No such thing as a free lunch

Many things in Kyiv are similar to life in the average North American or European city, but there are also many that are different. For example, in Ukraine, nothing is free. And I mean absolutely nothing. Recently the staff at my hotel ordered McDonald’s. 

In Kyiv, McDonald’s is perfectly acceptable food, everybody eats it, and everyone swears that a Ukrainian McDonald’s is superior to those anywhere else. You get all the regulars: Big Mac, Quarter Pounder with cheese and fries, however, what about the handful of ketchup, vinegar and dipping sauces for your McNuggets? Nope. You must pay for your condiments in Ukraine.

Will you accept the charges?

It’s similar with smartphones. There’s no such thing as a pay-as-you-go plan in Ukraine. In Canada, most people are on a two-year contract paying $55 to $95 a month for 2 to 10 GB of data. Included is a new iPhone or Android device, so one gets a new phone every two years upon renewal.

In Ukraine, you can buy a SIM card with unlimited data from any cigarette kiosk or drugstorefor $8 per month! However, you must supply your own device. A new iPhone 14 in Ukraine is $1000, which is nearly double the average monthly salary for a barista or server. This explains why everyone has at least two jobs and three is not unusual.

Want it? Work for it

Want some Tabasco sauce for your huevos rancheros? 50 cents. Honey for your tea? Same. If you don’t have the cash, you’ll be eating a lot of boring meals. 

One of the largest clothing chains in Ukraine is a second-hand shop called Humana. Since all the funky young people at my hotel want the latest iPhone with wireless Air Pod headphones, they save money by sporting pre-owned clothing.I certainly love the idea of paying $8 for unlimited data, but having to buy a $1000 device is daunting, especially considering I’d need to work 60 hours a week to afford it. This is why employment is so important to Ukrainian refugees who’ve moved to Poland or Canada to escape the war. 

In Ukraine if you don’t have a job, you’re not considered a contributing member of society. 

Living the free life

Work if you want to eat, work if you want to have fun, and work to live a good life. Ukrainians work hard. Perhaps we in the west have become too comfortable with free apps, free samples, giveaways, points-programs and credit card cash-back incentives.  And honestly, are they really free?

Maybe if we had a few less all-you-can-eat buffets, endless refills and free apps, we would appreciate life more like a Ukrainian who must work and fight for everything they have. After all, when the product is free, you are the product and the Ukrainians are definitely not a product! Slava Ukraini!