I get asked this question often from both Ukrainians and Americans. There isn’t one specific reason, but a collection of factors that add up to the decision. It’s a move grounded in practicality and common sense, mixed with the unknown and adventure.
Here are my main reasons why I moved to Ukraine.
Connectivity to the world. The geography that’s historically put Ukraine in a tough neighborhood of the world, is the same geography that gives it some of the best access to the world. There are many places that are now easy to get to. I don’t need to cross 10 time zones to go to Istanbul anymore.
Living in America, I always felt like it had a long-distance relationship with the rest of the world. We would meet whenever we could, but it took a lot of time and money, and we missed each other a lot. Now I feel like I live with it. Other countries—quite a few of them—are within a couple of hours.
The US influences itself with its own: cinema, sports, music, ideology and so on. This coupled with America’s geography detaches it from everybody else. Sure Ukraine feels insular at times, but not nearly as removed as the US.
Leveraging the world. Not long ago money almost always came from the geography you lived in. A majority of professions still operate this way. But one of the great benefits of 2018 is it’s never been easier to leverage systems to your advantage. No longer does your income source need to come from the geography of where you live, and it might be better if it doesn’t. I don’t want to have my investments, real estate, business, place of residence, and money in one country. Would if that ship goes down?
I wrote about an artist I know in Kyiv who paints one to two paintings a month, sells his work to a global audience, and lives a good life in Kyiv. My girlfriend has an office job but is passionate about astrology. With Instagram, she’s attracted paying clients from all around the globe and is making this her main income stream. They’re both leveraging stronger currencies against a weaker one.
The world is moving more in this direction; there are more opportunities to use it to your advantage.
Leaving the noise of the US. The US is a noisy place right now: politically, socially. It’s in an odd stage of growing pains and division. I don’t care about what the president tweeted, I don’t want to listen to the divided rhetoric. In Ukraine I get space, and I mean space in my head, since I don’t get dragged into the current political mess in the US, and I don’t get dragged deeper into the Ukrainian mess either.
Childhood dream/fascination. When I was eight years old and my mom asked what I wanted for Christmas, I said a book about the Soviet Union. This part of the world was demonized as the enemy. I was taught to fear it, so I loved it, even though I didn’t know what it was.
In elementary school, I had pen pals from all over the Soviet Union who I’d write too. I’ve always had an affinity for Slavic culture, its authentic nature, the mystery of it, and the ability of people to get deeper into the philosophy of things. Sometimes it’s like cracking a code. Some of my best friends came from this part of the world.
Pro American culture. I haven’t once had to explain why Donald Trump is the president of America and why US politics are currently so messed up. People here don’t go for that as an originating question and put me on trial like I have to defend my flawed government’s policies as if I’m part of the decision making. This is more of a Western European phenomenon. Instead, people are generally open and cool, curious why I’m here, accommodating, warm, and helpful.
Energy/spirit. There’s a certain energy/spirit in Ukraine that I cannot convey into words. I don’t know if it comes from the pagan roots of the country, the turbulence, the current state of the nation, I’m not sure. Yes, there’s plenty of darkness/heaviness in Ukraine, but there’s an opposing lightness that’s bright and pure. The feeling one gets by walking around Shevchenko park on a nice day will not be found in Singapore or San Francisco.
Personal growth. My culture is easy for me, I was born into it with the software downloaded into my operating system. It’s another thing to navigate a different landscape, to strike something out in the unknown, to live in a culture that is starkly different from home—to start somewhere with nothing set up. Some of this is uncomfortable. But because it’s uncomfortable, it leads to growth and discovery; I look at life as a journey of growth and discovery.
Living in San Francisco I had more freedom of movement, material things, distractions. Ukraine has helped me develop much more on my life purpose since I’ve been able to simplify my life and open up space for the things that have more meaning within me.
Women. I’ve been told this is the only reason an American would move to Ukraine. If there were no women, I wouldn’t be in Ukraine, I’m a straight man; beautiful women are a solid bonus, any man who says they aren’t is lying. But it’s a silly notion to think Ukraine is the only place that has women in the world, it’s not like the neighboring countries are doing bad on the female front, or other parts of the world don’t have this bonus too. With that said, I’m fortunate to have a fantastic girlfriend here.
Opportunity. Despite the turbulence, there’re lots of opportunity in Kyiv. Or perhaps, because there’s turbulence there are a lot of opportunities in Kyiv. On paper, Ukraine scares most foreigners off. Everything hasn’t been done a million times before. Taxes are insanely low at 5% to hire independent contractors. Many people are hungry to progress.
Living in Ukraine is an interesting journey and I’ve had to give up things from home, but by doing so, I’ve gained things from here. This move from the US goes against the popular narrative. But for my interests and lifestyle, living in Ukraine means I’m staying true to my narrative.