Attorneys at law “Bachynskyy and partners” provide legal assistance and consulting to foreigners from almost 85 countries of the world. Lawyers do not only provide their services professionally, but are interested in the lives of their clients, as well, because they can tell a lot about their countries and inhabitants – their traditions, rules of business, politics and laws. In addition, it’s always interesting to find out why successful businessmen and employees from other areas move to work and live to Ukraine. That’s why AL “Bachynskyy and partners” decided to create a video blog “Expats in LVIV blog” and to communicate on these topics with guests of our city from other countries.
The second guest of the newly created blog is a businessman Odd Holst from Norwegian. Irena Naida, lawyer, Head of Emigration law and support of investments practice of AL “Bachynskyy and partners”, talked with him and asked a lot of interesting questions. Odd told about his first impressions of Ukrainian roads, about corruption in the world and Ukraine, and why he decided to live in Lviv.
Irena Naida: What do you associate Lviv with? Usually, foreigners who come here for a weekend associate Lviv with delicious coffee, ancient architecture, street-food festivals. Locals who live here permanently, associate their native city with bad roads, high prices and garbage-removal problems. And what about foreigners who first came here for the rest and then decided to stay here permanently? Let’s ask our today’s guest Odd Holst about it. Odd came to Ukraine three years ago from Norway.
Irena Naida.: Hi, Odd! How are you today?
Odd Holst: Hi! I am very good today! And how are you?
І. N.: Can’t complain, thank you very much! So, you have been living in Ukraine for three years already. Do you remember your first impressions.
О.H.: My first impression was fantastic. Because I would say I have been to most cities in Europe. Of course, it is not true, but in the major cities in Europe. There are a lot of nice cities all over France, all over Germany, all over Spain and in Scandinavia, of course. But coming here was a little bit scare, when I drove my car at my first time at the border, because it was kind of old-fashion, right? The border control was not something I was used to. But after then I came to the old part of Lviv. I still was kind of scare, because the roads were bad and it was like… you know. The suburb was not that pretty.
І. N.: Eh, I know Ukrainian roads.
О.H.: But when I got into the centre, that was fantastic and positive. So, I had this good vibration at once. This is the CITY with big letters. And it is worth, you know.
І. N.: Aren’t you disappointed now, after all these years?
О. H.: I did not get much time before I bought my flat here. So, obviously, I knew that this is the place I need to stay. I am a retired person. I am retiring here. I have no wish to go down to Spain as other people do, which maybe sounds weird, but it is true. For me it is so much better than Spain, for example, I tried it.
І.N.: Nice to hear that. And when talking about weird things, are there any Ukrainian traditions that you consider to be weird, that are very strange to you?
О. H.: Yes, of course! It was different from western Europe. There are a lot of similarities and some differences. I think it is more on the cultural plan, of course. But that is subtler.
I was thinking about some negative things, like corruption which is one of the problems here. Because there is a corruption all over the world. But it is corruption only on the high levels. Here you have the corruption on all levels. You meet it when you go to likarnyа (hospital). You pay to the doctor.
І. N.: Did you face that? Can you tell us?
О.H.: Yes, I faced it when I was the first time here. I was at the hospital, I had some bronchitis, and I went with my friend. Then I realized she told me to give a doctor some extra money. The corruption tells me about low salaries which you get here compared with countries, for example, I came from. There will be quite another culture.
One of my friends, Simon, will become a father very soon. And, you know, the culture about, for example, that they do this caesarean surgery, how they called that when you get a baby. They take that for grant as a norm here, rather than natural birth. That is something new.
Simon told me, and I knew it all before also. There is common to do this, and that is also about money because a doctor gets more money after this surgery, than after natural birth.
But in the Western Europe that is not a question. They do this surgery only if it’s crisis. There must be something really wrong at the moment of birth. But here you make an appointment, do this operation and get your baby.
І.N.: I see. But what about positive things? Are there any?
О.H.: I think the positive is the atmosphere in the city, combination of tradition, old-fashioned things combined with modern things. Because in many countries, like in the USA, there are only modern things, everything around in cars. Everything is modern. There is no culture. No culture in the USA. Europe has a lot of cultures. But in the USA that’s kind of terrible, boring, compared with Lviv, for example.
І.N.: Lviv is the city with a soul, isn’t it?
О.H.: There are a lot of it here, in Lviv. It is an atmosphere, a soul of the city, a lot of small stories, and all those small stories do not exist in modern Germany or absolutely not in the USA. So, these are very positive things. Also, try to find the pedestrians in the US – it is impossible! Almost impossible.
І.N.: No pedestrians?
О.H.: No pedestrian zones like in the city centres of a lot of cities in Europe. Most of the cities have these pedestrian zones. Here (editor – In Lviv) there is really nice, big part of the city centre is mostly for walking. That makes everything much nicer, of course. That is very positive.
І.N.: Nice to hear that! But when talking about some things that should be changed. What do you think should be changed first?
О.H.: You know, the problem number one, as I told you, and I guess you agree, is corruption in all levels. That is the main problem because it goes through all levels of society. The low wages is of course terrible. People do not have enough money. It appeals to not so good culture of corruption on all levels. Another one is efficiency, not at least the bureaucracy. You meet it when you come to the border. It is not about Ukraine, but also about Poland at the border. For me, it is kind of weird, when you come to the border and meet these extremely inefficient things at the border, when it could be done so much faster and more efficient. I don’t why it is like that.
І.N.:: Well, to make a comparison if a foreigner comes to Norway, he or she does not face that problem. Everything is fast and quite perfect?
О. H.: Yes. Do you remember when I was getting my document early? You were kind of expressed that I got apostilled documents within a couple of days. I had to go to three offices also. There is also the bureaucracy in Norway. It is opposite online mostly. So, it is quite difficult when you have to speak with people to have something done. You do it online. It is too much this ‘modern principles’, because the banks have not offices anymore. The banks are online. If you need to talk to someone, you cannot. You can talk online.
І.N.: To the manager?
О. H.: No, you get the name and number of the person and that is your contact in the bank. You can’t go to the bank and get some money, for example. That is impossible in Norway.
І.N.: : Then when talking about Ukrainian institutions – what about English-speaking people? Is everyone speaking English? Was it the problem for you or no
О.Н.: Yes, of course, it is a problem for foreigners. They absolutely do not. There are those who do manage English very well, but mostly I would say they do not. I am talking about young people now who maybe would be the first to speak English. I have been speaking to a lot of young people and most of them do not speak English.
І.N.: So, how did you speak to them? How did you find the common language?
О.H.: Well, the common language is Ukrainian or Russian. In the beginning, I spoke a little Russian, because I was doing that back home a long time ago. I knew some Russian. Also, I wrote on these dating apps, you know. I was writing Russian, but now it is only Ukrainian, of course. I can write and speak. I can go on a date. I can’t do business using the Ukrainian language yet. But I am getting there. So, I am very serious with the language learning – first and foremost Ukrainian, then Russian and Polish.
І.N.: So, you are a polyglot – three languages already! And English, as well.
О. H.: Yes, and French, and Spanish, and German are quite good. I love French. It is my favourite. I know it very well. I also know very well German and Spanish. I understand most of the Italian and Portuguese words. And Dutch.
І.N.: When we are talking about learning Ukrainian, how was it? What was the most difficult and what was the easiest?
О.H.: Vazhko. Difficult. It was skladno. It was complicated, for sure. But I love it! I love it better than Russian, for example. I think Ukrainian is a beautiful language and it is a challenge to learn. For me it is very hard and complicated as for you, for example, learning English. The grammar is complicated. But nothing is impossible. Everything is possible. So, that’s why I have been hiring a private teacher to meet, and talk, and help me with this.
І.N.: As far as I know, you even tried to visit some classes at the university
О.H.: Yes, it was a bomb! I tried and knew that it was a risk. That was the cultural thing which was too much for me. It was a pedagogic method.
І.N.: So, you dislike it?
О.H.: It was too old-fashioned for me. It is efficient in some ways. It is. I have been there for four-five weeks. It was Spanish because I wanted to learn Ukrainian in accommodation with the Spanish. But the cultural difference was absolutely the way vykladachka or teacher did the lessons much strict than in western Europe.
І.N.: You didn’t want a discipline – and that was the only reason?
О.H.: Norway is too little. It is going too far, right. The last thirty-forty years, I guess, you are always free to come if you feel like, if you not – stay at home. Do what you want to do. You are a student, and it is your responsibility. But here it is like in shkola or school for minors. You are followed up, even if you are not nasty. To stand here beside the teacher and tell about your homework whatever you should know.
І.N.: So, you did not like it.
О. H.: For me, that was impossible. I can’t do that.
І.N.: Some say the students here are the best.
О.H.: Of course, it works. The old methods work. There is a kind of terrible also, for a guy at my age anyway. But those colleagues at the age of eighteen-seventeen – for those it was like ok, they were good. They learned a lot of languages in the first four weeks. I was impressed, really impressed. That is a plus and a minus. Often old methods work and sometimes it is better to work with modern methods, because it can be too much.
Typically, in Scandinavia, it is too much of that more than. In the schools and in the other systems, bureaucracy also too much digitalized.
І. N.: Could you please tell us any interesting adventure or story that happened to you in Ukraine, for example, accidents with police or something more positive
О. H.: Yes, I have some weird incidents. ‘The most serious one’ happened in Bucharest, Romania. I came back, crossed the Romania border into Ukraine. I was stopped in the Ukraine side. She (editor – the female customs officer) asked me for my Green Insurance Card, which they normally ask about that. I had it, of course, but it was expired because you need to renew it every year. It was actually expired two months ago at that time.
So, that was, of course, bad and the female customs officer said, ‘Sorry, you have to go back, to Romania.’
It was not so convenient to me. And I did not speak much Ukrainian. So, I was kind just repeating myself that I need to go to Lviv, because I have the flat there. I should swim and go to Oslo, Norway and fix it, insurance card, of course. But she (editor – the female customs officer) was persistent. No way! She wanted me to turn around.
And luckily this guy came. He was an officer. He whispered something to her and took me into the office. They wanted some small money. I just gave them two hundred, four hundred, six hundred, eight hundred. They said, ‘Thank you! Bye-bye! Good luck!’
But the funniest thing was that after an hour at the road there was a small station with the militsiya. This guy, actually he was standing on the road before five hundred meters I saw him on the road straight ahead. So, I can saw him. He was waiting for me. Obviously, they (ред – customs officers) called this station and said, ‘Here is the guy coming and you can pull him over because he has problems with the Green Card.’
I.N.: And already has no money.
O.H.: Absolutely! He knew it, because first he asked me about Insurance Card, which was not kind of normal to ask about.
Also, I had to do the Alcotest, which showed that I had alcohol in my blood. It was obviously not true. This alcotester was fixed. It did not show the right thing. It showed a little bit over the limit. I knew that, if it was not for the Insurance Card I would be protesting, ‘OK, take me to the station, whatever’.
But I did have the problem with the Green Insurance Card. I just let him continue, and he said, ‘Well, this Alcotest is a little bit nearly the limit, not illegal. We can forget about it. But your Green Insurance Card is expired. It is very serious’. So, I had to pay two thousand and four hundred hryvnias. I gave him one thousand and four hundred hryvnias. Then he was happy. And I can continue my tour back home.
But at the positive side the new police, which actually came. When I came, – the first I came more the four years ago to Lviv with the car, – I had three incidents with the new police. All of them were just nice. I did not have any shtraf. One time I went to the opposite direction on the one-way road. Another time I went where the buses and trams only can drive.
But they were very understanding, very nice, these new police officers. As I understand that was something new, however, I came more than four years ago. That is really an upgrade of the service for the people and tourists not at least.
Otherwise, you can be scared by the stories about meeting the militsiya or the policе on the road driving your car. Because I always read about the country, when I am driving to a new country. You can get some scared about some Eastern countries. For example, fake-police. It is not about Ukraine.
I remembered first time I went with the car to Estonia and Latvia. But I think this belongs to the past. Everything is renewing in those countries like in Ukraine.
І. N.: Tell me please, how could you characterize Ukrainians? From good and bad side, of course.
О.H.: Well, Ukrainians are really nice. Good, actually, because that is one of the reasons I am here, of course. I rented the flat here four years ago. As a tourist, – I was three months here, three months out of the country. They became my friends; they are my close friends today.
I know a lot of people and I have been a lot out in nightclubs. It was a big surprise to see the peaceful environment in the nightclubs here in Lviv and Ukraine. Because I have been in many places in the nightlife of Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lutsk, Vinnytsia, Odessa. The level of aggression is so lоw here. It’s fantastic! Because that is not the case in many other countries in Western Europe. In Scandinavia, Norway, there is a lot of aggression when it comes to Alco. That is not nice, of course.
Also, Lviv is a very clean city. The trotuary or pavement here are getting cleaned. It is the same in other Eastern countries. The same in Riga, Latvia, I have been six times. The same situation. Everything is clean-clean-clean!
If you go to my city, in Norway, and all the city centre looks like a trashcan after the weekend. They clean it, but it is really another culture.
So, this is positive here. Really, much more positive here.
І. N.: You must know that recently we have been faced with the problem of garbage removal?
О.H.: Yes, that will not have happened in Norway, because the routines are absolutely set. We have no problems with the routines. And I know that might be a problem with piling up garbage sometimes somewhere in the city. I have seen it a couple times. It happens. Once in the three years. But I think that is another thing. That is about the structure, about the system.
Mainly the people, I guess, these old ladies, are sweeping the pavements during the nights or early morning, or late evening very often in the city centre, for example. That is nice. The Norwegians do not do this. They use cleaning cars. But not so often. It is about mentality. The point is, Norwegian young people, for example, in the weekend, they throw the litter on the street. They just throw it on the street
І.N.: In Norway?
І.N.: But, is it normal? Just throw it on the ground?
О.H.: Yes, that is a normal thing. That is standard. While here and in the Eastern countries they do not. They use the bins, the trash cans. There are lots of them. There are less of them in Norway, for example. It is a small detail, which is making cities here in the East nicer.
І. N.: To be honest it is a surprise for me!
О. H.: It was a surprise for me. Because, I thought, at the first time I was going in Eastern Europe, it was Latvia, it was Riga. I was surprised, because of clean! And there were the trash cans every hundred, fifty meters in the centre. Always! That was a positive shock. Kind of the same thing is here.
І. N.: Finally, to sum up, what can you say, good or bad, about Attorneys at law “Bachynskyy and partners”?
О.H.: Well, I can tell you that I regret that I didn’t know about you when I came here 3 years ago. I was recommended by a friend, my massazhyst, my masseur. He is a project manager. He recommended you, guys. And I thought, ‘Advocate?’ That is a lawyer. That is expensive.’ And you know, in Norway they do not use the lawyers like you do here.
І.N.: At all?
О. H.: No, only if you really need it. But not to buy a house, not to get married, not for reason like that. You do not need it. The bureaucracy takes care of it. You do not need a lawyer. The lawyer is super expensive like in the USA. So, you never think about a lawyer. Only if you do something really bad.
So, for me, it was not in my mind. Then I regret, I would love to know about you, guys, when I bought my flat. I had my friends. They helped me. We went through all the bureaucracy and it went well. But it would be more efficient, I guess, with “Bachynskyy and partners”.
І. N.: We think everything is okay now.
О. H.: Yes, it is. You know, less couple years I have been here more than once, and the service is so high, standard, it’s professional and it’s very nice. You take care of customers very good. And I have recommended you to a couple of guys also, and I will continue to do that, of course.
І. N.: Thank you very much! We do our best, and just trying to do our job.
О. H.: Yes, I know. I can add that I was also told from some mind, some sources that it is not only to go into a lawyer`s office here in Ukraine because a lawyer is not a necessarily lawyer. It is like many professionals that might have the diploma from the university, that is not cheap anyway. Maybe got in not normal way.
Not long ago I recommended to a guy this company, your lawyer company. He had to leave (editor – Ukraine) after three months. He was sad about that because he loves Ukraine and he loves Lviv. He went to Serbia. He is Serbian.
He went to another lawyer company. He was in the process of getting some visa. I do not remember the reason, maybe it was organization. But it was not any success. The lawyer did not manage to do this for him.
I told him about you, Attorneys at law “Bachynskyy and partners”, because he needed the proper lawyer company, the good one, the clever one, the professional one. So, I recommended your company.
І. N.: Thank you, for free advertisement!
О.H.: Guys working here are so nice. It’s more than being just professional, you are very friendly. All of you!
That is very important. It is not only the business and the money, and the service.
Yes, it is in the service being nice. But it is not like I can meet in the USA. It is also very friendly, but it can be superficial sometimes. It is a professional kindness, friendliness. But here is a true friendliness. It is the real thing. That is a big difference. You can feel that. I can feel thiat very easily.
О. H.: So, I think that is the PR for you, guys. Professional things are all set. You do a fantastic good job. The atmosphere and the friendliness, which is not the business friendliness, but a true one.
І.N.: You say so many good things. I am afraid nobody would believe us.
О. H.: They have to believe, because I am a sceptic, you know. I am a realist and I believe what I see. I feel very comfortable now if I have a need for a lawyer. Because you, guys, can fix it without problems.
І. N.: I am proud to hear that, honestly! Thank you!
О.H.: It is very important for customers.
І.N.: Thank you!