1. Very few people here have ever spoken with a native English speaker, and fewer still have traveled outside of Eastern Europe. When I ask in a store or restaurant if someone speaks English, even young people look frightened and call for a specific employee, who may or may not be able to put their English into use.
2. Very little is written in English on packaging. See the example below, entitled, “Umm…how do I make this?” If a variety of languages appear on packaging, they are: Ukrainian, Russian, Azerbaijani, Slovak, Khazak…you get the idea. I get excited just seeing Roman letters, and then discover it’s Czech or Polish. Unfortunately, I am severely inadequate in all of the above.
3. If you order a “Mexican Hot Chocolate,” you get a tiny cup of hot chocolate pudding. It’s very good, but I have no idea what makes it Mexican.
4. The exchange rate for the dollar makes most everything a great deal for me. Items at a sit-down restaurant may be around 16-75 UAH (gryvnyas), which at an exchange of 22.8 to 1, comes out to be around 70¢ – $3.30.
5. I can have a housekeeper clean the apartment two mornings a week (like, for the whole morning) and take care of paying all of the utility bills (so I don’t have to figure out how to do them) and it costs the equivalent of $13 a week. I figure I’m here to help the local economy.
6. The roads here are in poor condition. A local joke goes like this: You know a person in another country is drunk by the fact that he swerves. You know a person here is drunk by the fact that he drives straight (and thus hits the potholes).
7. I rented what is considered to be a luxury apartment here, which has its own heating and hot water system. The rest of Cherkasy has no hot water at this time of year.
8. Conspiracy theorists here may be a bit more understood for their paranoia. The driver who was supposed to come pick me up in Kyiv cancelled because there was a lot of smoke in the air from forest fires, and he thought it was related to Chernobyl but no one was admitting it.
9. The bath towels here double as exfoliating agents.
10. Late-night Ukrainian TV is not a good idea. (I’m just judging by the visuals; everything on TV is in Ukrainian or Russian.)