Downshifting a la Kyiv
Autumn, dullness and mud outside the car window, endless traffic jam, backlog of papers, unfriendly clients you have to smile to, ten minutes of lunch break with cheeseburger from McDonalds... Same old every day, every week, every month. Once a year you may get lucky to see a coast for a week, but then you have to come back to the metropolis and again the same old. Oh, I wish I could get out from here and somewhere far...
That's the past life described by former company heads, managers or other 'victims' of corporative business, who now live happily somewhere in India, Malaysia, Thailand or other southern skies. A social behavior or trend in which individuals live simpler lives to escape from the rat race of obsessive materialism and to reduce the stress and overtime was named downshifting. Buddha is considered the first downshifter, and uncle Fedor from Prostokvashyno is own native representative of the movement.
Ukrainian downshifters, the same as the character of the famous cartoon, go to live in countryside, but an exotic one - Goa, Indonesia, and live on the money earned from renting their apartment or do local crafts, like basket weaving or clay modeling. ForUm has managed to talk to some Kyiv downshifters.
Oleksiy, 28, does not have a permanent job and has never worked for long periods. He rents his apartment in Kyiv and lives in Goa. He comes back in June, when there is rainfall season in India, difficult to survive for non-locals.
"The money I earn from renting apartment for six months is enough to buy the ticket to Goa, to rent a house there and live lacking nothing till the next return to Ukraine. I compose and meditate, and I don't want anything else from life," he told ForUm.
Anna, 37, goes to Karnataka state every October and comes back to Kyiv in late spring. She works there as a yoga instructor - she gathers groups of Russians and Ukrainians to practice meditative exercises and recite mantra on the coast of Pacific Ocean.
"There are not so many Russians in Karnataka as in Goa. It is calmer and more authentic there. You can live on 100$ per month lacking nothing. I don't like to come back to Kyiv - dullness, greyness and unfriendly people. In India I am happy."
Four friends of Kyiv musician Timothy (all under 25) have left for India this year and he does not expect to see them soon.
"There is a new trend now - to work half a year in Kyiv and then to live on this money somewhere in another country. Probably I will do the same when I earn sufficient sum."
However, on many theme-based websites you can read numerous posts reproaching such people with practicing not downshifting, but its poor mimicry. According to the unspoken rule, the true downshifting is when a person has abandoned something really serious and valuable - profitable business, high social status, family, and left just to be happy. People who leave because of problems, boredom or failure to realize themselves here and now understand very soon that the problem is not the place of living, but they themselves. Thus, they come back to motherland.
He that runs fastest gets the ring
Andriy Hirnyk, head of the center of social psychology and conflict management affiliated with Kyiv Mohylyanksa Academy, states that popularity of downshifting in Ukraine is not only psychological problem, but social as well.
"Having moved to metropolis people lose traditional ties, they used to have in the village. In a big city, you are lonely in the crowd. Big cities do not differ much, and moving from Kyiv to New York, for example, won't change your life significantly. Thus, people start to realize there are more differences between life in a city and life in a village, and they return to countryside, and not obligatory in India, but right here in Ukraine or Russia. People get tired of information glut, stress and rat race. Such trend is not something new. There have always been monasteries, where people go to live calmly and not to worry about career."
Among negative consequences of such escape Andriy Hirnyk points out voluntarily brain drain.
"I do not criticize people who leave the country. I believe the majority of them go to earn certain experience and then to come back. Of course, it is sad that young intelligent people go to strengthen other economies, but on the other hand, if social situation in Ukraine changes for the better many of them will come back."
According to the psychologist, if a person leaves in the age of over 30, he has less chance to fully adapt on a new place. He will miss the motherland and its cultural traditions. So, such 'escapees' think not about themselves, but about children.
"Those who abandon civilization care more about children's health, rather than education. However, with the development of Internet, I don't think it may become a problem. Moreover, many people who left for Goa or Bali have higher education and organize schools for our emigrants. They even teach there themselves."
Viktor Nebozhenko, director of the social service "Ukrainian barometer" believes that downshifting is not only a modern trend, but also a reaction to the situation in the country.
"When the country is on the rise, downshifters become suspicious. But now, during the crisis, this is a way of self-escape. And it is not so bad. Downshifting concerns middle class mostly. We do not have many oligarchs becoming monks, do we? Thus, it is all about active people who have suddenly stopped. Why not to work if everything is fine in the country. But if it is not, such escape helps to ease social tension."
According to Nebozhenko, the fact that young people rent their apartments and go to live in India is a problem of their parents, but deep inside he envies them. Nebozhenko believes that for young people who have nothing to do it is better to relax somewhere in Bali than to drink alcohol or do something stupid.
Nebozhenk also believes that escape from the capital is not downshifting, but formation of a new layer of the society - people who will come back and will keep travelling around the world knowing languages and having ties.
Stas Davydov, IT specialist and independent consultant on organizational motivation is considered by internet community an avid upshifter (ideological adversary of downshifting). We have decided to learn his opinion.
"I believe that those who think of downshifting as of panacea do not really know what they want. The motivation of escape works until you arrive on a new place. If there is no other motivation, people find themselves in limbo, when there is no way back and there is nothing waiting for you ahead. I've been working outside office and corporation for five years. I do travel a lot, but I keep working. I do not welcome downshifting as a movement of doing nothing and living for yourself. But when people quit their senseless jobs and start doing something that really matters it is cool. Is it downshifting? Hardly. Upshifting, I would say," Stas told ForUm.
Working on the coast
Not all people go to southern skies for rest and meditation. There is a whole caste of people, working distantly through internet - gamers, traders, SEOs, designers, program developers and other niche specialists. All they need is internet access and a laptop. Such people are not attached to a specific place of living and often travel abroad to take some rest keeping working.
Many Russian firms send their IT specialists to work offshore in Thailand. Employers pay for the plane ticket and help to accommodate in the new country... and you sit be the sea with a laptop and work enjoying nice climate and Thai cuisine - same money, but better quality of life.
As ForUm has learned, many IT specialists believe their employers send them to the sea to entertain and to keep them in the company for longer period. However, HR specialist Dmytro Kovalev names another reason - small taxes.
"Employees work distantly and not for Thai companies, thus there is no problem with taxes and working visas. Thailand has nice climate, cheap life and high enough level of communication. Among other countries of IT-industry there used to be Ireland and Israel. Now this trend is being developed in Belarus. This is a new stage in the development of offshore software engineering."
Ukrainian software engineer freelancer Serhiy moved Chiang Mai nine months ago and has not intentions to come back.
"I got tired of Kyiv very fast, so I decided to try living abroad. Among various options, I chose Thailand - plane ticket costs $400 and accommodation costs from $150 per month. There is nice climate here, food for all tastes... As for drawbacks, internet connection is slower and there is language barrier (Thais do not speak English well). However, there is local Russian community and many other IT specialists working distantly. There are even whole small companies moving here for work, but it is typical for Russians, rather than for Ukrainians. Ukrainians have mental barrier (75% of population have never left the country, and 54% have never left the region)."
Serhiy is neutral about people coming to Thailand to do nothing. "Every hundredth person in Thailand is a monk living on donations and working for personal 'salvation'. I would be bored. I would never agree to abandon civilization and live like ascetic. The world is too big and intersting to abandon it like this."
Director of social service "Ukrainian barometer" Nebozhenko view distant work abroad as an opportunity for Ukraine.
"Outsourcing is great. I've been to India for several times. Tourists are often surprised with nationwide poverty and often ask how locals survive there. And it usually turns out that one educated member of a family works distantly for a serious foreign company. Such work can be done regardless of the political and economic situation. Outsourcing creates twice as much job places, and this is Ukraine's future. We have about 700 thousand people graduated but without a job. A distant work for them is a real chance to enter the world."
The desire to abandon reality has existed since ever. Change of perspective helps someone to sort out his or her feelings and come back as a new person. For others, it makes life even more complicated. The most important thing is to find out in time what you need to be happy, and it may turn out that your happiness lies within your native land.
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