Our first two and a half weeks or so in Kyiv have been a whirlwind of activity. I have started Russian lessons, learning how things operate around here, exploring the city, and my husband started his job. To say the least, we have definitely been busy!!!
My husband’s supervisor met us at the airport with a big SUV for our many bags. We cannot thank her enough for what she did for us that day!!! She took us to our temporary apartment right in the city center and instructed us on how to use the washer, dryer, etc. and also pointed out some sites and stores to check out along the way. She also bought us some groceries (meat, fruit, vegetables, tea, honey, bread) to hold us over for a few days, which we thoroughly appreciated.
Luckily we arrived on a Friday, so we had a weekend to settle in and get over jet lag. We did a lot that weekend- We explored some of the sites (St. Sophia’s Cathedral, the Maidan, and Golden Gate Park, among others) and tried out restaurants around the area (we found a fantastic seafood restaurant, and Georgian food is highly recommended those who have never tried it before!). We also basked in the beautiful weather and tried to come to terms with the fact that we are finally living here now!!! In Europe!!!
The following week was busy with meetings for both of us at the Embassy, my husband jumping in right away with his job, getting internet installed, and me finding grocery stores, dry cleaners, etc. in the area and getting essentials for the apartment that we did not take with us to post. UAB arrived Thursday of our first full week here so we were able to have our own pillows, towels, and the rest of our clothes and hangers, among other things. I spent a good portion of Thursday doing laundry and unpacking about half of the UAB and finding a place for things.
The following weekend was more of a recoup and rest weekend with a little more sightseeing thrown in, then the next week I started Russian lessons, had a hair appointment at a beauty salon, tea with other Embassy spouses, and discovered the wonders of online grocery delivery!! Yes folks, they can deliver groceries, household items, etc. to your door same day!!! It saved me the trouble of going to two or three different stores and trying to decipher what items are without the help of Google Translate.
From my limited time here thus far, here are my impressions of Kyiv:
1)It is very hilly. I have a feeling my legs will have nice definition by the time I leave here.
2)Most servers at restaurants speak English, there are English menus (or items in English) at a large amount of restaurants, and there are many signs around town in English. In fact, we stumbled upon a pub that had country music playing and U.S. memorabilia on the walls. A good amount of stores have workers who know some English. In general, I’d say this city is pretty easy to get around if you don’t know the language. If all else fails, use Google Translate.
3)There are coffee shops (sometimes multiple coffee shops) on every corner. Coffee is a big deal here and the locals really like it.
4) You can get pretty much anything you need here, you just have to know where to go. Yes, that includes peanut butter!! I found a lot of American brands such as Tide, Dove, Kleenex, Glade, Lays, Pringle’s, and Colgate, and also Barilla pasta and pasta sauce, and there are non-dairy milk and yogurt options here!!
5) The variety of cuisines in restaurants is noteworthy. There are French, Italian, Sushi, Ukrainian, American, Middle Eastern, Uzbekistan, and Georgian restaurants, among others.
6)Cost of living is sooo cheap!! Most things are about 1/2 to 1/3 the price compared to the U.S.
7)There are so many trees, parks, and greenery around here. Very lush and beautiful landscape.
8)Drawbacks/inconveniences- Appointments need to be made in advance for pedicures and hair styling. No walk-in places like in the U.S. Also, it takes 2-3 times longer to wash and dry clothes.
9)The streets are narrow (well, except for the main streets) but the sidewalks are wide. I suspect that is because the snow will accumulate in snowbanks on the sidewalks during the winter.
10) Food: more variety than expected in the supermarket. Right now, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, onions, cucumbers, radishes, avocados, bananas, oranges, mangos, lemons, kiwis, and apples are the produce you will typically find at the grocery store. I do have to say that the potatoes are excellent here, along with the honey. I have started to see street vendors selling strawberries though. Other differences, if you order a salmon salad, you will probably get raw salmon (like lox) on your salad. And pretty much every salad has a hard boiled egg on it. If you order cheesecake, you just might get this:
Well, those are my first impressions!! I will have some follow up posts soon on the excursions around town that my husband and I have gone on in the past few weeks..