Yesterday I got back after a surprise visit to Ukraine for Easter. On our way home from the airport, my brother asked me what it was I noticed about Ukraine that was different from Holland… It seemed like a strange question, because I’d been to Holland and back home many times before, so all the big differences had already been discussed! However, it got me thinking not only at that moment, but throughout my whole trip…
Here are a couple of things I noticed:
* More diverse ring tones on cell phones. I was changing flights and spent seven hours sitting at Kyiv airport waiting for the connection. Most of the people in the waiting area were businessmen (and women) aged 35ish and up. So you wouldn’t expect the latest “My baby, I’m your love” kind of pop song as their ring tone. Well, if you hadn’t expected that, you’d be surprised. The whole Ukrainian and world MTV Top100 list was there! So yes, not just teenagers, but serious business people spend their time downloading these tunes from the internet, or exchanging them with each other! I wonder why our economics is underperforming! 😉 Anyway, it sparked a discussion in the family as to why this was. In the end we agreed that because the fact of OWNING a mobile phone was no more a differentiator and a way to show status, and still relatively few people could afford having a car, people were trying to show their status with WHAT KIND of mobile phone they had – which includes the quality of pictures, sounds, tunes, etc. I wonder what the research says about the reasons of this phenomenon (if it has been done at all).
* Increased size and diversity of health warnings on cigarette packages. Finally Ukrainian legislation on this issue is catching up with the global practice. It used to be a standard “smoking is hazardous to your health” text on the bottom of the pack. Now it is big, around 40% of the pack, and the warnings name all diseases you didn’t know existed. This gave rise to jokes like this one:
A man asks a cigarette seller: “Could you please exchange this impotence pack I have for the lung disease one? I’m going on a romantic date!”.
* Ukraine still has the best-tasting veggies. Ever!
It’s interesting to see change happen so fast – in sharp contrast with Holland and Europe in general. Coming back home after 3 months only, I saw new shops opened, new laws adopted, not to mention big changes in politics – but I’m not going into that now! The dynamism is exciting, but the big ups come in a bundle with very, very big downs. Just like everything else in life.