22 September 2013

YOU can because you are a foreigner.

Anyone who has ever tried to use a bank in Ukraine to send money to another country will know the automatic barriers that you encounter from bank staff and the ‘system’.

Recently I needed to send some money (privately and not business related) to the UK. I was lucky to be provided with all the details of the account including full name, address of the bank, the IBAN of the account, the branch sort code etc. but I did not have the SWIFT code of the bank. Within the EU we use the IBAN for all transactions to make life easier, but here in Ukraine an IBAN is not recognised. I knew this already and thought I would ask the bank to find the SWIFT code.

The young banking assistant who was ‘helping me’ simply stated that she could not complete the transaction until I supplied her with the SWIFT code and handed me back the documents.
I immediately adopted my ‘I am the customer’ attitude and I pointed out that she could easily look up the code from their system or from a web site. But she informed me that I would have to do this. Anger took over and at that moment I saw the branch manager walking past and immediately called him over and explained the situation and ask him WHY the bank was expecting me to do all this work even though the bank would be charging me a large fee for this transaction. Was he really expecting me to leave the branch and go and use my laptop to look up the information myself and then return to the bank? Plus I then went into a tirade about customer service. He was embarrassed enough to start looking up the SWIFT code himself on the nearest computer and he found it within a few minutes.  He then ‘instructed’ the young banking assistant to help me complete the transaction.

The banking assistant then pointed out that I could only send the money in EURO and not GBP. I said that’s OK no problem. She asked me ‘’How do you know it will be OK, I think I need to check’’. I said TRUST ME it WILL be OK do not worry about it, the EURO will be automatically converted to GBP when it arrives on the account. She failed to understand that banking in other countries could not be the same as in Ukraine. I then asked the manager to come back and speak to me again and kindly requested him to ‘’TELL HER to just do the money transfer and stop looking for reasons not to do it.’’(This is natural in Ukrainian mentality. Not to do something)

He did as I requested and the transaction was sent on its way.
Sometime later I was explaining this little problem in the bank to one of my Ukrainian friends who immediately replied ‘’Oh well you can talk to people like that because you are a foreigner, we could never do that.’’ I understand what she means and I know that a Ukrainian customer would not have challenged the bank or have even asked the manager for help. This attitude is not good in my opinion. Ukrainians need to be more proactive and stop accepting the status quo in business and general life. I will return to this subject later.

19 September 2013

Work Permits, Temporary Residents Permits and Permanent Residence in Ukraine

The BBCU has been very busy recently helping people from many countries to obtain work permits and residents permits in Ukraine.
Foreigners from over 62 countries can enter Ukraine without a visa and stay for 90 days.
However some 'visitors' find themselves overstaying the 90 days and find themselves in breach of Ukrainian Law. It annoys me slightly that many foreign people think they can get away with staying in Ukraine illegally.
If a Ukrainian citizen visited the UK or another EU country or the USA they would find themselves in big trouble if they overstayed their visa or in fact started working in one of those countries without the correct legal documents like a work permit.
I'm sure that there are still many 'western foreigners' who are living and working here illegally.
We can help these people become legal. Moreover, I feel that many of these people have the best intentions of wanting to work as an English Teacher or set up their own businesses here in Ukraine.

Perhaps another reason for people avoiding the legal route is that the process of making a work permit and residents permit application is still a little bit tricky in Ukraine.  Even if you have all the correct documents we all know that Ukrainian civil servants have a habit of creating difficulties. This is where the BBCU can help and take away the worries of the application process.

Naturally we don't do this for free. We are a business and therefore charge a service fee for our work. But we do provide a guaranteed service. What we say is what we do.

I want to encourage more foreigners living and working in Ukraine to contact us and find out how we can help them. Anyone can contact me directly for further advice: gerald.bowers@bbcu.com.ua
or contact our office - Tel: +38067 320 1584 - administrator@bbcu.com.ua

05 September 2013

6th September 2003 - 10 years living in Ukraine.

On Saturday 6th September 2003 I left England for Ukraine. I had already spent time here during 2002 and early 2003 but this was the real thing. After selling my house and packing up my personal belongings into my Land Rover (plus a small trailer), I boarded a ferry from Hull to Rotterdam. Landing in The Netherlands on Sunday morning 7th September, I drove right across Germany and into Poland (before Poland joined the EU) and stayed the first night in Poznan.

The next day, 8th September I drove to the Poland/Ukraine border. Five hours is the longest I have waited to cross any border and the slow process was due the the Ukraine side. I’m sure the border guards and customs officers still thought it their duty to protect the old Soviet Union. I remember a female customs officer telling me ‘’You must pay.’’ Why? I replied. ‘’Because you have a lot of stuff she replied.’’. I refused to pay any bribe and said I would be happy to turn the car around and go back to the UK. She then asked me ‘’Where are the documents from your government showing that you are allowed to come here.’’  I was delighted to reply ‘’The UK is a free democratic country, I don’t need to ask anyone for permission to come here.’’ A border guard officer then asked to see the visa in my passport, which was a personal visa as opposed to a business visa after which they just waved me through and I was driving into the wild countryside and very bad roads of Ukraine.

It was getting dark so I headed to the small city of Koval to find a hotel. My first experience of driving around a city in the dark where street lights were not working and other drivers just didn’t bother to use headlights. Eventually finding the only hotel in Koval I was happy to discover they had a secure parking area with a security guard. I think the hotel room was UAH 100 per night (about $20 in those days). The room was the worst room I have ever paid for in my life but I was just happy to be able to have a safe place to sleep. I went down to the bar/restaurant to find food and drink. In those days they didn’t get many foreigners so I was obviously someone of interest to locals and staff. During a period of about three hours I consumed what must have been a half bottle or more of what they called cognac or whatever it really was.

I cannot remember what time I went to sleep but I woke at 6am sharp the next day with one of the worst hangovers I have ever had and was happy to find my Land Rover and trailer still in one piece.  How I managed to drive I do not know. I found the road to Kyiv and off I went. A strange kind of road      made from concrete. I passed through small villages and forest after forest after forest and started to get a little worried that I was not seeing any other vehicles in any direction. Had I made a wrong turn? I was to later discover that I had found the ‘old military road’ instead of the more up to date Lviv to Kyiv road. I didn’t stop for six hours. I used my own jerry cans to refill the petrol tank on the Land Rover.

Eventually the big city of Kyiv came upon me and by lunch time on Tuesday 9th September 2003          I was driving down Khreschatyk Street and I’m still here 10 years later 6th September 2013.