A guest post by Euromentravel.com
Do you remember that movie Eurotrip?
Just in case you are not familiar with this lousy American Pie-ripoff underrated piece of art allow me to give you a short synopsis:
Four not-so-bright American college students go on a backpacking trip through Europe and encounter every single European stereotype in the book. The End.
Now, what does Eurotrip have to do with getting robbed in the Ukraine?
In that movie there is one scene worth mentioning for this article.
It is when the group is hitchhiking for Berlin, but eventually gets dropped off in Bratislava instead. Jumping off their ride the four are facing a deserted street located in between soulless soviet-style housing blocks. The terrified group walks down the street and passes by all kinds of shady creatures, one of them being a dog with a human hand in its mouth.
Now, is there something to learn from that particular movie scene?
Is the Ukraine – or Eastern Europe as a whole – in its core comparable to that sketchy street from Eurotrip where you should constantly watch your back? Is the Ukraine full of pickpockets, robbers and scam-artists?
The answer is no, no and no. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t think of any other city center in the world where you are less likely to get mugged, molested or just hassled than standing in the middle of Kiev’s Maidan at any given time of the day.
How do I know?
Because I have been standing in the middle of Kiev’s Maidan at any given time of the day. That is after Euromaidan, of course. But even during the time when you had a good chance of dying in downtown Kiev you had an almost non-existent chance of getting robbed there. Why is that?
This very question I asked my contact the day I arrived in Ukraine. It turned out he did the very same thing during his first day in the country. So instead of giving me a sophisticated answer he just quoted what he was told when he asked my question:
„„What do you mean „getting robbed“? Like grabbing an old lady’s bag and things like that? No no, we don’t do that here, that’s not us. But all kinds of fraud and stealing your stuff while you turn your back on it? – Count us in!“
After living and working in the Ukraine for several months I couldn’t express it any better myself.
One important aspect that will become clear to you after your first week or so in the Ukraine is that „PDA“ – „Public Display of Aggression“ – is highly frowned upon and thus almost non-existent.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Violence does exist in the Ukraine and there is plenty of it. The only difference is that physical violence takes place almost exclusively in regard to political matters (Euromaidan, Crimea) or in regard to the usual suspects (bouncers, jealousy, gopniks, prostitution, football hooligans etc. etc.).
For the whole time that I have lived and worked in the Ukraine I have been unable to see one single fight in public – with one exception, of course.
he closest I have ever gotten to some kind of shady situation was when I was getting some cash from an ATM in Lviv. Once I was done and continued on my way a middle aged women pointed back at the cash machine and said something to me in Russian. I looked back at the ATM then checked whether I had forgotten to take back my credit card from the machine. My card was in my wallet, yet that lady still pointed at the ATM and repeated what she had just said.
In that moment I had a good feeling that she did try to pull some shenanigans on me, because anywhere in the world it is unusual to approach strangers while or shortly after they withdraw cash. But then again I didn’t understand what she was saying. I told her to back off and went on my way. That happened once and it never happened again.
Even nightlife in the Ukraine is almost comically peaceful. For instance, I remember leaving Kiev’s Disco Radio Hall one time at 4 o’clock in the morning.
Disco Radio Hall is a huge boat on the Dnjepr River that on the inside is a discotheque. As a man from Western Europe going there on a Saturday night made me expect to see at least one fight. Or seeing somebody getting kicked out of the venue. Or at least the usual arguments at the door between drunk people and the bouncers. And most of the time when you leave a nightclub the size of Disco Radio Hall in, let’s say, Berlin, you will almost every time see an ambulance assisting somebody with cuts or bruises while from 3 am on a police car will most likely be around.
What did I see when I got out of Disco Radio Hall in the wee hours?
Absolutely nothing. There were no fights, no ambulance, no arguments and, most surprisingly, no drunk people whatsoever. Inside in the restrooms I saw one man having problems to keep his balance. Drunk as he was, he was also not the slightest bit aggressive and ultimately kept to himself.
Outside there was nothing but indifferent silence. Leaving the warm disco-boat and entering the cold night I was facing nothing but an empty parking lot where groups of (sober) people silently split up into taxis, wishing each other a „pleasant night“ in Russian. Then the doors of the taxis were shut and there was silence again. Not a single shot was fired.
This scenario is more or less representative for the whole of Ukraine. The stereotype of Ukrainians being aggressive would-be thieves – and even more so when drunk – for the most part happens to be just that: a stereotype.
Can you get robbed in the Ukraine?
…You would have to try very hard.
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