicholas's


-Find a sauna on the outskirts of town that's in a real log cabin.


-Walk through the Maidan and see where history was made.


-Visit the surreal pleasure palace constructed by the last president at Mezhyhirya

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Yes, there are tons of handicrafts and souvenirs out for sale each weekend on Andriyivskyy Uzviz. More modern design items can be purchased from small designers, who come out for big fairs like Made in Ukraine or Vsi Svoyi. We loved the furniture from Woodwerk. I also bought jewelry, artwork, ceramics, and table linens. Antiques cannot be exported.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Great people, great cultural scene, low cost of living, a sense of vibrancy and improvisation lacking in cities that haven't just been through a major upheaval. Also, good travel connections to Europe and the Middle East.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How much I was going to love it!

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

YES. I would move back.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

European wine and food products - it is all here but cheaper and often better quality.

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4. But don't forget your:

Asian spices, warm clothing, good boots/coats.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

History: Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder. Contemporary Ukrainian literature in translation - I read Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov in English before I arrived, which I enjoyed. Some of Serhiy Zhadan's poems are translated into English. You can also find translations of Ukraine's national poet, Taras Shevchenko.


For movies - I loved the recent documentary Babushkas of Chernobyl. I haven't seen it, but The Tribe got a lot of international attention.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Our favorite post - highly recommended!

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Kiev, Ukraine 07/24/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. Previously served in Dhaka, Bangladesh and Beijing, China.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, DC. Connections are usually through Amsterdam or Munich these days. All told, time in the air is about 13 hours, with usually a longish (3-5 hours) layover.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years, from June 2014 to June 2016.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Work at the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We loved our apartment! Gorgeous, updated, huge apartment in the dead center of the city, easy walking distance from all three metro lines. Housing tended to fall into three categories:



1) Apartments in the old Embassy area - this still counts as the center of the city, but it's sort of the edge of the center. Some people appreciate that it's relatively central but still quiet, but frankly I did not love this area...no metro right nearby, and it was a bit shabbier looking than the real center. But there were some good grocery stores in the area, and if you drive to work, the driving commute is shorter than from the true city center.



2) City center apartments - where I lived and loved it. If you like getting out to restaurants and bars and exploring cities by public transit, this is your best option. Traffic gets pretty bad though, so some drivers did not like it. Also, most of this housing was not near large green spaces, making it tough on families with kids. There are also a few Embassy apartments in Podil, which is a nice area that is central but not dead center that mixes quieter streets with lots of commercial activities and places to eat, go out, etc. But only a few people lived there.



3) Houses on the outskirts of town - this was a fairly new but growing (by popular demand) part of the housing pool during my two years at post. If you can get one of the new houses just around the corner from the Embassy (which is located quite far from the center of the city), you get a very short commute, and generally a very nice, large house with great backyard. Many people with kids and pets loved this options. But if you prefer urban living and don't want to have a car, this would not be for you.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries and pretty much everything else was insanely cheap. I have been back in the U.S. a month and basically weep every time I go to the grocery store. Selection is very good if you go to one of the more high-end supermarkets, like Le Silpo or one of the newly renovated Silpos. I didn't have as much luck with the big hypermarkets - they were huge, but the quality of selection wasn't always that great. They won't have super American packaged/processed foods the same way as in the U.S., but the selection of European products is outstanding and so so much cheaper than in the U.S. So enjoy the artisan handmade Italian pastas, the French canned foie gras, the jamon from Spain... without the Whole Foods sticker shock.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

We are usually not big on shipping a lot of stuff - we definitely shipped a better brand of baking powder because the one at the commissary made our pancakes taste sour. I also shipped some toiletries (for which I am brand-picky) from the U.S. but not as many as at previous posts.



If you cook a lot of Mexican or Asian food (or anything else that isn't European) you may want to ship ingredients. Basic Tex-Mex supermarket stuff can be purchased at the Commissary, but more authentic items would be hard to find.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Depends what you like. We found the local restaurant scene to be fun to explore (especially given low prices) but there wasn't a wide selection of non-European foods. For delivery, we usually got pizza from Il Molino or Vesuvio, local Ukrainian food from Varenichnaya Katyusha, sushi from Sushi-ya, or Georgian food from Chachapuri. We tried Wok2Go for sort of pan-Asian but it wasn't that great.



I could list restaurants all day, but some of our faves: Shynok and Khutorets for Ukrainian, Kiflik for Carpathian, Lyubymy Dyadya for modern European/Israeli, Kosatka and Barbara Bar for great comfort food and a great bar by night, Citronelle and Graine de Moutarde for French, Vero Vero, Vino e Cucina, and Pizzeria Napuli for Italian, Arbequina for Spanish, Dogs & Tails, Syndicate, and Crab's Burger for various American-ish experiences, Himalaya for Indian, Fujiwara Yoshi for Japanese, and Bao for Chinese. Best desserts at Milk Bar, followed by Honey.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

We had some silverfish but nothing else.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Diplomatic pouch. For stuff ordered within the country, Nova Poshta. Do NOT trust local post.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Families with kids tended to hire full-time nannies and housekeepers. Most singles and couples without kids tended to hire someone to clean one day a week. We did the latter, paying $5/hour ($25/visit) for a full cleaning of our apartment, plus doing laundry and running errands.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Embassy has a gym. There are local gyms too as well as ones inside international hotels. Hotel ones are very expensive; local ones vary widely in price and quality. Also facilities for yoga, aerobic-dance-type classes, etc.

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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?

Some people at the Embassy are very paranoid and don't use ATMs or credit cards outside of the Embassy. The Regional Security Office (RSO) also makes this recommendation. However, we used our credit cards constantly at (relatively upscale) supermarkets and restaurants without incident. We used ATMs a few times - with that, card skimmers are an issue, so if we ran out of money on the weekend and couldn't get to the Embassy cashier or ATM, we tried to use one inside an international hotel since the lobbies are monitored (we lived right by the Hyatt).

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English levels vary widely, but I would say the more of the local language you know, the better. For daily interactions on the street in Kyiv, you'll get farther with Russian than Ukrainian (but if you're working, all official meetings will be in Ukrainian - so I found studying both to be important). Local language classes/tutors are readily available and not expensive - but note that it is far easier to find a teacher of Russian than Ukrainian in Kyiv (and some people will claim they can also teach Ukrainian, but if you're going beyond the basic level, you want someone who is really a Ukrainian speaker to teach you).

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

YES. We had a Paralympic athlete visit as a speaker, and she pointed out the lack of curb cuts, ramps, and elevators on the street and entering/exiting underpasses and public transit. Note that, unlike in U.S. cities, many major arteries in the city cannot be crossed above ground, and the underpasses are not usually accessible at all.



Ukrainians are just starting to grapple with this issue, especially with many young wounded vets from the conflict in the East. A major TV news host traveled the city in a wheelchair one day in a filmed segment and found it nearly impossible to get around. But slightly increased awareness has not yet led to action.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes. We took taxis constantly - sometimes drivers are a bit crazy compared to the U.S. but not as bad as in some countries. Using the most expensive cab service (the only one that regularly had seat belts in the backseat), you would still rarely pay more than $4 for a trip. Metro, buses, and trams are safe and very affordable, but be watchful against pickpockets.

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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 did not have a car at post and never regretted the decision. Taxis were so cheap that we basically calculated that we still saved money taking taxis everywhere we felt like going. And it was easy and reliable to call cabs. If you do have a car, winter tires are a must.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, high-speed, high-quality, quick installation, not expensive.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

We had local mobile service on our work phones so we chose to keep U.S. T Mobile service. They had free international data so we could text and use internet on that without paying extra (and it already worked upon landing in other countries we visited while on vacation). Whether you use a local or U.S. provider, the fastest data you can get in Ukraine in 3G - and it's really slow 3G at that.

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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?

Many U.S. Embassy spouses work inside the Mission. Some teach at international schools. A few worked at international NGOs or telecommuted. Salaries are so, so low at purely local entities... which is why most worked for international employers.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots of orphanages and facilities for those displaced by the war in the East. Working with veterans wounded in the war.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

We only wore black tie to Marine Ball. Work dress was business attire (though Ukrainian women weren't really into pant- or skirt-suits - they tended to wear stylish dresses or blouses and skirts/pants to work. Many Ukrainian workplaces are also more casual than the U.S. Embassy so a lot of Ukrainian women even go to work in jeans).



Ukrainians dress up a bit more for errands and such than Americans would, but truly the culture is changing - in the regions, there are still heels and clubbing clothes on the sidewalks, but in Kyiv, most women walk the sidewalks in flats and wear stylish clothes that would fit in anywhere. Men wear shorts when it's hot in the summer nowadays. However, they have not adopted the American habit of running all errands in exercise gear.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Not really... the conflict in the East is far away. I felt much safer on the streets in Kyiv than in DC.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Quality of medical care is not supposed to be that great, so major issues get you medevaced to London, including for prenatal checks. But I did a few tests at local medical facilities (private ones) and found the facilities to be up-to-date and comfortable to visit.

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3. 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?

Good, except for that week when there was some strange peat fire burning outside the city and everything smelled like smoke.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Seasonal allergy season in Ukraine is CRAZY. There is a local tree that gives off crazy fluff into the air for all of June. It was the first time I had truly bad seasonal allergies.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Some people did find SAD to be an issue - but keep in mind, Ukraine is way sunnier than Russia, for example, so it might not be as bad as you think. But winter is long, for sure.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Winter is cold but not as cold as you might think, though I was told that the last two years have been on the mild side. I would compare it to New York or Boston, perhaps. Summers do get hot but not DC hot.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Morale is very high. It is hard for me to judge the overall size, but it is a good-sized community with lots of organizations, things to do, etc. The Kiev Expats facebook group is very helpful to get local tips from other expats.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Going out to eat, going to bars, parties at home, sauna parties, outdoor activities like bike rides on Trukhaniv Island, picnics in the many parks, even an excursion to the local river beach. I know the Kids in Kyiv group had regular mom nights out.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Great for everyone! Maybe with the exception of single women, who found it hard to date locally. But single men had no problem. We, as a couple without children, loved it and made great local and expat friends (and could afford to go out a lot without worrying about budgets!) Those with kids loved the inexpensive childcare and good preschools and schools.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

While I have LGBT friends who love the city, keep in mind that there are regular instances of violence against the LGBT community, sadly. So many people feel they have to be publicly closeted to feel safe.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Since Ukraine is pretty white overall, many non-white Americans have expressed a feeling of standing out. African-Americans, in particular, were often stared at and sometimes reported harassment on the street.



Gender issues in Ukraine are... complicated. In professional spheres, I did not find it to be a huge issue (at least not worse than it often is in the U.S.!), and you'll find yourself interacting with many professional Ukrainian women.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Orthodox Christmas Day in the Carpathians observing Hutsul caroling (Kolyada) was amazing. The beautiful city of Lviv. The fun, freewheeling and good-humored seaside city of Odessa. My grandmother was born to a Polish family in Western Ukraine, and the heritage tour my mom and I did (with West Ukraine Tours) was a deeply meaningful experience.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Hutsul culture tour (we did it with KARPATY TRAVEL company) - I am not one for group travel, but you'll get to places that would be hard to access otherwise.



Chernobyl - I don't know if fun is the right word, but it's eerie and fascinating, and great for photographers. It's about two hours' drive from Kyiv but you have to visit in a group tour.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Sure! We bought artwork, a thick Hutsul blanket, local table runners, local embroidered shirts, scarves, jewelry and housewares from local designers. Others bought rugs, pottery, sculpture, local designer clothing... list goes on and on. The Made in Ukraine and Vsi Svoyi fairs are good opportunities to buy local crafts and designer items. Be careful buying anything older than the 1970s since you aren't allowed to export it. More traditional souvenirs can be purchased on Andriyivsky Uzviz.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Great youth culture, amazing arts scene, you can eat out and go out anywhere you want for almost no money, inexpensive household help, lots to see and do, relatively inexpensive flight connections all over Europe and beyond. Whatever your hobby - horseback riding, yoga, photography, art classes, salsa dancing, etc. - you can probably find it and for way cheaper than anywhere else you've lived.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I wish I had battled HR harder to extend! We loved it. Also, maybe this sounds strange, but if I had thought about how welcoming it is to families with small children and how inexpensive child care is, I might have thought about starting a family there (rather than in DC where those things are not true!).

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

YES.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

? If you're used to life in a city with similar climate to Northeast U.S., then your current possessions will serve you well.



Oh, some people will tell you to buy those Yaktrax things to walk on ice in winter... if you plan to take metro every day and cross the park between the metro and the U.S. Embassy, they might help. But we bought them and never used them once.

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4. But don't forget your:

Snow tires if you have a car. Any toiletries for which you are picky on brand. Ingredients for Mexican or Asian food.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Read local literature. For classics, look for translations of Taras Shevchenko, Lesya Ukrainka, Lina Kostenko... though Russia also claims him, Gogol wrote many classic stories of the Ukrainian countryside. For current literature - Try to find Serhiy Zhadan's poems in translation. Andrey Kurkov is a prominent contemporary novelist who is widely translated. Also, I enjoyed Jonathan Safran Foer's "Everything is Illuminated," set in Ukraine, but take his (often-hilarious) depictions with a grain of salt.



Non-fiction: Everyone will say Timothy Snyder's "Bloodlands," and everyone is right. Essential to understanding the brutal 20th century that has shaped the Ukrainian people today. If you're not ready to invest time in reading that tome, though, his writings for New York Review of Books and other publications are great too.



Movies: I haven't seen it yet, but The Tribe is an art house Ukrainian film that got lots of awards recently. I also enjoyed the documentary "The Babushkas of Chernobyl" - the director is American, but she does a brilliant job of presenting Ukraine's tough older generation with empathy and humor.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Our favorite post of our first three... great place to live, wonderful culture, awesome people, tasty good, excellent vodka. What more do you need?

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Kiev, Ukraine 11/25/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. Nuevo Laredo, Mexico; Vancouver, Canada

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, D.C. It takes about 13-16 hours, with a stop in Amsterdam or Paris.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year out of a 2-year tour.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Spouse of government employee.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Embassy housing is a mix of large apartments in the city (for singles, couples, and small families) and large houses with yards near the NEC (for larger families). Commute for us (near the city center) is anywhere from 15-45 minutes, depending on traffic, but some people who live relatively close to us have a longer commute because of local traffic patterns.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

It hasn't been hard to find most things. You can even find marshmallows and peanut butter (admittedly, not all the time, and for a price!). Find local things that you like! We love the "orange" cookies (about as sweet as animal crackers, but with an orange flavor; you can also get ones with a nut flavor).

Things you can't find: there is no such thing as whole wheat flour or even all purpose, apparently. It's all bleached, as far as I can tell. Sometimes I buy flour from the embassy commissary or Amazon, but mostly I just use the local stuff, which runs about 60-75 cents for a 2 kg bag. You can also buy rye flour. I would bring hot sauces and Mexican spices, peanut butter, refried beans, chocolate chips, brown sugar, canned pumpkin, baking powder, vanilla extract, stuffing/dressing, etc., unless you want to pay commissary prices or ship from Amazon (can't do that for liquids). You can find flour tortillas, but they are pretty awful. We order tortillas from Amazon and refried beans through bulk shipment through the US embassy commissary. Last year, after buying a turkey at the commissary, we discovered we could have bought one at one of the local markets ("Zhytny Rynok" in Podil). They have some US brands of shampoo, toothpaste, etc. It all seems fine and not too expensive. Have not found bleach anywhere, though.

Local rynoks (markets) are great for cheap and high quality produce, as well as spices, meats, fish, etc. One of our house guests bought saffron for an amazingly low price at a rynok. The least expensive hypermarket is a French chain called Auchan. There are also Megamarket, Cilpo, Furshet, and Billa. There is a Billa within walking distance of our apartment that does in a pinch, but if we have a lot to get, we go to the Auchan at Sky Mall. If you want shampoo, laundry detergent, cleaners, toothpaste, etc., you can find it at the hypermarkets like Auchan, but otherwise, you need to go to an "Apteka" like Watson's or Eva for that stuff (similar to CVS). You also see people selling produce on the street with little stands they set up, but this is seasonal (parts of summer and fall).

Produce tends to be seasonal; in winter, there is not a lot of fruit available besides oranges, apples, and bananas, for example. You sometimes have better luck at the rynok than in the grocery stores, though.

As a side note, electronics cost more like 1.5-2 times what they do in the US. You can buy something like a stand mixer for a little more than the price you'd pay in the States, but the quality is lower.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I would bring hot sauces and Mexican spices, peanut butter, refried beans, chocolate chips, brown sugar, powdered sugar, canned pumpkin, baking powder, vanilla extract, stuffing/dressing, unless you want to pay commissary prices or ship from Amazon (can't do that for liquids, though). Toys and clothes are more expensive here, so I buy those online.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Domino's, McDonald's. Really cheap. Restaurants in general are cheap, but sometimes for three people to eat at McD's only costs US$10. A decent restaurant outing will cost maybe US$20-30 for a really nice meal for three.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None. Have hardly seen any insects.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Diplomatic pouch through the Embassy.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

We pay our half-time housekeeper US$5 an hour.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Embassy has a gym, but otherwise I'm not sure; we brought our own elliptical.

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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?

We use the ATM at the Embassy or cash checks there. Otherwise, we have used CC in lots of places with no problems. Auchan, restaurants, electronics stores. It's all fine, though we were initially concerned. We keep a close eye on things, but no fraud so far.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are some, but I don't know from personal experience.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You need to know either Russian or Ukrainian, preferably Russian. We learned Ukrainian, but Russian is more useful here by far; I regret that I didn't learn Russian, actually. Although for political reasons there is talk that people speak more Ukrainian now, my experience in Kyiv has been that people will speak back to me in Russian, and the languages are not that similar, so I have to ask them to speak Ukrainian in order to understand them. Most people assume that if I speak a little Ukrainian, I also speak Russian, so it's been a struggle. Almost all the TV programming is in Russian, though you sometimes get a show that has Ukrainian subtitles, so you can't immerse yourself in the local language if you studied Ukrainian. And people will speak a mix on TV talk shows and news programs, so even if the interviewer speaks in Ukrainian often everyone else speaks back in Russian. Ukrainian is really looked down on by some as the language of the villages ("peasants," some people say), in contrast to urban (and urbane) Russian. My spouse says he meets a lot of people who speak English, but, except in Lviv, where there are lots of tourists (and they also speak Ukrainian!), I have not found that to be the case.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It would be hard. No elevators for metro stations; broken sidewalks are common.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Don't know about buses, but metro and taxis are safe and affordable. Metro is about 20 cents a ride.

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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?

All-wheel drive is invaluable in the winter. We were able to get out of a sticky situation where we would have been hit by a sliding car on a hill by driving up onto the sidewalk in a snowstorm (and we just have regular, all-weather tires).

Service is okay and available for most types of cars, but one family we know had their car catch on fire because they used a part made for a European model of their car instead of one for the American model (we're not talking an American car, though).

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes; great and cheap. The wireless router they provide isn't so great, though. Lots of dropped signal problems. You might want to buy your own.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

We brought an unlocked phone and got a pay-as-you-go plan. Works great.

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Pets:

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?

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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?

Teaching in international schools. Don't know of others.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Similar to eastern US (I say this as someone originally from the more casual western US). There's talk about how the women wear high heels even in the winter on icy sidewalks, but I have found that to be a myth. I stand outside downtown waiting for my daughter's bus every day, and I see maybe 1 woman in 20 wearing moderately high heels. I have hardly ever seen anyone dressed up in the stereotypical clothes you hear about. You see more of that at the airport than on city streets, for some reason. That said, you will see more fur coats. People do wear jeans, though maybe less than in the US.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

In Kyiv, not really. There are occasional protests. Have heard about some break ins, but haven't had any problems. Keep in mind there are still travel warnings for some parts of the country, and the conflict with Russia is ongoing. Sometimes there is concern about availability of gas or electricity, but so far it hasn't been an issue in Kyiv.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Well, some of us have class 2 clearance, and we're still able to be here. I had emergency eye surgery for a detached retina, and the only place they do that here is at the state hospital; no private facility. Not an experience you want, but everything turned out okay. That said, no soap or toilet paper in the bathrooms was a bit of a shock (you have to bring your own), no consulting rooms (talk about your case in the hallway), and antiquated equipment and facilities. The private eye clinic where I did my follow-up is fine, but you do need to watch out and be proactive (educate yourself, get a second opinion, whatever), for they love to recommend procedures or treatments whose efficacy is not always evidence based. For example, they wanted my daughter to start patching her eye again for amblyopia (lazy eye), but her surgeon in Virginia recommended against this, because her eyes need to learn to work together, and she is not likely to get any significant improvement in vision in that eye from patching at this point.

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3. 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?

It's fine. On two occasions in the past year, we had warnings to stay inside because of high levels of pollutants. One was due to a forest fire outside the city. But in general, it's normal for a big city.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Seasonal allergies in spring and fall for some people.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It's cold in the winter (with temps in the 20s and 30s F), but it's hard to predict how much snow you'll get. We had only three significant snow storms last winter, and this winter, none so far (nearing the end of November). The locals say every year is different, so some years you might get a lot of snow, and other years, hardly any. Supposedly most snowfall is in February and March. It's no worse than US cities like Buffalo, NY, but with less snow. Summers are moderately hot (mostly 80s, with some 90s F); it was hot enough to use the AC in our apartment for several months. Spring and fall are quite pleasant.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Our daughter goes to Kyiv International School, and we love it (she is in elementary school). Pluses include smaller class sizes than PSI (15 is the limit at KIS), and kids have swimming lessons weekly (they have an indoor pool), and a number of choices for second-language learning (starting in grade 1, they can take French, Spanish, German, Ukrainian, or Russian). Also, she has had fabulous teachers, who are really responsive to any concerns and work with students to help them learn to overcome problems. Our only gripe is that we think the homework assigned is too much for grade 1.

Pechersk School International is also supposed to be really good; lots of people are very happy with it. PSI class sizes are larger, but some people think it is better academically. My daughter's classes have had 11 and 13 students, respectively, for the school years she has attended (with a teacher and an assistant teacher); at PSI, she would have been in a class of 20. In addition, for elementary school, I have found that KIS is quite academic. The teachers are excellent, and my daughter is not bored, even though she's ahead in some subjects. For example, my daughter reads above grade level, and she is allowed to read books at her level. The teacher did an excellent evaluation to establish her level and then they make sure she has books available at her level. She also has been given more difficult homework in math when she was able to understand concepts that her classmates couldn't.

Another consideration is commute: from downtown, commute times for the bus to PSI are longer. Our daughter spends about 25 minutes on the bus each way (sometimes 30 in the afternoon). That said, it depends where you live downtown, because some of her friends have a 45 minute commute to KIS.

Overall, we have heard good things about both schools. Some people have had trouble with bullying at KIS; we personally know someone whose older children experienced bullying there and moved the kids to PSI, where they are happier. There is a new director for KIS, and he seems quite responsive, so this is being addressed. It does not appear to be a problem in elementary grades, and we haven't had any issues.

Some people send their kids to the British school. I haven't heard much about it, but one family finds that they don't communicate very well with parents.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

I have known people who sent their kids to local preschools so they could learn Russian (or because they already know Russian). Some use nannies.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

As far as I know, only in school. Various sports for middle and high school students through school. Also, soccer on weekends for elementary and MS kids run by the school.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Pretty large; morale seems good. Lots of people extend. It's a hardship post, but a fairly easy one.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Eat at fabulous restaurants. Movies are all in either Russian or Ukrainian. Kids will love the malls. The malls have everything: skiing, bowling, small amusement park rides, arcades, ice skating rinks, indoor playgrounds. And more!

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

All.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Probably not. There are efforts underway to change this, but it is a pretty homophobic society.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I have heard there are racial prejudices but I can't speak from personal experience. As for gender, yes; both men and women are biased. Ideas such as "women can't drive," "men can't do housework," etc., are prevalent among both men and women.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Visiting Lviv; an amazing and beautiful European city with a medieval city center. People actually speak Ukrainian there as well, unlike Kyiv.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Go to Lviv! Just do it! It's an hour's inexpensive flight away, and you can get some amazing food there, as well as climb to the top of city hall for a panoramic view of the whole city! There are always things to do in Kyiv as well, such as the botanical gardens, various parks, etc.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Matryoshka dolls, chocolate from the Lviv Chocolate Factory, traditional shirts (vyshyvankas).

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

You can easily save money. Inexpensive and delicious local food. Amazing Georgian restaurants, as well as other regional cuisine. Lots to see and do in the city. Groceries are not expensive if you buy local or sometimes European brands. Inexpensive regional wines. I'm told some are quite good, but I am not a wine-drinker, so I can't speak from personal experience.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, absolutely.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

That everyone in Kyiv speaks Russian, and they prefer not to switch to Ukrainian.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Dog dazers; ours has never come out of the box. We read about all the stray dogs before we came, but we have seen hardly any - far fewer than in Mexico.

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4. But don't forget your:

Love of sour cream and dill! Winter clothing/boots, yaktrax, snow suits.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Orange Revolution (documentary, 2007).

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Anything by Taras Shevchenko.

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Kiev, Ukraine 06/15/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Niamey, Niger; Moscow, Russia; Bucharest, Romania. This is our 4th overseas post.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

We are from California, it's a long trip home. Kyiv to St. Paul or Chicago to San Francisco. Twenty hours travel time plus or minus. East coast is of course a quicker trip.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Have been here for one school year. Two more to go.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Husband is a State Department employee.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

You have to decide between a city apartment and a suburban house. The Embassy is about five miles away from the city center. City apartment means it feels like you live in Europe with an efficient metro, cafes and museums out your door. Suburban house means a shorter commute and you live in a neighborhood of dachas where all the houses have established fruit trees in the yard. Dacha life is great for kids and pets, but you will feel isolated and out of touch with the city.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Lots of grocery stores with everything you could need. Produce is pretty much whatever is in season. Coming from California I miss year round melons and berries, but when they are in season here, they are gorgeous and more flavorful than what you would get at Trader Joe's. Of course there aren't the prepared foods that we have in the U.S. You will be washing lettuce and cutting up your own fruit and veggies. Some people hire cooks. The beef isn't so great, but the pork, turkey and chicken are. Lots of dairy (however no Greek yogurt or many non-fat options). Even good tofu. Prices are maybe half what are in the U.S. We spend about US$100 a week at the grocery store for a family of three, and that's with meat and wine.

Manicure, pedicure US$20. One hour massage: US$20

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Since there isn't a DPO, send a small amount of your favorite liquids in your UAB. When you are home buy perfume, nail polish and hair coloring since regardless of size, they can't be mailed via pouch. (Hair color will sometimes come through the pouch.) Of course they have it all here, but maybe not exactly what you would buy if you were home.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Lots of restaurants with good food, from brew pubs to pizza to lovely Italian and French. Many set up terraces once the weather is nice. And you won't have to miss Dominoes or McDonald's. My son gets a Big Mac, fries, a drink, a side of chicken nuggets and an apple pie and it's about US$4 for all.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None to speak of.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Pouch mail to the Embassy. No DPO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

We pay US$7 an hour, which is probably high, but she's nice, trustworthy and good. Most everyone who works has some kind of household help.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is a gym and classes at the Embassy and lots of clubs. People are sportive and you can play soccer or go running -- you will find a group.

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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?

My ATM card doesn't work here. Lots of people just use cash, and so do I. My husband's card works fine (Chase Bank, no explaination) in the grocery store, at most shops downtown, at most ATMs,and he's yet to be hacked. Most people are more paranoid than we are, but we've never had a problem.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

All.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

I can count to five, say hello and good bye and point really well and I get by just fine. But my husband speaks Russian so he deals wtih the landlord when he comes by and he calls the dog groomer to make an appointment. It certainly helps if someone in the house can order pizza on the phone in either Russian or Ukrainian. People try to speak English now and then, but it's evident they haven't had a big push to learn English here. President Proshenko says 2016 is going to be "The Year of English." Hopefully then the theaters will start playing English-language movies in English with Ukrainian subtitles, rather than dubbing.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Never see people in wheelchairs. At work, if you are at the Embassy, it would be fine. Out and about, not many accomadations are made in terms of structures. However, the people are nice and would help you cross a street or manouver around a problem if you have visual or motor disablities. I do see handicapped parking spaces.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are everywhere but I OFTEN have a hard time getting one to come out to my house in the suburbs. The people who lived in our house before said that a second car was going to be a necessity and now I see their point. However, I hate to drive here, so I stick to walking and taking taxis when I can get them. If you live in town the metro is safe and affordable and everyone takes it to work at the Embassy. If you live in a stand alone house by the Embassy, your commute will be no more than ten minutes. I often walk or jog home.

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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 an indestructable Toyota Land Cruiser; sometimes it's hard to find a parking spot, but otherwise it's fine. Any car would be fine here--sedan or SUV.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Fast and cheap, maybe US$15 a month for DSL. This was the first post we ever got to that the internet was up and running in the house when we got here! What a treat!

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Sim card for my iPhone with unlimited texts, as many phone calls as I've ever wanted to make and all the data I can use cost US$4 a month. Of course, every few months it won't work at all and I have to take it the phone place and have them change the settings, but normally, it's fine and very cheap.

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Pets:

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?

Have your pet passport up to date. It's not Europe, so a little more complicated. Good vets and groomers though.

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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?

A well-eduated work force makes that seem unlikely, but they do need English teachers. The schools hire Americans for sure. It looks to me that everyone who wants to work is working.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

With million or more Internally Displaced Persons due to the war, if you can't find something to rally around, you can't blame Ukraine.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

It's Europe: people dress up.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

There is a war going on. You can't travel to the East. You can maybe still go to Odessa but you have to let RSO know and keep up with the latest.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medicine isn't to Western standards but the med unit at the Embassy is awesome. The dentistry is good though, especially for routine care.

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3. 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?

Sometimes it seems terrible--I open the windows and it smells like exhaust. Most of the time fine though.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Lots of trees and greenery means lots of pollen in the spring.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Four seasons. Winter was long and gray, but in the spring the city is transformed to green!

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There is KIS, the Christian school, the Bristish School and PSI. There is also a French school. Our son started 8th grade at KIS which has a super nice campus, near our house. He hated it. It's hard to tell if it was the transfer talking (he was super happy at our previous post) or a real problem, but he was called names daily and even the teachers were tough on him. (In the first week he was sent to detention twice. It hadn't happened any time in his entire life, and hasn't happened since, he's not that kind of kid. He said the teacher assistant who watches the kids in dentention was one of the nicest people he met at the school though, so there's that.) We transferred him to the smaller, further away and less posh PSI (although the former president's girlfriend's daughter is in his class). He's happy at PSI despite of the long bus ride. LOTS of people send their kids to KIS and absolutely love it. PSI has been a better fit for our kid.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I think KIS is the most accomodating.

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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?

I don't have a preschooler, but people seem happy. Ask CLO for a list.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

All the normal after-school activies are available.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

American morale is fine, especially once the winter is over.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Walk in the botanical gardens, museums, art exhibits, music, ballet, dinner at friends, street fairs.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Good for families for sure. Everyone can enjoy the exciting times at work, the restaurants, ability to save money and affordable travel to Europe. People working at the Embassy will be consumed by work, it's interesting and hard to look away. If I were not working, I would look into doing one of the English-language advanced degree program available. It would take some searching to find a fit, but it would be interesting.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Sadly, the LGBT pride parade had to be held in an undisclosed location this year. However, there is a feeling that "gay-bashing" = "Putin" so the culture feels like they are making a gear-grinding shift to a more Western vibe in terms of LGBT acceptance. Young people are young people and seem accepting of everything. It isn't San Francisco but it's certainly not Moscow.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Men hold open the doors, women wear heels. I'm white and not really religious so I can't speak to this. I don't hear about problems though.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The incredible lilacs in the botanical garden, our favorite restaurant Citronelle that makes great French food, has a guy playing the piano most nights, and serves amazing home-made teas. And for Americans, everything is so inexpensive.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Visit the world heritage sites, botanical gardens and restaurants. We recently discovered the Admiral Club, a really nice place to spend the day a few miles out of town. Three swimming pools, cafes and restaurants in a gorgeous wooded setting make the warm summer days feel like you are on vacation, even though you are only a few miles from Kyiv.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Art and textiles, and if you don't like fur yet, you won't be able to get enough of it after your first winter. You'll need more than one pair of boots because you'll wear them every day for months. Maybe you'll pick up some fake Channel or Prada so you can blend in.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Well, it's the nicest war zone you'd ever want to live in.

We'd heard it described as "Moscow Lite" but having lived in Moscow, where we extended, and having been posted previously in Bucharest, I'd call it more, "Ultra Eastern Europe."

The differentials (currently 20% hardship) make it the first place we've EVER saved money. Flights to other countries are reasonable and even the locals travel to Cyprus, Tel Aviv, Prague and Vienna. Travel within Europe is do-able.

The winter was long and grey, slushy and wet. But it was never what I thought of when I think, "Winter in Ukraine." Moscow was MUCH colder and darker.

Nearly every Ukrainian has a friend or family member fighting in the east, and the Embassy has employees who have been drafted. The war never stops and it keeps Ukraine on the map in Washington--employees at the Embassy are very busy and there are a ton of TDYers. Lots of VIP visits to the Embassy. History is made daily.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, we even extended.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Wish to see Chekhov's house in Yalta, the Swallowsnest Castle and other sites in gorgeous Crimea that you won't be able to visit due to Russia's illegal annexation of the area and the conflict in the east.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience while standing in the dip line behind non-dip locals who like the shorter line.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0465031471/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0465031471&linkCode=as2&tag=thesunspousunder&linkId=46GGAURANTZ5RRFD

The Economist, which named it "Books of the Year" says:
"How Stalin and Hitler enabled each other's crimes and killed 14m people between the Baltic and the Black Sea. A lifetime's work by a Yale University historian who deserves to be read and reread. Bloodlands is not a fun read, but it explains the region like no other book can. It's very dark, but brings to light crucial information and ties it all together in a way that makes current events make "sense," if that's possible.

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Kiev, Ukraine 04/29/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I lived abroad a few times without children (Europe, Asia, and Africa) and this is my second post as a family.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

3 to 4 hours to a connecting capital in Europe and then 8 hours to Washington DC.

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3. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

My husband is an American Foreign Service Officer.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most families live in apartments. There is some embassy housing in single family homes near the Embassy.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Your best source of produce is the local open-air market. If you can, have a friend introduce you to a favorite seller and visit him/her loyally if s/he provides you good produce at a good price. I also ordered basic cleaning supplies, boxed milk and such for home delivery from Furshet (well worth it especially in the winter). The French Institute near the French School has a small CSA that is a good source of "organic" produce, eggs, and some meat.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax, good chocolate, peanut butter, vitamin D, and a steady supply of yak trax.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There is a lot of fast food in-town. Restaurant food is expensive. There is good food in Kiev but not as much as you would imagine. This is not a food city by any means.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None for us.

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Daily Life:

1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Domestic help is expensive considering the income per capita in Ukraine but cheap compared to the USA. The embassy rate has been around US$5 per hour.

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2. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is a gym at the Embassy. The cost of a good swimming pool is exorbitant. If you prefer, you can use a local pool for little money if you bring them a health certificate. There are some exercise classes in-town as well.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

We are warned against using ATMs and credit cards. I did use my credit card at MegaMarket.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

The one English-language religious service we could not find is Orthodox Christian. Otherwise, you are covered if you are Mormon, Catholic or Protestant.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Learn as much Russian as you can. You will need it for your daily interactions. Ukrainians are very kind and forgiving to the foreigner who tries to speak to them.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

This city is not at all good for someone with physical disabilities. Make sure to bring a strong jogger stroller to manage the streets even in the summer.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Local buses. trams and subway trains are safe and affordable. There is a bus loop that runs in the center of town that is great for getting around weekdays and weekends.

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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?

The roads are rough and you will feel safer in a 4-wheel drive.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Local service is cheap. Ideally, bring your own phone.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Check out "Kids in Kyiv" for volunteer opportunities and also helpful information in general. This is a poor country and there is no shortage of volunteer opportunities.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Pick-pockets. Protests. Wild dogs were our biggest problem. I would not recommend housing off of Artema to anyone with a family. I had wild dogs come all the way up to my stroller. It was the most terrifying part of our experience.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The local healthcare system is horrible. There are a few places that everyone seems to go that have a good reputation. Local dental care at a good clinic is very reasonably priced and high quality.

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3. 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?

Air quality is OK for a developing country but this is a dirty city full of old cars pouring out unregulated exhaust.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Winter is a serious part of the Ukrainian experience. During the winter we spent there, we had an inordinate amount of snow. You need to purchase heavy gear; Land's End is a good source. I found Yak trax necessary as well. Make sure your kids are covered from head to toe. The sun basically disappears for eight months out of the year and this can be brutal for those of us not familiar with this kind of climate. Sidewalks and buildings are also not cleared well. We lived off of Artema and our street was not cleared until the end of winter. If you use a stroller, you need a jogger stroller if you hope to use it in the winter. The danger of ice falling from buildings is very real and can restrict your mobility. Try to leave for a good chunk of the winter especially if you have small children.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

My kids were little. My daughter attended P'tit Cref (in the center of town) and I would highly recommend this school full of caring teachers and small classes. I also know families who were very happy with the French School in the center of town. I chose to not send my daughter to KIS because of mixed reviews and PSI because of the commute time that is often over an hour each way.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

This is a concern in all international schools. Oftentimes children with significant special needs are just put in regular classrooms.

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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?

P'tit Cref is excellent. There is also a (very loosely defined) Montessori School in the center of town. Many families are happy there.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The size is fairly big and the morale dips considerable in the winter.

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2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I think this is an ideal city for singles and childless couples. There is a thriving nightlife and the flights to Europe are cheap. It's a hard city for families with little kids especially if you are not used to the dark winter days. Summer is a much happier part of the year but do not come here thinking that this is anything other than a poor European city. Traffic is significant issue in town. Realize that you will spend most of your time in your section of town.

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3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No.

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4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

You will get looks if you are even olive-skinned. Ukrainians are generally kind and peaceful but be ready to be the center of attention.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Marinsky Park, Mosaic Park and the grounds of Saint Sophia's are great locations for families with little kids. We have also taken advantage of some cheap flights to Western Europe for getaways.

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Many families love to visit Lviv. In town, there are many parks but my favorites are definitely Marinksy Park and Mosaic Park. When the weather is nice, get a grounds-pass at Saint Sophia's and bring a blanket. It is definitely the cleanest and prettiest space of grass in the city. The playground near the Old Chancery is also nice. The best resource for families with little kids is a listserv called Kids in Kyiv.

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7. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Kiev is rich in history and this is a great vantage point for travel into the rest of Europe.

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8. Can you save money?

Kiev is surprisingly expensive.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I would never have accepted housing off of Artema because of the stray dog problem there. I would also have spent a lot more time out of the country during winter.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, but ideally as a single or a childless couple.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Flip flops.

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4. But don't forget your:

Yak trax, down jacket, jogger stroller, vitamin D, and silent alarm for stray dogs.

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Kiev, Ukraine 04/29/13

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This is the first experience we have had living overseas.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Our home base is Texas. It takes aproximately 17 hours round trip. The Flight is Kyiv to Houston with one stop in Amsterdam.

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3. How long have you lived here?

We have been living here for 2 1/2 years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

My husband works for the State Department. I have enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom with my baby who has grown into a little World Traveling Toddler.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Average housing. There are very few single-family homes. Most homes are apartments in the center of the city, usually located near public transport and grocery stores. The commute time has increased since the move to the new embassy. Now it takes 30 - 45 minutes in normal morning and evening traffic.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are average priced. If you buy vegetables and fruits in season you will be paying the equivalent of 25 cents / lb for (potatoes, carrots, cabbage, beets in the winter), (watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash in the summer. Most things are also very accessible. If you do not want to go to grocery stores, you can usually negotiate in the Rynoks (outdoor markets). The produce is usually beautiful and fresh.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Chocolate chips, peanut butter, decaf coffee, Dr Pepper, American baby food.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's, (Also McFoxy, Ukraine's chicken version), KFC, TGIFridays, Domino's. Also a few local chinese fast-food and Hot wings fast-food places.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

I don't think the insects make it past the -20 degree winters. There are no bugs that I have seen.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Domestic help will run about $5 an hour for someone who cooks, cleans, watches children, and takes care of pets. It is very available here and very good. It is a big help having an extra hand around the house.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

We use the gym availabe at the new American Embassy.

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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?

You cannot use credit cards or ATMs here without extreme personal risk to it being stolen. This is a cash-only economy. Venders will accept credit cards, but this country has one of the highest incidences of fraud, so it is at your own risk.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are several Christian churches, and there is also a pretty big Mormon presence. Personally, we attend the local Catholic church (St. Andrews) that has an English-language mass at 8:40 Sunday mornings. There is also a Spanish mass at another Catholic church at 11:00.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Voila cable has a package that has intermixed English and Ukrainian channels that is very interesting. $20/month. The Kyiv Post is a good English-language newspaper that you find around the city, and it is free at most restaurants.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

The more the better here. Not very many people speak English. More and more young people are, but it is still rare to find someone speaking English. If you know a few things like how to buy groceries and make some small talk, life is a lot more pleasant.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It is very difficult---and I just have a stroller I have to worry about. The amount of potholes, coupled with the terrible, long winters and lack of elevators/ramps of any kind anywhere, make it very difficult for women with strollers and babies---not to mention if you had a physical disability. Also, frequently there are no crosswalks. In order to cross the street you must walk down a set of stairs, be underground for a little while, and then walk up another set of stairs to get to the other side. There are no elevators or ramps either. When using Metros there are no elevators. You must use your stroller on an escalator to get up and down. I found I have gotten pretty good at doing this.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes. Metro buses and taxis are very safe and affordable. Metros & buses charge 25 cents to get you anywhere in the city.
Taxis run about $5.00 to get anywhere in the city. You just have to watch out for pickpocketing.

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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?

There are lots of parts for German and post-Soviet vehicles. I would suggest rugged terrain vehicles, SUVs not sedans, due to the horrible road conditions in the city and even worse conditions outside of the city. Also, snow tires or chains are a must, due to the long, harsh winters (Nov-April).

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Phone & Internet:

1. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Buy one in the States, get it unlocked, and then come here and get a SIM chip to stick in it. Services are very cheap. I can run my phone on $10 / month.

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Pets:

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

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

We take our dog to a local English speaking vet and he has been great. We found Ukrainians either absolutely love or hate pets. There is really no middle ground. Also be careful of stray dogs. We had a pack attack our dog when we went for a stroll in the park. Since then measures have been put in place to minimize this, but it still happens.

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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?

There are teaching jobs and ESL jobs on the local economy, but even more jobs available at the U.S. Embassy.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

It really depends on the weather. Ukrainians also have a much different view on what is appropriate to wear both in public and at work then Americans.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

There is only a problem with pickpocketing on the metros and busses. Just make sure to have a purse or backpack that zips when you are using public transport. I have never had a problem.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

No concerns. Public health care is terrible, but if you can afford the private hospitals they are very good.

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3. 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?

Air quality is not an issue here. It is overall pretty good.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

FRIGID! Don't forget your Parka, and your kids' parkas x 2. It snowed from November tho April this year, and in April we were slammed with about 3 feet of snow in 2 days. One winter the temperature dropped to -20 degrees F for 3 weeks. The weather here is cold and erratic in the winter. Also, plan your vacations for winter to get out of here if you can. The sun does not really come up, but it is a cloudy, overcast grayness from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when it gets dark again. This lasts from November through March.
On the upside, summers are BEAUTIFUL! Great weather, beautiful flowers and trees. Everything blooms and everyone is happy.

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Schools & Children:

1. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

There is soccer.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

It is an average size, but we are definitely growing.

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2. Morale among expats:

Morale is good. There is a great family-type community here and, everyone is pretty happy. Things have gotten even more interesting since the move to the new embassy compound.

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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?

There is a great opera theater that has inexpensive and wonderful ballets, operas, and symphony concerts, and it plays six days a week. There are also some fun cultural places to see: Park Kyivan, a Russian/Ukrainian version of the Rennaissance Festival.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It is a great city for all types. Singles, especially men, have a great time with the 10-1 Ukrainian women-to-men ratio. Families have a great time with camping, barbeques at the lake, children's museums, wonderful playgrounds, and great shopping center complexes complete with bowling alleys, Ice skating rinks, roller rinks, arcades, Indoor playgrounds, bumper cars, and Ukrainian-dubbed movie theaters.
Couples also find there is a lot of entertainment with the regular marathons here, salsa clubs, restaurant/bars, and generally good and friendly community.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I have heard there has been serious discrimmination against people with darker skin tones. I would be worried about the physical and emotional toll this place might take on some people.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

There are some very interesting places to go and explore here. Some of the most interesting places we saw were: the Polish town of Lviv, Kaminets Podilsky (Ukrainian Castle), Chernobyl, and the Crimea (beautiful beaches). Also, if you love skiing you will really enjoy it here. The skiing in the Carpathian mountains is beautiful.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Parks, Shopping complexes, underground shopping, skiing, museums, restaurants & bars.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

There are some beautifully hand-crafted Santas, Maschrutka Dolls, wooden sculptures, scarves, and paintings. Head down the "Spoosk" for all of your tourist needs.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The local culture is very interesting, it being a post-Soviet country. A great advantage, though, is the amount of money you can save living here.

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10. Can you save money?

Absolutely! Kyiv is a pretty inexpensive city---and flights to other parts of Europe through Wizz Air are remarkably inexpensive. (Example: $90 round trip to Venice.) Take advantage of as much travel as possible.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes! This has been a great first-overseas post for our family. It is considered a hardship post, and yes there are frequent power outages, hot water outages, and the occasional protests are difficult at times. However, all around, this is a beautiful country that has a beautiful culture to share.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Prejudice and High expectations. Kyiv is a wonderful city if you keep an open mind. There is some beautiful culture here and Ukraine is just beginning to come into it's own after being under oppressive Soviet Rule for so long.

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3. But don't forget your:

Parka, snow tires and peanut butter!

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4. Do you have any other comments?

Travel! See Europe and the countryside!

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Kiev, Ukraine 04/09/13

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, DC, 24+ hours, with a connection in Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt or Munich.

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3. How long have you lived here?

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

The contributor is affiliated with the US Embassy, has spent three years in Kyev, and is an experienced expat.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most people are in large apartments. They are starting to put some large families in houses.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

It is expensive and that is the reason for the COLA.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Cake mix, doughnuts, and Jimmy Buffet CD's.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's is here and it is fine. KFC is rough. The best food is the good Ukrainian food.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

It is usually too cold for insects, as they freeze 6 months a year.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We only have the regular diplomatic pouch here, so there are many restrictions. You can send and receive with FEDEX but it is more expensive. Ukrainian mail can be a hassle on outgoing items.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Plenty are available but all are more expensive than in the Western Hemisphere. No live-ins. Probably about $500-$800 monthly.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, but they are crazy expensive.

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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?

Don't use them unless it is an emergency.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is one english language non-denominational church here.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

There are a few, and they are pretty good and mostly free.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You should know Russian or Ukrainian to make it easier.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

A lot. No real work has been done to assist anyone with disabilities.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

All are relatively safe. Buses, trains, and the metro are cheap. Taxis can be expensive.

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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?

100% 4x4. You will get stuck without it.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes it is and it is cheap. About US$25-30 per month. It is mainly DSL and you can lose bandwidth when you are in a crowded apartment building, especially after 6pm.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Buy an unlocked cell phone in the US or buy one here. Use a pre-paid sim chip.

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Pets:

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.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are good and cheap.

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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 really.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business and business casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Just use your common sense. Not much petty crime or violent crime. Watch your pockets on the metro or bus. Drivers are crazy, so be patient and don't be a part of road rage.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Plenty of health concerns. There are many medevacs, as the local healthcare is not to US standards.

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3. 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?

Good.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Cold with possible snow November - April. Snow can be heavy at times.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are two international schools and one Christian school. They provide basic necessities. The Christian school is good with discipline, but the International schools sometimes have their children go wild. Academics are better at the International School, but there is some anti-US and pro-European attitudes among the school staff.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

None.

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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?

There is always one close by, but it may only be is Russian/Ukrainian.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

In the schools there are soccer and basketball.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Not much, unless you like smoky bars.

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3. Morale among expats:

Usually pretty good.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Probably best for single men. Unless you love snow, it can be tough in the winter for families.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

It can be a problem.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Some racial problems, but it is hidden.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The people at the embassy are great. With the exception of drivers, Ukrainians are good people.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There are many indoor water parks are here. Some are better than the outdoor ones in the US. Plenty of snow and ice sports.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

The art here is incredible. The oil paintings from the local artists are among the best in the world.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

If you like snow, you will probably see it 6 months a year.

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11. Can you save money?

It is tough. Things are expensive here.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, because I have been working with great people.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Hot weather clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Cold weather clothes.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Everything Is Illuminated: A Novel, Chernobyl Diaries

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This is a tough post, but the pay is good, the Embassy community is good, and the locals are wonderful people.

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Kiev, Ukraine 02/25/13

Background:

1. Your reason for living this city (e.g. corporate, government, military, student, educator, retiree, etc.):

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2. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

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3. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Honolulu; it's about 30 hours away.

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4. How long have you lived here?

(The contributor is associated with the U.S. Embassy and has been living in Kyiv for eighteen months, a third expat experience.)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Large, apartments in town: they are ugly on the outside, but charming and elegant inside. Some families are getting houses near the NEC.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

There are large grocery stores, such as METRO (like a German COSTCO). Almost everything is available. Locally produced products are cheapest. Our favorites are the beer and ham (plentiful selections of both). Vodka is cheaper than bottled water.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Studded snow tires. Better winter wear. Anything with lithium batteries cannot come through pouch.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Ukraine is not yet an eating-out culture. There is a lack of family-friendly restaurants, but it's changing. McDonald's is always jammed.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Maybe mosquitoes in summer. Haven't seen a single roach.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Pouch (no DPO).

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Reasonable.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, but pricier than comparable US facilities.

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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?

Only the machine at the embassy can be trusted. If you use an untrusted machine, change your PIN immediately afterward.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

One good non-denominational Christian church.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Several English "What's Happening" type magazines.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

More Russian skill is better. The younger generation is more English-friendly.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Kyiv is not wheelchair-friendly. Baby strollers are difficult to move on the crooked sidewalks.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Safe except for pickpockets. Metro subway is clean, fast, and cheap (one piece of Ukraine that's actually done right).

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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?

Bring a 4X4 with high clearance and good tires. The roads are appalling and will reduce the life of your car prematurely. Driving is a stressful exercise because you're simultaneously dodging other cars, pedistrians dressed in black at night, stray dogs, and kitchen sink-sized potholes. If you see a tree branch sticking out of the road, it was likely put there by a good samaritan as a warning for drivers to steer around a hole deep enough to break your car.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

This varies depending on the building you're in. Mine is horrible. My neighbor's is blazing.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Pay-as-you-go is cheap. Any unlocked GSM phone will work (including iPhone).

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Pets:

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. But be advised pets entering the EU (and several other countries) FROM Ukraine will need a rabies anti-bodies (titer) test. There are no labs for this test in Ukraine so blood samples are sent out (typically to Moscow), which is time consuming and expensive. Titer test is not currently required for entry to the US.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

A few good vets, and a good kennel in the suburbs.

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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?

Only if you have a corporate job or work at an international school. Otherwise, even if you speak Russian, the local economy won't pay US wages.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business at work, casual but neat outside.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Pickpockets. Otherwise, quite safe to walk around even at night.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical system isn't generally trusted for anything critical. Many prescription meds can be bought over-the-counter at local pharmacies.

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3. 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?

Seems ok; I'm not aware of any problems.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Minnesota.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I've heard no complaints other than long commutes for some.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Check with each school.

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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?

Only in Russian/Ukrainian.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

School programs like soccer. If you're adventurous, there is a youth ice hockey league that is not advertised, but it's superb and a great value.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Medium.

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2. Morale among expats:

Seems OK after the initial shock of moving in.

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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?

Plenty. There is lots of opera and very professional stage performances for low cost.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It's a decent post for families, and relatively safe. Activities are not limitless as they are in more industrialized countries.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

There has been recent isolated violence against local gays by skinhead-like groups. Some Ukrainian law-makers want to outlaw "pro-homosexual propaganda".

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

If you're not Slavic-looking, you will stand out. But my Asian spouse has been treated very well.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Odessa is a fun summer getaway. Make local friends, they'll show you the real Ukraine if you're open to appreciating it. Take an overnight train to Lviv or Bukovel ski resort.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Many old churches and historic sites. There's a great indoor water-park. I recommend the Chernobyl tour.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Vodka, matrushka dolls, local art.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Observe the cultural shift as Ukraine struggles to emerge out of its despairing soviet past. If you're a single guy, I've heard the high-heeled hotties are plentiful.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, but with more informed expectations.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Dill and sour cream and your expectations of customer service and order. Very few things work as they should.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience, cold weather gear, ice cleats (Yak Trax were insufficient this winter).

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Everything Is Illuminated, Orange Revolution, The Other Chelsea, Import Export
(excellent film but very explicit, check ratings). Chernobyl Diaries
was not filmed in Ukraine.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Ukrainians are generally well-mannered, polite, and culturally conservative. Kids are respectful of adults. If you've never experienced Eastern Europe, you might be in shock for several weeks. It will pass, and you will not be so affected by its bleakness and dysfunction, and you will start to enjoy the authenticity and the nostalgia of post-soviet Ukraine. What you see and experience is real - there is nothing artificial here.

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Kiev, Ukraine 07/21/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

First expat experience

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

There are direct flights from Kyiv to the States (generally NYC), but I always flew through Munich or Frankfurt. About 2.5 hours to Munich/Frankfurt, and then 9 hours to the East Coast.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2010-2012

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

USAID

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Apartments downtown, although with the opening of the NEC I think they're trying to shift housing closer to that facility. Some houses out past the NEC. Commute times have gotten longer for most people since the Embassy moved.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Between grocery stores and the produce markets, you can get basically anything you want in Kyiv. I found the prices extremely reasonable, I spent way less on groceries in Kyiv than I did in DC.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Peanut butter, any ethnic spices. Brands you're particularly fond of. Otherwise, you can easily find everything you need in Kyiv or at the commissary.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Puzata Hata is the classic Ukrainian fast food, you can eat a huge meal for around $4. There's also McDonald's and its Ukrainian knockoff, McFoxy (I never went).

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Small black flies/gnats that get EVERYWHERE in the summer. They'll really stain your clothes if you smush them, so resist the temptation.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Pouch. Some people used local UPS/DHL/FedEx with success.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Available at reasonable prices. I had a housekeeper who came once a week, I paid her US$30ish/week.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes. I belonged to a very small gym right around the corner that had everything I needed for about $80/month. Expensive, but not outrageously so. That said, some gyms are outrageously expensive. Shop around, there are options.

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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?

Some people use credit cards on the local market with no problem, I was very leery of it. I only ever used ATMs at the Embassy or USAID. Cybercrime is rampant in Ukraine, exercise extreme caution. Also, it's still a cash economy in many ways. A lot of places won't take your credit card even if you do want to use it.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes. I'm sure there are Episcopal and Catholic services available in English; anything else I wouldn't swear to, but I'd be surprised if more weren't out there.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes to TV, never saw an English newspaper on the street, but I'm sure you could get them. I had 100+ cable channels (many English) in a bundle with my internet for about $40/month.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is still not widely spoken in Kyiv, although a surprising number of restaurants do have English menus. Speaking Russian will make your life much easier.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Many. There are basically no concessions made for physical disabilities in Kyiv.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Safe and affordable. You can use the subway, trams, marshrutkas (mini-buses), or buses quite safely and extremely cheaply (between $.25 and $.50 a ride). Taxis are also plentiful and very cheap, $3-5 basically anywhere in the city. You can get to the airport for $15-$20, but if you don't arrange for a taxi to pick you up ahead of time, taking one from the airport is more expensive.

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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?

I got around just fine without a car, but if you want to bring one, I think a compact or maybe small SUV (if you want to drive out to the Carpathians, etc) would be best. Definitely don't bring anything huge. This is not the place for your Escalade or Hummer. You might want to ship some parts.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. See above for pricing. I found my cable/internet company in Ukraine a million times better to deal with than Comcast, and speed was excellent. Maybe 3 outages over 18 months, never more than a day or so. That said, your access to internet is entirely dependent on where you live. If your building is wired for a private cable company (i.e., Volia), you're good to go. If it's not... good luck dealing with TeleSystems UA or whoever.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Embassy/AID employees will get Blackberries, but for family members it's very easy to buy a phone and SIM card on the local market. Pay as you go.

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Pets:

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.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

A few vets that people seemed happy with. Not sure about kennels.

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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?

If you speak Russian, maybe. Otherwise, it'll be very difficult.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Ukrainians dress up. And ones who haven't had a lot of exposure to Westerners will frown on you (literally) for dressing down in public.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No physical security concerns. You always hear about pickpocketing on metro/buses/trams, but I never had a problem. Pay attention to your surroundings as you would in any big city, and you'll be fine.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Health Unit at the Embassy is fine, there's one clinic in the city (Boris?) that seems to have a good reputation. But in general, avoid Ukrainian medical care. Medevac is your friend. Although I did hear of people being happy with local dentists.

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3. 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?

I found the air quality generally good. Some pollution, especially in winter, but nothing too terrible.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Like the Northeast US. Warm summers, COLD winters (especially early 2012), brief but nice spring and autumn. Sometimes there's a lot of snow, sometimes there's none. Sometimes it's blazing hot in the summer, sometimes it's much more mild. Like I said, like the Northeast US.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

No personal experience, but parents and school-aged children seemed happy.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

Again, no personal experience, but most people had nannies and adored them. I knew some people who considered extending just to keep the nanny!

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Not sure, but I think at least the basics (soccer, swimming). Not sports, but I know some kids took music lessons from amazing teachers.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Very large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Generally good. Winter can get depressing, but otherwise good.

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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?

Basically anything you want to do, any time you want to do it. Unless you are a single woman, and you want to date.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Good for families, good for couples, excellent for single men. Good for single women who don't mind the prospect of not dating for a few years.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I wouldn't say gay pride is a thing in Kyiv yet, but at the same time, I knew some gay expats who got along just fine (better than single straight women, in most cases).

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. Racism is still a huge problem in Ukraine. If you're white, no problem. If you're East Asian, you'll probably also be fine. Otherwise, you'll at best be in for some rude staring, and at worst... things can get really bad.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

CRIMEA.I really thought that I just did not like Ukraine until I went to Crimea. Beautiful sea, interesting history and architecture. Yevpatoria is a hidden gem.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Many! Beautiful parks, opera and ballet for cheap, concerts come through frequently, restaurants abound. There's also the Hydropark in summer, and many beautiful nature getaways just outside the city.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Some local artists, some typical Ukrainian handcrafts (embroidery, etc.)Otherwise, nothing great.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Ukraine is definitely still a developing country, although it's hard to tell if you never get out of Kyiv. There's plenty to see and do, and it's very easy to get out for a break in Western Europe. I didn't skimp while I was there, but didn't go nuts either, and managed to save a nice chunk of change.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Probably not, only because it's so hard to be a single female there. All others should definitely consider it, though.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Amenities, consumables, bicycles (for the city, at least, I think only insane people would ride a bike in downtown Kyiv).

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience and nice shoes (they can be repaired for cheap when you inevitably ruin them on the streets).

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

People say Everything Is Illuminated: A Novel, so... try it.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:


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6. Do you have any other comments?

If Kyiv gets you down, go see other parts of Ukraine! I waited way too long to go to Crimea and it was a revelation.

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Kiev, Ukraine 08/06/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

First experience.

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2. How long have you lived here?

1 1/2 years.

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3. 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.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy- Government.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None that we've had any problems with.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Pouch system through the embassy

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

$4-6/hr

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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.

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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.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes not sure which ones though. Catholic and Lutheran for sure.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Transportation:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Pets:

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.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Good vets, some that will even come to your house. We've never used a kennel though.

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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.

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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.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

TB tests for sure, Typhoid and Hep A are both strongly encouraged.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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.

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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.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large. Lots of Americans, Germans, French...

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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.

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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.

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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.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Some with racial, but haven't really heard of much.

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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.

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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.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes

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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.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Need to hurry through a meal at a restaurant,

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience and aggressive driving skills.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Everything is Illuminated - a movie with Elijiah Wood

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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.

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Kiev, Ukraine 04/18/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

My second expat experience.

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2. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Good. There's a Delta flight directly through JFK but you have to go through JFK which is usually a problem. Lufthansa, KLM, Aerosvit and many more options are out there.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I am an educator.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Varies.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

About the same as in the U.S. except for meat which is ridiculously expensive.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's is here and so is TGI Friday's (Friday's service is terrible!). McDonald's is the same price as back home. There really aren't any other choices that I'm aware of.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

By regular snail mail.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Expensive and difficult to find good help.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Don't!

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes . . . everything is here.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

A lot!

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Probably would find it difficult.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, except after dark on the trains and buses. Very affordable.

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3. 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?

Learn how to drive stick and jump into a Lada!

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, getting cheaper by the day. Maybe US$50 a month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cheap service is available.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Skype.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Look at the Women's club book, there are lots of them available. My advice would be to ask somebody you know who has a pet who they use. Housecalls are available.

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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 that I know of.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Casual to conservative.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate-Unhealthy: On the roads the pollution is terrible from all of the big diesel trucks. During the burning season (slash and burn agriculture here) it gets pretty nasty depending on where you are.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Don't use your ATM card as there are problems with machines popping up all of the time. Petty crime and racist crimes are an ongoing problem.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

It is VERY BAD . . . our son had to have a minor surgery and the doctor left a scar . . . proceed carefully there.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

9 months of crap and the rest of the year is simply beautiful!

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

KIS and Pechersk School are the two most commonly used and the best. KIS is cheaper.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I'm not sure they do anything . . . no real experience with that aspect of things.

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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?

No experience, but I hear it can be quite difficult for some and easy for others.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Very large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Poor.

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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?

Lots of things to do here, if you can figure out how to get it done.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Singles . . . yes! Couples . . . maybe . . . families beware!

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I don't know.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Major problems. Anti-semitism, racism, sexism, you name it. There are neo-Nazi thugs who ride the Metro after dark and attack darker-skinned people.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Great parks, the river is pretty, opera, ballets, circus, dreaming of springtime!

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Pretty little martrushka dolls.

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9. Can you save money?

Depends on how much you get paid. We can't.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Not a chance!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

English.

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3. But don't forget your:

Russian (not Ukrainian) dictionary.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

The cost of housing is becoming prohibitive for many. A apartment for a family downtown is over US4,000/month. It is only slightly cheaper outside of the city. It seems to be mob controlled.

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Kiev, Ukraine 04/14/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No - I've lived in Lima, Peru, Buenos Aires, Argentina, etc.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Almost 2 years.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Anywhere from April to October is a great time to travel. Most flights have a stop-over in Europe. There are some direct from NY.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I am an U.S. Embassy employee.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

All apartments are in the center of town. Most I have observed have been very nice but the common areas are often lacking. Commuting depends on the embassy building in which your office is located. I walk about 25 minutes but most apartments are closer. All this will change dramatically with the new embassy compound scheduled to start in 2008/09.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Between the Commissary and local grocery chains, you can get almost anything you want and it's getting better all the time (we're foodies and this is important to us). Food is cheaper than in the States, especially for produce. Meat can be iffy, local chicken and pork are fine, beef less so (you can order from the Commissary though). As always, if you use local brands, your grocery bill will be significantly less than in the States.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

We shipped Asian and Mexican ingredients and were happy. In retrospect we probably shipped too much. For some the availability, price (expensive) and quality of wine leaves something to be desired but again, it's changing for the better.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonalds, lots of pizza places, and Mr. Snack (a Ukrainian subway) as well as other Ukrainian fast food places. Restaurants are opening all over the place. It's gotten a lot better since I've been here with a trend to move away from old Soviet big menu type places to more affordable bistro type restaurants. There are two Indian places, Georgian, Italian, French, an acceptable Mexican spot, TGI Friday's and imitators, and lots of sushi places. Basically, you can find anything you want to eat here and prices are, in almost all cases less, than what you'd pay in the States.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Widely available. I think we pay our nanny about US$4-5/hour.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Don't use an ATM card. Use credit cards only at trustworthy establishments. This is a cash economy in general.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, there are Catholic, Church of Christ, Baptist (I think) and Mormon services in English and probably others.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes. Lots of English TV on the basic Volia cable package. Two weekly local English periodicals. U.S. or English newspapers are not common.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is not widespoken, you can get by with a few phrases in Russian or Ukrainian but those with language generally have a much better experience. Note - Ukrainian is becoming more widely spoken all over but Russian is still predominant in Kyiv, the East and South.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Lots, Kyiv and Ukraine in general has very little in the way of assisting those with physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, and yes. The caveat being this is a big city and all the usual precautions apply but we use public transportation all the time and have never had an incident.

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3. 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?

Most major car brands have services here, most of any car will do. Winters can be rough and streets are not really plowed so a car good in the snow is always a plus.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes but it depends on where you live. It's becoming more widely available but I think we pay about US$30 a month and have all the internet we need.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

No, cheap and plentiful. Embassy provides employees with one.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Skype works like a charm.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Vets are great, kennels virtually non existent. Embassy families have their housekeepers watch pets or swap with other families when they are gone.

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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?

Perhaps if you speak Russian or Ukrainian.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Formal. More so than in the States.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate - it's a large city in a post Soviet country with all the drawbacks that come with it. My wife who has asthma has not had any problems here.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Minor with the caveat that you are not a minority. In my opinion, Kyiv is generally as safe or safer than most big cities in the U.S. Violence against minorities and people of color are unfortunately at an unacceptable level and all too frequent.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

A real drawback, pretty primitive. embassy personnel are routinely medivaced.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Much like Chicago or Minneapolis, you suffer for 4 months to get 8 months of absolutely beautiful weather.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

No experience but from what I hear, parents are generally happy with either Kyiv International School or Pechersk.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Unknown.

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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?

Widely available and inexpensive if you put your child in a Russian or Ukrainian speaking preschool. English ones are much more expensive. Nanny help is widely available and good (ours is a former preschool teacher with a university degree).That said, with the economy improving, and inflation, nannies, though affordable, are not cheap and costs are rising.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Pretty sizable embassy - a large number of other expats. I suggest IWICK (an international women's group) if you want to branch out from the embassy community.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good as far as I can tell but I'm a glass half-full type. We love it here.

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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?

Virtually everything you can want from sports to arts to restaurants are widely available and accessible.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Great for all types. Plenty of park space, museums, outdoor activities, restaurants - basically something is here for everyone.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Unsure, I tend to doubt it.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes - Racial prejudice is a problem.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Kyiv has lots of sights. Travel in country to Odessa, Western Ukraine - Carpathians, Lviv. We drove to Moldova and Romania with no problems.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Ukrainian art - Samovars and various nicknacks.

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9. Can you save money?

Absolutely with 20% differential it's quite easy. You can also find lots of ways to spend your money as well (restaurants - trips to Western Europe etc.)

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Without a doubt.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Golf clubs.

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3. But don't forget your:

Winter clothes. I'm from Wisconsin so the winter doesn't really bother me too much, for others it can be tough.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

All in all, it's been a great experience for me and my family.

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Kiev, Ukraine 02/14/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

First expat experience.

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2. How long have you lived here?

10 months.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Delta offers a direct flight from JFK to Kyiv that takes about 10 hours. Many people choose to break up the flight by flying through Munich, Paris, London, or Amsterdam.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I am a Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Nearly all apartments in the heart of the city. The housing market is out of control here with rents tripling in a few months so securing housing is very tough. In general though, most apartments I've seen are nice, but with strange layouts. Often there isn't an elevator and the common stairwell aren't always kept in good condition as that is the responsibility of the landlord. Most people have commute times of less than 30 minutes by foot or public transportation. If you choose to drive, it could be much worse.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Most everything is available here, but you won't find American brands outside of the commissary. The cost is roughly the same as the States but rising all the time.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

We would have bought and sent a treadmill for exercise during the winter. We bought a dog after arriving so sending some good quality dog food would have been helpful. If there are any special foods you must have then I'd send those, especially if they're liquid as that can't go through the pouch.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

The only American fast food chain at the moment is McDonalds. TGI Fridays is also here. Most other ethnic cuisines (apart from Mexican) is present in Kyiv. This is a very fad-focused city so you'll see five sushi places quickly open and then close, then five Indian, then five French, etc. Nice restaurants tend to be extremely expensive, but the food quality doesn't match the price. It is often better to stick with the mid-level and cheaper places. The quality still isn't often great, but at least you're not paying as much. Ukrainian food is good and often affordable, but heavy and bland so it is nice to mix it up occasionally.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

This is a pouch post.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Housekeepers and nannies are available but the costs are escalating. We have a part-time (12 hours) housekeeper and we pay US$4/hour. I think that is about average.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I would avoid using credit cards and ATMs for the most part due to identify theft. At the nicer hotels and restaurants you would be fine though. I only use ATMs within the embassy buildings.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Not much for newspapers. The Kyiv Post is in English and of decent quality. I think you can get the Financial Times and IHT here, but late. We have AFN for American television and we also have another satellite that picks up the international news channels (CNN, BBC, CCTV, etc.)

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You need a lot, I think. Without Russian or Ukrainian this would be a very challenging place to live. All signs are in Ukrainian (but you can figure most out with Russian) and very few people on the street will speak English. I think Russian is still more useful overall, but you would be fine with either. Ukraine is gradually heading to a Ukraine first language, but it is still years away.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It would probably be impossible if in a wheelchair. Almost no buildings are wheelchair accessible and the streets and sidewalks are very rough. You see very few physically handicapped people around Kyiv and I don't want to think about where they are and in what conditions they live.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

On the right, but feel free to go into the left lane or on the sidewalk if more convenient.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

The bus and metro system is pretty extensive, dirt cheap (US$.10 a trip), and easy to use. Most of the equipment is old, but I don't think any more dangerous than driving yourself or walking. You can also hail a taxi or any other car going down the street and negotiate a price. Don't be surprised if a taxi refuses to take you, they're very selective at times.

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3. 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?

There isn't really a need for a 4X4 but it might be helpful in the winter time as the streets can get clogged with snow. A smaller car would be more maneuverable on the narrow Kyiv streets and easier to park, but you'll be dwarfed by the giant SUVs the oligarchs/legitimate businessmen/government officials (all the same thing really). Cars are very much a status symbol here and people will spend everything they have to buy a nice one. If you see a large black SUV or Bentley or Lamborghini or Masserati coming, don't cross the street even if they have a red light because chances are they aren't stopping (traffic laws don't apply to them.)

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

It is available. Each building seems to have one provider that covers it so you probably won't have much choice for high speed. We may about US$60/month for 512k, but others pay half that price for the same speed. Ours is pretty reliable.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Embassy employees are issued one. Any other family members will want to get one. You can pay as you go and just by recharge cards on the street.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

We use Skype and it costs $.03 a minute. Others use Vonage. I think some just call home directly or use a calling card.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are several good vets locally and a few speak English. The quality is pretty good and cheap. We had our puppy spayed here and had no problems. Many people leave their pets with others when they travel, but there is at least one kennel here and it seems decent.

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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 great, but some. The schools always need help. If you have the skills, some of the big international companies would probably hire you particularly in IT or finance. Most local companies would require language skills that few expats have.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Work is pretty formal for us. In public, it is hard to describe. Pretend it is 1987 America, but sponsored by European labels. For Ukrainian women: 4 inch stilletos, micromini skirts, and see through blouses, D&G bag required. For Ukrainian men: tight jeans, mullet, D&G shirt, little tiny leather manpurse.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate to unhealthy. Most days I don't really notice the pollution but occasionally it really hits you. You don't realize how much you are breathing in until you see how filthy and coated in black sludge the cars are.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

In general, very few. You must take the usual precautions of a big city and watch out for pickpockets. Another common scam is for someone to drop some money and when you pick it up to help, you are accused of stealing money. Don't pick anything up. There is a large increase in violence toward minorities though.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Vodka is the primary medicine for many. Most clinics and hospitals are sub-par.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Beautiful for spring, summer, fall with highs in the 80s and 90s (F) and lots of sunshine. The winter is dark with daylight from only about 9am to 3pm in the depths of winter. Heavy snow from time to time, and highs in the 20s and 30s (F), but expect a week or two of highs in the teens or lower.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I don't have children, but there are two schools primarily used by the embassy community. Kyiv International School (KIS) and Perchersk School International. There is also Kyiv Christian School but I don't believe any embassy children use it at the moment. I haven't heard any serious complaints about the schools.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large. Many countries have missions here and there is a large expat business community as well.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good, I think. The long, dark winter can wear you down as can the Soviet attitude still held by some of the people but things improve dramatically during the summer when the weather changes.

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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?

We often go out to eat with friends and meet at each others' houses for game and movie nights. There are a few fancy galas throughout the year as well.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I think it is good for all. It is a large post so singles should be able to meet a lot of people in the embassy as well as in the community. Couples will find plenty to do as well. Currently, this is a very family-focused post so many CLO-sponsored activities will be kid-friendly (even if it might be better if they weren't.)

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I haven't noticed much of a community, but I'm sure it exists. I would guess the same skinheads who target minorities might also harass gays if given the chance.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

While I don't think it is as bad as in Russia yet, attacks against non-whites is a growing problem here. There have been a few murders and lots of assaults. Diplomats have not been immune from this problem as the Egyptian DCM was recently beaten and left for dead. I haven't seen it myself, but you must keep your eyes open and be ready to get out of a bad situation quickly.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Being a former Soviet country there is a lot of cultural activity: opera, ballet, symphony, theater, circus, etc. There are a lot of movie theaters, but nearly everything is dubbed into Ukrainian or Russian. The center of the city is quite pretty and good for walking and sightseeing, with lots of parks to stroll about in (or sit on a bench and either drink or makeout with someone if you're Ukrainian.) The embassy organizes quite a few activities and we're often invited to Canadian and British events as well.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Painted eggs, nesting dolls, embroidered clothes, paintings, wooden carvings.

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9. Can you save money?

So far, with a 20% hardship differential and COLA pay, but as inflation increases and if we drop to 15% hardship (which I think we will eventually) it will be a bit harder.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Probably. It's a pretty nice 20% post overall. The city is pretty and the country has a pretty high profile in Washington (especially as Russia becomes more of a thorn.) You definitely need to get out of here occasionally though to regain your sanity.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Expectation of customer service.

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3. But don't forget your:

Warm coat, hat, gloves, scarf...

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Everything is Illuminated.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Kyiv is a hard place to live in ways that are hard to describe. I think if you just visited here or when you first arrive it would seem like a pretty cushy posting, but the longer you're here the more it starts to drain on you. Everything looks pretty modern and European, but soon the layers peel away and you realize this is not Europe. Things just tend to not work here. Traffic, government, restaurants, shops -- they just don't quite get it, but they're close. The problem is that far too many Ukrainians think they're living in a modern, developed city like Prague or Berlin when they're not. All in all, a decent place for two years and never boring, but be sure to get away on trips a few times a year.

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