What does it mean to move to live and work in Ukraine?

Two Swedes, one Moldovan and one Estonian? Sounds like the beginning of an anecdote, okay. In fact, this is how the stories of four foreigners who came to Ukraine to live and work began.

The tradition of going abroad in search of a better life is still quite common in our Ukrainian society. According to the Center for Economic Strategies, 2.6 to 2.7 million Ukrainians work abroad.

But in recent years a new trend has begun to emerge: more and more foreigners are coming to Ukraine and may even stay there to work. According to the statistics of the State Migration Service for 2017, about 400,000 citizens of other countries are currently living in Ukraine. This is not millions, of course, but it is something anyway.

We asked four foreigners what attracted them to Ukraine, what was special about it and how they saw the future of our country.

The first and main question: why?

Reason 1: curiosity

Sebastian from Sweden, a marketing specialist at Beetroot, says he has always been attracted by the opportunity to see new countries and learn new languages:

"I was born in Sweden but have managed to live in several countries, including England and the United States. It was exciting, but the last year I spent in Seattle was very hard for me. I was away from my family and friends and I was feeling more and more sentimental urges to get closer to the land of my ancestors (it sounds theatrical, but it's true).

When my friends offered to come to Ukraine and help them develop a marketing strategy for their new Beetroot business, I thought about it for a while and agreed.

First of all, Ukraine is closer to Sweden than America. And secondly, the offer seemed so exotic and unusual that I decided: no matter how it went, it would make a great story to tell".

Reason 2 - Travel.

The practice of traveling to different countries is quite common in Europe and America. The famous sabbatical year - a free year that American students spend traveling around the world - is also popular in European countries. Only sometimes it becomes several years.

Aksel, a Swede, tells how he ended up in Ukraine :

"As a teenager I became interested in other countries, made friends abroad and learned how to find cheap air tickets. So I travelled around the world being amazed by the authenticity and flavor of other cultures. Since then, I have wanted to see even more. At the same time, I wanted to do something important. So I decided to take part in a social project in Ukraine, so I stayed here".

Reason 3 - scientific interest

The Estonian Uwe, fundraiser at the Beetroot Academy, chose Ukraine as the subject of his thesis:

"I studied at Stanford and became interested in the history of Eastern European countries. In my thesis, I decided to examine the national identity of Ukraine in the light of the events of Maidan. Of course, I wanted to come to Ukraine and see everything with my own eyes.

I am from Estonia and I think that our countries have a lot in common.

They were both part of the Soviet Union and both suffered in one way or another from Russian domination. So it is very interesting for me to see how Ukraine chooses its place on the geopolitical map of the world.

The second question, a cautious one, is: how is it?


As is often the case, foreigners initially have a rather superficial and, unfortunately, stereotypical view of Ukraine. It is only after they have settled here to live that they understand how diverse and interesting this country is.

"What do Swedes know about Ukraine? That there is a war going on here. Often that's all. Coming here, I realized that this is a very limited and inaccurate definition of such a large, multi-faceted and generally peaceful country," says Sebastian.

It's only natural that foreigners have to get used to the peculiarities of life in Ukraine for a while.

"From the very beginning, I noticed that people here often look gloomy and depressed," Axel explains. - For example, the cashier who keeps shouting at the ATB in my neighborhood - it took me a long time to get used to her. But then I realized there was a special charm. Ukrainians are very honest about their emotions. They don't hide behind false smiles, as is customary in America. And, frankly, I am happier living among honest people.

As for Sebastien, he is especially struck by the abundance of old cars and the stunning driving style.

"I wouldn't drive here, the Ukrainian roads are too chaotic for me."

But there were some pleasant discoveries: low prices and delicious food. "And it also turns out that being of Swedish origin adds to my popularity with girls," Sebastian jokes. - In Stockholm, of course, that's no surprise.

Moldovan graphic designer Cristina Canna didn't know much about the Ukraine either, even though she lived right next door:

"We still learn a lot from the news, and it doesn't give one hundredth of the reality. For example, how many different facets you can see in Ukraine: new, comfortable residential complexes next to thousand-year-old historical monuments, picturesque mountains and a warm sea. I like this diversity very much".

Uwe agrees with this opinion: "The size of the country is staggering. My home country, Estonia, is very small and has only one face.

Ukraine has many faces. Odessa, Lviv, Kharkiv, Kiev - these cities are so different and interesting.

Ukrainian night trains are particularly romantic. You fall asleep in the middle of the Carpathians and wake up near the Black Sea - it's incredible.

The third serious question: what about employment?

Everyone we spoke to noticed that Ukraine is developing very quickly. "I have lived in different countries, and I have something to compare. Ukraine is developing by leaps and bounds", says Sebastian. - Just look at the number of new stores, cafés and restaurants that are opening - and they are all very good.

Christina confirms that it is exciting to work in Ukraine because everything is changing and progressing: "I would say that Ukraine is just at the beginning of its design journey.

I like the fact that people here are not afraid to take risks and do something new. 

And the result is justified - we see more and more Ukrainian designs in the short lists of international prices. Here I have a real chance to contribute to the development of graphic culture, and this encourages me.

Of course, there are also problems. For example, Sebastian points out that many Ukrainian companies still stick to outdated hierarchical structures that slow down and complicate innovation. Aksel adds that the Ukrainian mentality is sometimes a problem: "I think people in Ukraine like quick results. If something requires an investment of time and effort - for example, working at a loss for a year or two to achieve a goal - such projects are not very popular".

"Of course, corruption in Ukraine is still quite strong," says Uwe. - On the other hand, I meet more and more people who are interested in a social initiative, a project that benefits society. And that's inspiring.

The fourth and final question is: what's next?

Our interviewees believe that the future of Ukraine is inextricably linked to the development of the IT sphere (perhaps because they are somehow connected to it).

"I think that at some point Ukraine will transform itself from a country of outsourcing to a country of start-ups and entrepreneurs," Axel believes. However, for this to happen, there is still a lot of work to be done.

"You have to understand that changing society is a marathon, not a sprint," explains Uwe. - It takes time. I think everyone in the country should choose an activity that they like and that can have a positive effect on society as a whole, and spend enough time on it.

"The most important thing for Ukraine is to fight corruption, not to hinder innovation, to encourage entrepreneurship and to create a good environment for international companies," Sebastian says. - Ukraine's potential is enormous, only the right approach is needed to unlock it.