Cultural differences between Ukraine and the USA

So, if you are determined to visit Ukraine, this article can be of good help to you and it will show you how is Ukraine similar or different to American culture. It represents one American’s impressions after his visit to Ukraine supplemented with my comments about the culture.

  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 VS 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. 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?». However, we are quite open people and very fun to be with, we just need a bit of time to get used to the person. When I was working on the ship, I liked the spirit of international environment, because all people smile at you. Either it is a shop, restaurant or a hotel. I remember a shop assistant in one of the shops in Alaska was so engaging and polite. When I toured around California, I was surprised with so many smiling faces on the streets. Even there was a dull weather outside, I didn`t notice it. I was fascinated by culture and the atmosphere on an ordinary day. I was walking down the street, I saw pubs and outdoor restaurants, people in office suits were having lunches. About 20 people waved at me and said hello. Some people asked if I needed directions, because I seemed lost. You can easily have a chat with anyone.

  2. Ukrainian culture vs American culture as for shaking hands upon introduction. This is what the American learnt when he was introduced to his friend’s acquaintance. A handshake 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.
  3. Ukrainians are TOO hospitable. This idea came to the author’s mind when he was invited to spend an evening at a private 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 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 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. One of my friend`s American boyfriend was also very impressed by hospitality of her family.

    Despite a language barrier, he felt very welcomed and entertained. They were sharing funny childhood stories. He was eating a lot, because everything was so delicious. Her mum gave me a piece of cake to eat later. I was too full to eat cake, but I couldn`t refuse. It was from her heart, I appreciated all their hospitality. They have a huge house and a cosy garden with a vineyard. We had a tour around the vineyard. I was tasting different grapes and I was quite impressed how they managed to keep it trimmed and neat. There are a lot of people, who live in private houses and take care of the land by growing fruits and vegetables.

  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. It can be a bottle of champagne, fruits, a box of chocolate or coffee. It is also nice if you bring something, which your region is popular. For example, one of my Italian friend brought a bottle of olive oil. If your city is famous for wine, you can buy one. It should be just a gesture of attention.
  5. Ukrainians have strong national identity. According to what the American writes in his story about 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 the 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, 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.