Ukraine is a country of extremes, where heavy industrial areas are interspersed with surprisingly beautiful architecture and surrounded by astoundingly beautiful and varied natural scenery. Though new arrivals may perceive locals to be quite curt and unreceptive, they will find that the people are warm and respectful once the ice is broken.
Decades of Stalinist rule and post-independence economic and social problems continue to leave their mark on the country. However, recent reforms and a closer working relationship with the EU mean that the outlook for Ukraine’s future is promising.
Economic growth has shown impressive improvements over the past decade. The country is home to established manufacturing and commodities sectors, as well as an evolving agriculture industry, all of which look to improve as trade with the European Union opens up. In addition, Ukraine boasts a growing information technology sector.
Before the political unrest, European tourism used to be an important contributor to the economy, thanks to Ukraine's abundance of hiking, skiing, fishing and hunting opportunities, not to mention plenty of ancient castles, Soviet-era monuments, vineyards and beaches. Today, these remain compelling reasons for many expats’ moves to Ukraine.
Ukraine's capital city of Kiev is fast becoming one of Europe's most exciting cultural hubs owed, in no small part, to the energy of the city's inhabitants who have worked hard to resist Russian influence and forge closer ties to the European Union. Now, Kiev abounds with sophisticated cuisine, vibrant nightlife and contemporary art that all acknowledge the country’s fascinating history.
Kiev has a lot to offer, but this does come with the highest cost of living in Ukraine. Still, most expats find that Kiev is substantially less expensive than other European capitals. Expats looking to relocate will find that housing can be particularly affordable, and healthcare is free to residents. Major structural reforms promise to only improve the standard of government services and the quality of life. This is also true for education. Expats who relocate to Ukraine with their families will discover that there are several good public Ukrainian schools, although for those who are just passing through, and who can afford it, there are also a handful of private international schools in Kiev.
While Ukraine isn't the most typical expat destination, those looking for a less beaten path are sure to be richly rewarded with a truly unique experience.
Population: Over 43 million
Capital city: Kiev
Neighbouring countries: Going clockwise, starting from the southeast, Ukraine is bordered by Romania, Moldova, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus and Russia.
Geography: Ukraine's geography is incredibly diverse, consisting of everything from plateaus and steppes to mountains and highlands. The country also has a vast southern coastline, stretching around 1,700 miles (2,700 km).
Political system: Unitary semi-presidential constitutional republic
Major religions: Orthodox Christianity
Main language: Ukrainian, though Russian is also widely spoken.
Money: The official currency is the Ukrainian hryvnia (UAH), subdivided into 100 kopiyky. ATMs are commonplace in Ukraine, particularly in Kiev.
Tipping: Though there isn't much of a local tipping culture, it's usually expected in areas popular with foreigners. 10 to 15 percent is the norm at restaurants, though sometimes this is already included as a charge in the bill.
Time: GMT+2 (GMT+3 during summer)
Electricity: 220 volts, 50 Hz. Plugs have two round pins.
Internet domain: .ua
International dialing code: +380
Emergency numbers: 112
Transport: Driving is on the right-hand side of the road in Ukraine. Expats may, however, prefer to use public transport as it is easily accessible and affordable, as well as safer than driving.