28 September 2010

Medicare Europe in Ukraine

This week I will help launch a new British company in Ukraine.
Medicare Europe is a British based company that has decided to focus on Ukraine.
The company will provide 'Medical Tourism' and 'Medical Treatment Solutions' for people who need medical treatment, but want to avoid the lengthy queues and sometimes very expensive costs involved in treatment for Dentistry, Cosmetic Surgery, Eye Treatment and even IVF Treatment in the UK and other EU countries.

Private clinics in Ukraine offer some of the very best medical solutions in Europe.
Medical staff are highly quailified and most are using the very latest 'state-of-the-art' medical equipment to treat patients. The big plus is that clinics in Ukraine can provide excellent medical treatment to a very high standard with very low prices compared to the UK.
For many people Ukraine is still a country waiting to be discovered and I hope through Medicare Europe we will help to overcome many of the misunderstandings people have about Ukraine.

Its a well know fact, that most Ukrainians living in other countries will seek to return to Ukraine for medical treatment, as they know that they will receive a high standard of care and treatment when compared to the 'west'. Please do not misunderstand me, we are talking here about the PRIVATE Sector clinics in Ukraine (and mainly Kyiv). The state sector clinics/hospitals are still a long way from being acceptable by EU standards. There is a GREAT divide here in Ukraine between the private and public sectors for health care.

The private sector clinics have a lot to offer both Ukrainain citizens and private clients from other countries. Medical tourism in Ukraine is a service sector which is just waiting to take off and I wish Medicare Europe all the best in their new venture.

Tourists to Chernobyl - 24 Years on

Tourists flock to Chernobyl 24 years after disaster hit Ukraine.
Nice little story in the Daily Mail.

We all know its a little strange for Ukrainians who think that we westerners are 'crazy' for wanting to visit the site of the worlds worst nuclear disaster. But let's say it's a cultural difference in misunderstanding why we want to go and LOOK at where it all happened and what it looks like now.

The BBCU often arrange trips to Chernobyl to cater for the 'adventurous tastes' of tourists in Ukraine.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-1315608/Chernobyl-tourist-attraction-25-years-disaster.html#ixzz10leIUzWQ

21 September 2010

Visa to the United Kingdom - Are we creating too many barriers?

You would not believe the increasing number of requests I now receive each day to provide help with Visa applications to the UK and also to help with advice on making appeals for rejections.

Lets look at the scene so far. The UK Home Secretary - Teresa May - Claims that the recent 'cap' on immigration "will not harm the UK economy"
Back in June this year The British Home Secretary confirmed that "immediate restrictions will limit the number of workers entering the UK from outside the Europe Union to 24,100 before April 2011"

Then we had the Immigration Minister - Damian Green who spoke recently at the Royal Commonwealth Society in London. Damian Green said that the Government wishes to "maximise" the benefits of immigration.

The UK immigration minister went on to say that the UK has benefitted from immigration but 'will only continue to do so if it is properly controlled'.

UK Immigration has undertaken research recently on immigration into the UK and has published a new report about immigration called "The migrant journey". The immigration report looks at what has happened to immigrants who came into the UK in 2004. According to UK immigration the largest group of migrants were the 186,000 students on student visas. The immigration minister went onto say that more than twenty percent of migrants were still in the UK five years later:

'We need to understand more clearly why a significant proportion of students are still here more than 5 years after their arrival. And we also need a system which can scrutinise effectively, and if necessary take action against, those whose long-term presence would be of little or no economic benefit.'

I am sure all this has been taken on board by the UK Border Agency (UKBA)
Most recently we had Vince Cable the Business Secretary claiming that the immigration cap will harm British companies who need to find highly skilled workers from other countries.

So, much confusion among the senior members of the new UK Government coalition.
After the speech by Damian Green, I'm sure the word went out both offically and unoffically that the UKBA must stop so many people trying to enter the UK on Student Visas. No coincidence that I then get requests from Ukrainains who have just been rejected (very hard word that)and not allowed to go to the UK to take up places at UK universities AFTER they had been given firm offers by UK universities AND after thay had confirmed they had enough money to pay fees and accommodation and living expenses etc. Let's face it, many of these Ukrainain students are from VERY rich families who have no problem in setting aside GBP 25,000 per year for their kids to go to a UK university.But then the gentlemen from the UKBA/Immigration officers will reject the "Student Visa' Application based on the poor excuse that the bank account that contains the money for the student to go to the UK, does not have any 'Account History". Its pretty obvious that rejections are being made purely to meet political objectives. We all know that the new UK Coalition government needs to keep 'Daily Mail" Readers happy and stop all these 'Johnny Foreigners" from getting into the UK as they just might decide to stay there.

I am forever telling Ukrainian people that I am sorry that their application was rejected. It must have been the poor preparation of the application that made the Immigration officer decide to reject their visa application. Please do not take it personal. But as always people DO take it personal. Who can blame them?

We all know that the UK is already FULL of too many immigrants and many of them are there illegally. Moreover, many are there just to 'claim a better life' and they have no intention of ever leaving and will use the UK benefits system to maximum advantage. Many of them know how to exploit the system better than most native British people.

But, getting back to Vince Cable. Is he right? Will UK industry suffer as a result o fthe government places a cap on the number of people that can come to live and work in the UK from outside the EU? I get the feeling that the majority of British people would say "Enough already, we do not need any more immigrants".

Getting back to the people that contact me for help. The vast majority are Business people who only need to visit the UK on a short business trip and are afraid they will have a problem with the UKBA. Most of these business people have no intention whatsoever of staying in the UK. (I assure you they have a much better lifestyle here in Ukraine than what they would have in the UK.) The other group are parents who have managed to secure an offer from a UK university for one of their kids to complete the big dream of a "British University Education". They have the offer from the university (afterall they are paying the full wack of fees), they have organised a flat for their kid to stay and in many cases they have purchased a flat or house just for the same. Moreover, they have more than enough money to enable this 'international student' to live comfortably in the UK during their course of study. But then some UKBA employee decides to find a 'problem' with the visa application and all it brought to a sharp halt. Hence they contact me and ask "Why does your country do this?"

It is a dilema. On the one hand, I know I could find thousands of UK British residents who would say "Why do we need to allow more International students/workers into the UK, we need to take care of our own students first who are finding it difficult to secure a place at university".

On the other hand, we could say that the UK needs international students. British universities are still considered the best in the world. British universities also have a reputation for producing many future leaders in both governments and industries around the world.

Maybe though, the UKBA and the UK government are right. Things need to be tougher.
Maybe the UK has been too soft in the past and has let far too many people into the country without proper checks. But, in my case I know for sure I ALWAYS get approached for help by genuine people who are not poor people who genuinely want to go to the UK for business reasons or for completing a UK University course of study and they have every intention of returning to Ukraine.

Unfortunately, I am sure it the UK's 'fellow EU citizens' from Romania and some other countries that have created such a bad image of immigrants in the UK, that British people have reacted in such a negative way towards people from 'Eastern Europe'. Many Romanians are allowed to stay in the UK because they are EU citizens, but they fail to bring any economic benefit to the country.

So, it would appear that the biggest problem facing the UK is from other EU citizens and not from people from outside the EU, many of whom just want to visit for business purposes or short term higher education opportunities.

See: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/8008109/Vince-Cable-says-immigration-cap-is-costing-British-jobs.html

17 September 2010

Classic BBC Radio Theme ~ The Archers

Classic BBC Radio - 'The Archers'

What is or who are The Archers?

The Archers is a radio soap opera set in the fictional English village of Ambridge. It provides contemporary drama in a rural setting.

What will I hear?

Ambridge is portrayed as a 21st century village, with all the pressures of modern rural life. You'll become involved in the characters' personal and business struggles, love affairs - happy and troubled - and village activities. And there are plenty of lighter moments too.

Who is it about?

Several of the main characters are farmers: David and Ruth Archer at Brookfield Farm (dairy and beef), their cousins Pat and Tony Archer who farm organically at Bridge Farm (dairy and vegetables), and well-off Brian and Jennifer Aldridge at Home Farm (arable, sheep and deer), the biggest in the village.
The Archer family is related to the Aldridges and to several other Ambridge families, including the Hebden Lloyds (riding school and vet), the Pargetters (stately home owners) and the Woolleys (retired business people).
And there are lots of less well-off characters. Most of them live and work in and around Ambridge: on the farms, in the local pub (The Bull), at the village shop, the swanky Grey Gables hotel or St Stephen's church. Others might be found in the nearby market town of Borchester.
Full details can be found in the Who's Who.
And there are family trees for the main families .

How can I hear it?
The 13-minute episodes are broadcast on BBC Radio 4 every day, Sunday to Friday at 7 pm, repeated the next day at 2pm (except Saturdays). There's an omnibus edition of all the week's episodes on Sunday morning at 10.00am.
BBC Radio 4 is on 92-95 FM, 198 LW, and on digital radio and television
You can also listen online , or get the programme sent to your computer in a podcast.
More information
More details about the programme can be found on the BBC Radio web site.
Via the British Business Club in Ukraine web links page:
Go via: http://www.bbcu.com.ua/Links.html


The world today seen from London and Kyiv- 16th Sept 2010

The BBCU held a joint meeting with the British Ukrainian Society (BUS) yesterday in Kyiv.
This was our first meeting at the newly opened Belgravia Business Club http://www.belgravia-club.com

The theme of the meeting was 'The world today seen from London and Kyiv' and our guest speakers were John Whittingdale MP - Chairman of the British-Ukraine All Party Parliamentary Group http://www.johnwhittingdale.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1&Itemid=3 and Richard Spring - Chairman of the British Ukrainian Society. http://www.britishukrainiansociety.org/en/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=62&Itemid=67

The meeting provided a good opportunity for members of both organisations to meet and put questions to our two guest speakers on various current topics relating to the relationship between our two countries. Comments/questions from the audience included 'Civic Society in Ukraine', 'British influence in the role of diplomacy', 'What can the United Kingdom do to help Ukraine'.
Plus an interesting question concerning 'Why do the media in London always paint a black picture of Ukraine?"

Many thanks to John and Richard for providing another excellent example of how things are conducted in the UK. Thanks also to Sergei Tsivkach from the Belgravia Business Club.
It was also good to meet Olexandr Savchenko who is also the Chairman of the International Institute of Business in Ukraine. http://www.iib.com.ua

BBCU members are already looking forward to our next meeting.

12 September 2010

WHY - Do the British do all this?

The Daily Mail newspaper in the UK is sometimes considered 'the voice of the people', others may disagree. But they are always finding stories to amaze the great British public.

e.g.Taxpayers fund council 'adventures in Sindia and Lesbianandgayland' as part of sessions on equality and diversity

Meanwhile, Hertfordshire County Council has produced a Making Our Mark On Equality And Diversity guide that says references to ‘girls in the office’ is inappropriate because it implies ‘dependence and immaturity’.
The same council also has problems with ‘lady’ which has ‘over-tones of decorum and conformity’ and even woman ‘which has overtones of sexuality’.
Officials at East Devon District Council have banned ‘little old lady, pensioner, youth and youngster’ and guidance to staff states: ‘White European people are also subjected to prejudice and stereotyping – Swedish (“porn and nudity”), Germans (“Hitlers who want to rule the world”), Irish (“thick”), Scottish (“mean, tight with money”).’
A spokesman for Brighton & Hove City Council said: ‘At a cost that is low by any comparison, our training role-plays are proven to do what they are supposed to do, which is to reduce inappropriate discrimination based on race, faith, disability,
gender, sexuality or age.’

See: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1311228/Taxpayer-funds-council-adventures-Sindia-Lesbianandgayland.html

Why do 'normal' everyday Brits allow all this to happen? WHO is really in charge of these local authorities?. I would really like to hear from someone who can convince me that all this sort of thing is necessary.

11 September 2010

British Food - On Line Shop for Expats

For all those expats around the world who sometimes need to taste famous British Food Brands, there is now a wonderful on-line shop.
Someone had the bright idea to cater to the needs of expats who miss foods like:
Fray Bentos Classic 'Steak & Kidney Pie', or Heinz Baked Beans, Daddies Brown Sauce, Bisto Gravy, Branston Pickle and Hartleys Jam and many others.
Also a good opportunity for non-Brits to try and discover what British people eat.

See: http://www.expatemporium.co.uk/default.aspx

10 September 2010

Anniversary Today

We will have a small celebration today.
Its 8 years today since I first came to stay in Kyiv Ukraine, (7 years living permanently).
I have seen many interesting changes during this time. Back in 2002, it was possible to drive anywhere in the city centre of Kyiv and never see a traffic jam, as car ownership was still low.
Today in 2010 its like central London and impossible to get from one side of the city to the other without several hours of delay. The morning traffic is crazy and many people take one or two hours to cross the river into the city centre.

Kyiv city is an interesting city in which to live. One major contribution to the traffic jams is the high number of expensive luxury cars on the streets. One of the great mysteries in Ukraine is still finding the answer to.."How do these people afford to buy these cars?".

Its a 'green city' and looks very beautiful in spring and summer. In winter it can be a real challenge getting around in the snow and ice, particularly when the city council fails to clear the streets. The 'metro' (underground) is still one of the best in the world and very reliable, plus you never hear of any 'breakdowns due to signal failure' as in London. The metro in Kyiv just seems to keep on going without any problems.

Some standards/customs have have adopted since being here:
1. The city is called KYIV and not Kiev. (But a long way to go to get other people to spell it like this)
2. The name of the country is UKRAINE and not 'The Ukraine' (A major mistake made by first time visitors and it continues to annoy me)
3. I now shake hands with friends/associates/employees and just about everybody I meet, even though I meet them each and everyday.
4. I no longer drink Vodka. Far too dangerous, but it took at least one year to learn this!!!!

In fact here is a list developed this year of things which indicate that a person is no longer a tourist in Ukraine, but someone who actually lives here. (Thanks to assistance from friends on expatua) This is an edited version:

1. You've stopped converting UAH (Ukraine currency) into your home currency when buying things.

2. It's no longer imperative to have milk in your tea

3. You finally realise everything is difficult in Ukraine but nothing is impossible

4. You have given up challenging the following arguments:

- Only the Soviet Union fought against the Germans in WWII
- Crimea is the most beautiful place on earth
- The TV, computer, and internet were invented by the USSR

5. You start to get an empty feeling if a week passes without a religious holiday, Soviet holiday, Ukrainian holiday, birthday, name day, or trade day.

6. You've accepted the fact that anything that involves numbers, no matter how simple, requires a calculator.

7. You have resigned yourself to the fact that as a customer, you are no longer number one; You realise that your importance is somewhere after the shop girl chatting with friends on her mobile and the babushka cleaning the floor with a black rag on the end of a stick.

8. You know that all Ukrainians will be 30 minutes late, unless something serious comes up; you also understand something serious to include painting fingernails, window shopping, watching television, texting friends and having a second cup of tea.

9. You accept the fact that when a 'Master' comes to your apartment to fix the toilet/shower/wash basin/washing machine etc. You WILL be without water for more than TWO DAYS due to the fact that he needs to find more 'details' (AKA small parts) that he should have brought with him on the first visit.

10. You have resigned yourself to the fact that the car dealership repair workshop will not have the parts in stock to repair your car. The 'parts' must be ordered and paid for in advance even when your model is one of the most popular in Ukraine.

11. Its normal that the delivery man from the water company (drinking water) never has any change.

12. You fully accept the fact that when dealing with any government organisation there is always 'one more document' required that they didn't tell you about from the beginning. When you deliver said document, you are not surprised that a further document is now required and the process is repeated over several weeks. (You know they are expecting to receive a small bribe, but you are also testing them to see who will break first)

13. You know that when you go to a Kyiv city centre restaurant or bar and ALL the tables are 'Reserved', you accept the fact that they are NOT reserved, and that the Administrator just wants to show you who is in control!!!!

14. When you stop trying to understand why and just comply.
Which is a relief to the people around you, because they are tired of explaining it to you.

15. You automatically stop talking when the waiter/waitress brings you food/drinks so they cannot overhear the top secret conversation you are having.

16. You swim in rivers. Because you can.

17. You light a fire in the woods. Because in Ukraine you can.
You get excited about a 'Shashlik' at the weekend because you have the freedom to light a fire just about anywhere you like and then take even more delight in telling everyone that "In England you would be arrested for lighting a fire in the woods, plus you would be surrounded by the Fire Service, Local Government 'Jobsworths' Health and Safety Team, Environmental Protection Agency 'jobsworths' etc etc etc....You have freedom in Ukraine Blah Blah Blah"

18. You accept everywhere is a smoking zone.....unless otherwise stated.

19. You can say to a woman at work that she looks attractive without worrying about HR and harassment.

20. When you realise that in a country that most westerners think lacks freedom, in many ways you will feel more free than in the over sensitive paranoid politically correct social democratic west.

21. When a stranger on the street smiles at you, you assume:
a: he is drunk
b: he is insane
c: he's a westerner

22. When you organise a party/meeting/get together or whatever and you decide the meeting time is say 7pm. You tell all the Ukrainians the meeting time is 6pm and they show up as expected at 7.30pm and you are happy!

23. When you keep a decent collection of slippers for guests

24. You no longer question why you do not have hot water for a week or two during the summer.

25. You know you have a better chance of finding out the correct answer to a legal question by waking up the alcoholic passed out in the courthouse flower bed than from experts, lawyers, and government officials.

26. You understand that maybe means yes and that a signed, legally notarized document also means maybe.

27 You know the difference between someone speaking in Ukrainian and someone speaking in Russian immediately.

28 You know that when it comes to organising any event, they will leave it to the very last minute, but you know you do not have to worry about it anymore.

Classic. I once went to a supermarket in Kyiv and picked up many things and put then into my 'trolley', a short time later an assistant came and just took all these items out of my trolley without asking......as they were doing a 'stock check' and I was making the number counting difficult. "Just go away and come back later " I was told!!!!!!

29. When your wife spends 2 hours or more on the telephone talking to one of her friends and you think it's normal, plus you do not have any worries about the size of the telephone bill.

30. The first thing you do when you come back to your flat, is wash your hands

31. When you buy flowers for a Ukrainian man on his birthday and you do not see any problems with this.

32. When you know who “Garry Potter” is

33. You start using "da" instead of "yes." (For those who are not Russian/Ukrainian language speakers)

34. You are no longer surprised when your taxi driver tells you that before Perestroika, he worked as a rocket scientist.

35. When the contents of your wardrobe are predominantly black!

36. When you have been on holiday or coming back from your country of origin and you arrive back at Boryspil airport (Kyiv)
and you say "It's good to be back home".
Your wife looks at you and you both realise the importance of what you just said.

Its OK living here.

A tale of two different countries

Politics - Business - Spys - Money and High Profile Chracters are always good ingredients for a good story.
This week we read of an interesting story of high profile aquisations in Ukraine from former Prime Minister - Yulia Tymoshenko concerning RosUkrenergo and the sum involved is alleged to be approx USD 5 BILLION.

See: http://www.kyivpost.com/news/nation/detail/81809/

Now lets look at the United Kingdom.
Conservative MP Jonathan Djanogly called in a firm of private investigators to find out who was behind an attempt to discredit him after an investigation by the Daily Telegragh newspaper.
The Daily Telegraph became aware of Mr Djanogly’s unusual allowance claims in May last year during the long-running investigation into MPs' expenses . As well as claiming £5,000 for automatic gates to be installed across the drive of his large constituency home in Cambridgeshire, the millionaire MP claimed £13,962 for cleaning and £12,951 for gardening. Invoices showed that Mr Djanogly, 45, had paid his cleaner up to £640 per month.

See: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/7993233/Irritation-that-led-Tory-MP-Jonathan-Djanogly-to-call-in-detectives.html

I cannot help but think that if the second story was in Ukraine, it would never have become a story.

The major difference between our two countries is that in the UK the media are not afraid to investigate. In Ukraine investigative journalism is in its infancy still.

09 September 2010

Customer Service in Ukraine

Customer Service in Ukraine - Experiences
The BBCU is encouraging people to share their experiences of both good and bad customer service in Ukraine. If you have received:
1. Good Customer Service - in a restaurant,cafe,bar,hotel in Ukraine please tell us about your experiences and tell us the name of the place that provided this service.?
2. Bad Service - If you have encountered very bad customer service, please share with us the name of the place and why they failed in their customer service delivery?

Unfortunately, most customer service experiences are not good in Ukraine.
Many of the people who work in the service sector and mainly the hospitality side, have never been trained or even encouraged in how to provide basic customer service.
Sadly the concept of the customer is lacking in the majority of businesses in Ukraine.
There are some international hotel operators that do stand out from the crowd and provide very good examples, but they are small in number.
Too many people encounter the usual situation of entering a restaurant/cafe/bar and being made to wait for a long time before any service is offered in the form of a menu or offer to take a drinks order. Plus when a waiter/waitress does appear to help you, they will still take a considerable long time to serve you with anything.
But lets not blame the young people who are doing these jobs, most do not know any different. The owners of these establishments are the ones who need to understand the importance of customer service in the 21st century.
We all need to help improve customer service in ALL of our businesses.
We look forward to hearing from you.

07 September 2010

Visa free travel to Hong Kong for Ukraine Citizens

Another great breakthrough. Ukraine and the Chinese governments have signed a deal to allow visa free travel between the two countries.
This is another break for Ukrainian citizens, who find themselves having to make an application for a visa to visit most places around the world. Hong Kong now joins the list of other places like Eqypt, Thailand, Turkey, Sri Lanka and a few others that will allow Ukrainian people to visit withour a prior visa. I hope that many people take up this opportunity to visit Hong Kong.

From the Kyiv Post)
See:Ukraine, Hong Kong sign agreement on cancellation of visas
3 days ago at 13:53 | Interfax-Ukraine Kyiv, September 4 (Interfax-Ukraine) – Ukraine and Hong Kong have signed bilateral agreements in the presence of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China Donald Tsang.

The press service of Ukraine's Presidential Administration reported on Saturday that the sides had signed an agreement between the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and the Government of Hong Kong on the mutual cancellation of visas, as well as an agreement between the State Customs Service of Ukraine and the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department on cooperation and mutual administrative assistance in customs matters.

The agreement on the cancellation of visas comes into force in two months, on November 4, 2010, and does not require ratification by the two parliaments.

04 September 2010

Migrants marrying UK citizens must now learn English

In the United Kingdom the count down has started to 29 November 2010.
From this date, any migrant who wants to enter or remain in the UK as the partner of a British citizen or a person settled there will need to show that they can speak and understand English, by taking an English language test with one of the UKBA approved test providers.

The new rules will apply to anyone applying as the husband, wife, civil partner, unmarried partner, same-sex partner, fiance(e) or proposed civil partner of a British citizen or a person settled in the UK. They will be compulsory for people applying from within the UK as well as visa applicants from overseas.

Anyone wishing to come to the UK as a partner will need to demonstrate basic English at A1 level, the same level required for skilled workers admitted under Tier 2 of the points-based system.

Quote: The minimum standard that applicants will need to meet is in speaking and listening at level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference. The list of approved tests and providers includes some tests above A1 level - this is because we will also accept tests in speaking and listening, or in speaking and listening with additional skills such as reading or writing, that are taken at a higher level with an approved test provider. We have made this decision to give people as wide a choice as possible, and to provide for people who:
have already taken a test at a higher level with one of the approved test providers; or
want to take a test at a higher level for work or study reasons.

A partner coming to the UK from outside Europe will need to provide evidence with their visa application that they have passed an English language test with one of the approved test providers.

Imagine what would happen if the Ukraine government decided that foreigners had to be able to speak/read/write Ukrainian and/or Russian language before they could settle in Ukraine? The mind boggles.

Friendly Albion

Interesting interview with HM British Ambassador to Ukraine - Leigh Turner this week:
The UK is closely watching the developments in Ukraine and actions taken by the Ukrainian government.