An Expat’s Kyiv Stories: David Blanc
How sweet and warm the word “home” sounds. My home. And each of us at this point imagines our own ideal home. A place where you will do your favorite work and develop, create, love, and enjoy life. The best thing is that nowadays we can choose almost any part of the world: an island, a small village, an urban city, or majestic mountains – of course, if we provide the necessary conditions for this step. I clearly remember such a moment in my life. It was my move to Kyiv. Moving home.
After living in a small town for 17 years, feeling the love, comfort, and warmth of my parents’ home, I took a step into the unknown. Bye! And leaving my hometown, I did not lose my home, but gained a new one. Kyiv, which protects and cares for me, has been my home for 12 years. After all, home is not a point on a topographic map or nationality. It’s a state of mind and a response of the heart. And one of these responses is located in the very heart of Ukraine.
Kyiv is an extraordinary place. Spacious, open, colorful, and dynamic. It attracts Ukrainians from other cities and a large number of foreigners from around the world. People come to study and work in Kyiv, look for themselves, invest in Real estate and businesses, make plans, and hope for dreams to come true. Kyiv has also become home to many migrants. The city’s love is enough for everyone.
Of course, you might be scared if you are leaving your country, maybe even your family and usual life, and changing your place of residence. Sometimes we all get scared. But here, you can feel no less at home.
Proof of my words is in the eloquent stories of expats in this big beautiful city. One of them is the founder of Vestor.Estate, Sean Almeida, who found a second hometown. But that’s another story. On this wonderful note, we start getting acquainted with different people, expats in Kyiv. They will share their experience, open the veil of their lives. To hear their stories firsthand is like reading a book or a manuscript. Our first author is an expat from New York, David Blanc. He’s a writer, teacher, police officer, actor, freelancer… Why am I telling all this? David can handle this perfectly himself. Let’s not waste any time and get started.
I was born and raised in New York, but I have traveled to over 20 countries and have road-tripped across the U.S. and Canada twice. I have had many careers: actor, writer, soldier, police officer, entrepreneur, investor. Law enforcement in the U.S. was a very noble and satisfying occupation for me and, by far, my favorite career. I saved nine lives during my law enforcement career, and my ninth rescue was covered by TV news. For saving those lives, I was awarded two medals and four commendations.
The political situation in my country has changed to the point where I would not like to be a police officer there anymore. Also, as I have gotten older, I have acquired some permanent injuries, and my body is no longer suitable for subduing violent people professionally. Right now, I am a freelancer, but I wasn’t when I first moved to Ukraine. Before the pandemic, Ukraine was a very easy place for Americans to find work. It wasn’t work that would lead to getting rich, but it could sustain the cost of living in Ukraine if planned correctly.
When and what prompted you to move to Ukraine? What were your intentions and plans? Do you have family in the United States?
I had to do a career change in my 40s. In the U.S., competing against 20-year-olds at the entry level can be difficult. However, being an American in Ukraine makes you special in the Ukrainian job market for certain industries. If you are Ukrainian and have a work visa for the U.S., I would advise capitalizing on that opportunity. The majority of my family is in the U.S.
What is the main wish of people who have chosen Kyiv and left their home country?
I think a lot of people who leave their own country want to start over. For expats in Kyiv, the main dream is to have a job in Ukraine that pays American wages and allows them to pay Ukrainian prices for the cost of living.
Tell us more about that time.
I left my job in the U.S. and had a job waiting for me in Ukraine before I moved. Wages here were lower than in the U.S. in my previous career, but not for entry-level work. I had to pay for the ticket, airport taxi, and, in the beginning, a hotel. Paperwork was free because my job handled the work visa. At first, I settled in the Polytech area because that was where my job was.
I remember this period, I lived nearby. It was then that we met, next to a supermarket, where each of us stocked up on the necessary groceries. David’s lightness and openness differed significantly from the behavior of most Ukrainians. For no good reason, it would seem that a person simply decided to communicate to expand his circle of acquaintances. And that’s cool. We have been friends ever since.
Did you know anyone from Ukraine before you started living here? What stereotypes about Ukrainians were known to you before the move?
Yes, I had a friend in Lviv. Americans lump Ukrainians into the same category as other Eastern Europeans. Therefore, there was no particular stereotype to confirm or break.
How was the process of adapting after you moved in? Do you have any tips for the people who are going to face it?
The first year was hard. It became easier as time went on. I have only two tips: learn as much of the languages as you can and network with both Ukrainians and expats as much as you can.
I’ve been here about six years. I’m well, but things were a lot better before the pandemic and the lockdowns. I was originally planning to spend 1-2 years here. I’m not going back to New York, it’s too expensive. I don’t miss anything in New York.
How have you been surviving the pandemic?
Everything got turned upside-down during the pandemic. Luckily, I was already a prolific writer, so I was able to supplement my income with writing jobs. I would like the lockdowns to end. I want more career success and more success with my writing.
What is the most distinguishing feature of Ukrainians from Americans?
Ukrainians do not have a political correctness problem. People in America I’ve known for over 20 years are going crazy over politics right now.
What can you tell us about Kyiv?
The advantages are the cost of living and nice people. The disadvantages are many services, especially banking and government-related things. I think there are a few things that need to be improved. First, salt your ice-covered sidewalks in winter. We do this in American cities, and Kyiv seems not to do this. Improve government processes and international postal service.
Have you encountered a prejudiced attitude towards yourself when communicating with Ukrainians?
Not really. With landlords and in some business situations, there can be problems, but things are no worse than in the U.S., maybe better in personal interactions.
It’s a pity David didn’t know about Vestor.Estate then. Our team of professionals takes on all the hassles of searching, communicating with landlords, and organizational aspects. We make this process pleasant and comfortable for our clients, who receive their desired housing in the capital’s historic center. If you have a similar experience to David, we will be happy to help.
Can you tell us more about your expenses here?
Finances are personal. I don’t spend much on entertainment anymore. Although I do not know Ukrainian (except for certain words and expressions), my friends are mostly Ukrainians. I love Podil. All of my favorite places and spots are there. There are also expats. I visited markets before quarantine, now mostly supermarkets. From Ukrainian dishes, I like borscht and ragu most.
Do you feel safe and comfortable in Kyiv?
Yes, I feel at home.
Three main reasons for moving to Kyiv are for expats who cannot decide?
Cost of Living. Attractive women. Beautiful culture.
Do you have a future with this country and city? What do you dream of?
Yes. I have a future here. I’ve been living here since late 2015. I used to have bigger dreams before the pandemic, but I still have some modest dreams. I want a remote job that pays for the things I need in life yet still allows me time to do the things I enjoy. I also want more recognition as a writer.
I hope that your plans come true and Kyiv only promotes this development. Thank you very much for your unique personal story. It will definitely have a great sequel.
Consciously changing life at a certain age is another challenge. The pandemic has become a common factor for all the inhabitants of the planet. Whether we like it or not, it has influenced and changed our lives. In particular, remote work is one of the biggest changes. Although we are all different, the core values are eternal and common. The search for happiness is one of them.
David, an expat from the United States, found his happiness in Kyiv. He faced difficulties, but despite that, he could cope with them and love his new city, his new home, with all his heart. He is a true resident of Kyiv.
Not everyone will dare to take such steps in life. We have different conditions, circumstances, desires, and visions. The main thing is to open up to a world that provides excellent opportunities for travel, communication, development, and achievement. First of all, it is important who we are. We are all human. It doesn’t matter what your nationality or skin color, political views, or religion is. Stay human anywhere.
East or west home is best. Especially in Kyiv.
The stories of Kyiv expats are just beginning, but our lives go on every second. If you also want to move to this extraordinary city and need help, Vestor.Estate provides high-quality real estate services. With us, you can rent, buy, or renovate the best apartments in a historical building in the center, which will add an authentic Kyiv atmosphere to your new life.