We will have a small celebration today.
Its 8 years today since I first came to stay in Kyiv Ukraine, (7 years living permanently).
I have seen many interesting changes during this time. Back in 2002, it was possible to drive anywhere in the city centre of Kyiv and never see a traffic jam, as car ownership was still low.
Today in 2010 its like central London and impossible to get from one side of the city to the other without several hours of delay. The morning traffic is crazy and many people take one or two hours to cross the river into the city centre.
Kyiv city is an interesting city in which to live. One major contribution to the traffic jams is the high number of expensive luxury cars on the streets. One of the great mysteries in Ukraine is still finding the answer to.."How do these people afford to buy these cars?".
Its a 'green city' and looks very beautiful in spring and summer. In winter it can be a real challenge getting around in the snow and ice, particularly when the city council fails to clear the streets. The 'metro' (underground) is still one of the best in the world and very reliable, plus you never hear of any 'breakdowns due to signal failure' as in London. The metro in Kyiv just seems to keep on going without any problems.
Some standards/customs have have adopted since being here:
1. The city is called KYIV and not Kiev. (But a long way to go to get other people to spell it like this)
2. The name of the country is UKRAINE and not 'The Ukraine' (A major mistake made by first time visitors and it continues to annoy me)
3. I now shake hands with friends/associates/employees and just about everybody I meet, even though I meet them each and everyday.
4. I no longer drink Vodka. Far too dangerous, but it took at least one year to learn this!!!!
In fact here is a list developed this year of things which indicate that a person is no longer a tourist in Ukraine, but someone who actually lives here. (Thanks to assistance from friends on expatua) This is an edited version:
1. You've stopped converting UAH (Ukraine currency) into your home currency when buying things.
2. It's no longer imperative to have milk in your tea
3. You finally realise everything is difficult in Ukraine but nothing is impossible
4. You have given up challenging the following arguments:
- Only the Soviet Union fought against the Germans in WWII
- Crimea is the most beautiful place on earth
- The TV, computer, and internet were invented by the USSR
5. You start to get an empty feeling if a week passes without a religious holiday, Soviet holiday, Ukrainian holiday, birthday, name day, or trade day.
6. You've accepted the fact that anything that involves numbers, no matter how simple, requires a calculator.
7. You have resigned yourself to the fact that as a customer, you are no longer number one; You realise that your importance is somewhere after the shop girl chatting with friends on her mobile and the babushka cleaning the floor with a black rag on the end of a stick.
8. You know that all Ukrainians will be 30 minutes late, unless something serious comes up; you also understand something serious to include painting fingernails, window shopping, watching television, texting friends and having a second cup of tea.
9. You accept the fact that when a 'Master' comes to your apartment to fix the toilet/shower/wash basin/washing machine etc. You WILL be without water for more than TWO DAYS due to the fact that he needs to find more 'details' (AKA small parts) that he should have brought with him on the first visit.
10. You have resigned yourself to the fact that the car dealership repair workshop will not have the parts in stock to repair your car. The 'parts' must be ordered and paid for in advance even when your model is one of the most popular in Ukraine.
11. Its normal that the delivery man from the water company (drinking water) never has any change.
12. You fully accept the fact that when dealing with any government organisation there is always 'one more document' required that they didn't tell you about from the beginning. When you deliver said document, you are not surprised that a further document is now required and the process is repeated over several weeks. (You know they are expecting to receive a small bribe, but you are also testing them to see who will break first)
13. You know that when you go to a Kyiv city centre restaurant or bar and ALL the tables are 'Reserved', you accept the fact that they are NOT reserved, and that the Administrator just wants to show you who is in control!!!!
14. When you stop trying to understand why and just comply.
Which is a relief to the people around you, because they are tired of explaining it to you.
15. You automatically stop talking when the waiter/waitress brings you food/drinks so they cannot overhear the top secret conversation you are having.
16. You swim in rivers. Because you can.
17. You light a fire in the woods. Because in Ukraine you can.
You get excited about a 'Shashlik' at the weekend because you have the freedom to light a fire just about anywhere you like and then take even more delight in telling everyone that "In England you would be arrested for lighting a fire in the woods, plus you would be surrounded by the Fire Service, Local Government 'Jobsworths' Health and Safety Team, Environmental Protection Agency 'jobsworths' etc etc etc....You have freedom in Ukraine Blah Blah Blah"
18. You accept everywhere is a smoking zone.....unless otherwise stated.
19. You can say to a woman at work that she looks attractive without worrying about HR and harassment.
20. When you realise that in a country that most westerners think lacks freedom, in many ways you will feel more free than in the over sensitive paranoid politically correct social democratic west.
21. When a stranger on the street smiles at you, you assume:
a: he is drunk
b: he is insane
c: he's a westerner
22. When you organise a party/meeting/get together or whatever and you decide the meeting time is say 7pm. You tell all the Ukrainians the meeting time is 6pm and they show up as expected at 7.30pm and you are happy!
23. When you keep a decent collection of slippers for guests
24. You no longer question why you do not have hot water for a week or two during the summer.
25. You know you have a better chance of finding out the correct answer to a legal question by waking up the alcoholic passed out in the courthouse flower bed than from experts, lawyers, and government officials.
26. You understand that maybe means yes and that a signed, legally notarized document also means maybe.
27 You know the difference between someone speaking in Ukrainian and someone speaking in Russian immediately.
28 You know that when it comes to organising any event, they will leave it to the very last minute, but you know you do not have to worry about it anymore.
Classic. I once went to a supermarket in Kyiv and picked up many things and put then into my 'trolley', a short time later an assistant came and just took all these items out of my trolley without asking......as they were doing a 'stock check' and I was making the number counting difficult. "Just go away and come back later " I was told!!!!!!
29. When your wife spends 2 hours or more on the telephone talking to one of her friends and you think it's normal, plus you do not have any worries about the size of the telephone bill.
30. The first thing you do when you come back to your flat, is wash your hands
31. When you buy flowers for a Ukrainian man on his birthday and you do not see any problems with this.
32. When you know who “Garry Potter” is
33. You start using "da" instead of "yes." (For those who are not Russian/Ukrainian language speakers)
34. You are no longer surprised when your taxi driver tells you that before Perestroika, he worked as a rocket scientist.
35. When the contents of your wardrobe are predominantly black!
36. When you have been on holiday or coming back from your country of origin and you arrive back at Boryspil airport (Kyiv)
and you say "It's good to be back home".
Your wife looks at you and you both realise the importance of what you just said.
Its OK living here.