If you are trying to find your love abroad, in our case in Ukraine, you must understand that lifestyle in your country can be different from the way Ukrainian people live, and it is always better to read something about the culture of another country in advance. So, if you are determined to visit Ukraine, this article can be of good help to you. It represents one American’s impressions after his visit to Ukraine supplemented with my comments.
- Cultural difference #1. Smiling at strangers is impolite. The first thing that surprised him was the way Ukrainian people treat strangers. In the USA it is a usual thing to smile at people you encounter on the street. However, in Ukraine smiling at strangers is not polite. If you are going along the street and smiling to a woman or a man you do not know, they will likely feel uncomfortable and they will start thinking what is wrong with you. Being a Ukrainian, I can state that this is truth. Maybe it goes from history and it is not a usual thing to see a smiling person, going alone, not talking to anyone. If we see such a man we automatically think that there must be something wrong with him. «Smiling… for no reason… is he crazy?» That is what a Ukrainian will think. However, this does not mean, that we, Ukrainians, are impolite or do not like other people… Maybe our life is too serious and we are not used to showing our good mood to other people without a reason…
- Cultural difference #2. Ukrainian women do not shake hands upon introduction. This is what the American learnt when he was introduced to his friend’s acquaintance. I have to tell you that a handshake in Ukraine is what men usually do when they are introduced to new people and when they meet their old friends. Speaking of women, it is not common to shake hands when they meet a new person. They can smile and nod their head. If they meet a close friend, they can give them a kiss on the cheek. However, nowadays businesswomen do shake hands with their business partners and it is a common thing in the business world.
- Cultural difference #3. Ukrainians are TOO hospitable. This idea came to the author’s mind when he was invited to spend an evening at a private Ukrainian house with a couple of friends of his. The host of the house was a very good cook and she had prepared a lot of dishes to treat her guests. The plates seemed to be endlessly filled with new treats after they had eaten the previous food. You will not believe me if I tell you that since childhood I have been taught that if I organise a dinner, my guests must never be hungry. I have to prepare the more dishes the better. And it is also a common thing to «take care» of your neighbour, especially if you are a man and your neighbour is a woman – you have to make sure that your lady always has something on her plate. Of course, it is better to ask if she wants anything, before putting a piece of meat in front of her.
- Cultural difference #4. Bring a gift to your host even if you are meeting them for the first time. By doing so, you will show that you want to become good friends with the host and bring your gift as a small token by which to remember you. This is absolute truth and it is a usual thing for Ukrainians to bring a small gift with them when they are going to some house. And it is also a commonplace to bring different presents to our friends and other people to show that there is affection between us.
- Cultural difference #5. Ukrainians have strong national identity. According to what the American writes in his story about visiting Ukraine, many Ukrainians have a clearly visible awareness of their national identity. He made this conclusion from communicating with people and from his surroundings «National history is a public matter – especially in the cities it seems that every couple of blocks there is a monument that tells about some person or event that changed the course of Ukrainian history. The people are familiar with these stories, proud to tell them, aware that they are instrumental still in shaping a young nation.» I do agree that in spite of the political situation and everything that Ukraine has gone through in its history, Ukrainian people have strong national identity. However, not so many of them know much about historical events, at least that is what I have noticed. But… what I know for sure is that when a Ukrainian will have to tell something about their country, they will surely read and learn as much as possible to show how wonderful it is.