From Latin America to Ukraine: Esteban gives us his impressions

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Published 2020-09-09 13:33

Esteban, an Ecuadorian expat in Ukraine, answers a few of Expat.com’s questions on differences and similarities between Latin American countries, including Ecuador, and Ukraine. He tells us about his expatriate experience in Ukraine and his expat projects.

What are the biggest contrasts between Latin and Ukrainian culture?

One of the biggest contrasts is the people’s character. Ukrainians are generally more serious and not as affectionate as Latinos. I'm not saying Ukrainians aren't nice, but Latino charisma and joy is second to none. We smile all the time, but here people are less emotional. I remember when I first arrived in Ukraine I thought everyone was screaming and angry all the time, but over the years you realize that this is just their way of communicating. In addition, Russian is a fairly loud language and does not compare to the sweetness of Spanish.

What did you find was most difficult to adapt to?

Without a doubt, winter. Ukraine has one of the longest and coldest winters in Eastern Europe. These are practically 5 winter months that begin in October. At least for me, 8 degrees is cold enough. Now imagine in January or February when the temperature sometimes reaches -25. And it is always dark, people are colder than usual and in general in winter everything is sadder. There are seasons when you don’t even see the sun because it’s cloudy all the time.

There are surely also aspects that pleasantly surprised you, tell us.

What strikes me the most here is the honesty of the people. Ukrainians respect others. For example, when using public transport, especially marshrutkas or buses, you can enter through the back door and ask them to pass the value of the ticket to the driver for you. Everyone does it and if they have to give you change, the whole change comes back to you. This, for example, is something that would not happen in Latin America.

Something similar happened in college, I remember one day someone left their cell phone in the classroom and someone picked it up and started looking for the owner. Likewise, whenever I leave my cell phone and my wallet on my desk and no one would touch them if I wasn't there. These are things that really surprised me. Knowing that I can be sure that if I forget or lose something, the likelihood that I will get it back is quite high is surprising and reassuring. Also, here it is quite common to go for a walk in the evening and it is comforting to know that one can go out peacefully without fear that something will happen to you or having to leave valuables at home for fear of being stolen.

I imagine there are things that keep surprising you?

Yes, since Ukraine is a young country and a former member of the Soviet Union, it still has a lot of things from that time. I am always amazed by the old buildings which all look alike. I am always surprised to see tanks or vans full of soldiers crossing the streets without a problem. It is a country steeped in history and you learn something new everyday.

What advice would you give Hispanics who are considering relocating to Ukraine?

What I recommend most to Hispanics coming to Ukraine is to study the language, Russian or Ukrainian, whatever it is. Indeed, life is so much easier when you can communicate with people in their language and in general it even becomes cheaper for you. I say cheaper because I know foreigners who pay double or even triple for a service just because they cannot communicate properly. Currently, most young people speak English but to communicate with older people you have to speak the language.

What plans do you have for the future?

Now that I am sure I want to stay in Ukraine, I plan to set up my own real estate consultancy as it is a fairly large market that is growing rapidly. Get that: Ukraine has only 29 years of independence, so it realy is a young country that is in full development. Apart from that, I have a small project in aviation with a partner, but that’s not finalised yet.