Jeremy Abroad

Why I'm still in Kiev

September 26, 2018

I arrived in Kiev on 8/17, and as I write this (9/26) I’m still here. Why did I stay in Kiev for over a month?

After 4 months of travel in South America and 1.5 months of travel in Europe, I was exhausted of changing cities/countries all the time. It’s fun at first, but the novelty eventually fades, and it’s impossible to sit down and get anything productive done without something resembling a routine.

Ukraine was perfect not only because I was there at a time when I wanted to settle down, but also because:

  1. It’s cheap. It’s one of the cheapest countries in Europe - prices being on par with and sometimes cheaper than countries in South America and Southeast Asia.
  2. Good infrastructure / High standard of living. Despite the low costs, infrastructure is basically on par with any western city. Mobile internet is very fast (I’m getting 7mbps), there’s public transportation, Taxify/Uber, etc. You can do practically anything you’d be able to do in a western city, just at a fraction of the price.
  3. It’s not in the Eurozone. Without EU citizenship, you can only stay in the entire Eurozone for 3 months over a 6 month period. So if I stayed in Poland for 3 months, I wouldn’t be allowed back in Europe for the next 3 months. If I stay in Ukraine, then it doesn’t count towards my stay in the Eurozone
  4. Not touristy. I prefer being in countries where there aren’t many tourists because it’s more interesting and I actually feel like I’m in a foreign country rather than feeling like I’m on a resort. I rarely hear anything other than Russian/Ukrainian here, and I prefer it that way. When I hear English on the streets, I feel like I might as well be in the U.S.
  5. It’s interesting. The culture here is very different from in the west.
  6. Bonus: The women…

Are the people friendly?

This is a question I’m often asked no matter where I am, and it’s a hard question for me to answer.

Initially I thought the people in eastern Europe weren’t friendly because the customer service people often don’t smile, thank you, or show any interest in serving you.

After being here for a month, I’ve concluded that the people, especially younger people (under 40), are indeed very friendly, it’s just not as outwardly obvious because they don’t fake it with forced smiles and politeness. The people here are more real than in the U.S.

They’re also curious about Americans. When I tell a Ukrainian I’m from the U.S. their initial reaction is often that of surprise, sometimes followed by “my dream is to move to the U.S.” and mention of how difficult it is for them to visit the U.S (the whole pricey application process is a scam in my opinion, but that’s a topic for another post). To be honest I don’t think I can recall any other country I’ve been where I’ve gotten this kind of curious positive reaction as often as I do here.

Kiev vs. Lviv vs. Odessa

Within Ukraine there are three main cities visited by tourists: Kiev (population: 2.8m), Lviv (730k), and Odessa (1m). I visited all three and honestly could’ve stayed in any one of those cities and probably enjoyed myself. I just happened to make some friends in Kiev so I decided to stick it out there.

I do think that Kiev is probably the best of the three to make a base though simply because it’s by far the largest, being the capital city. I’ve generally found it easier to make friends in larger cities vs. smaller cities.

Well actually I do think that being too large can be a detriment in a way (eg. NYC), so maybe there is a happy medium somewhere, and Kiev seems to strike the perfect balance between being big enough to be interesting and cosmopolitan, yet not so big such that you feel like an expendable cog in a machine.

How much longer will I stay?

Now that it’s getting cold, I might be heading out soon. But I’m in no rush to leave. I’ll play it week by week, and as soon as I’m satisfied with my work output, I’ll be on my way. But if it weren’t for the cold weather, I’d have no desire to leave. I really do like it here in Kiev.

I don’t want to paint Kiev as some perfect city, it’s just a city and a country that I really want to get to know because it’s so damn different, and a country I could potentially see myself spending a lot of time in.

Jeremy Bernier

Written by Jeremy Bernier who left the NYC rat race to travel the world, work remotely, and find the meaning of life.