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- Bring a gift to the family who invites you to their home for dinner. A bottle of wine, cake, box of candy, souvenir or bouquet of flowers are traditional. A small gift for the child is always appropriate.
- If you bring flowers, make sure the number of flowers is uneven; even numbers of flowers are for funerals.
- Never kiss your girl on her forehead. Kissing someone on their forehead is reserved for funerals. Kissing a loved one at the funeral reception is a tradition.
- Do not shake hands or kiss across the threshold of the door step; this is traditionally bad luck.
- Kissing on the cheek is normal. And it is done three times!
- Take off your gloves when shaking hands.
- For business people travelling to Ukraine, make sure that you have plenty of business cards, one side printed in English, the other in Ukrainian. These can be printed quickly here.
- Business people dress conservatively with good shoes. Men should not take off their jackets without asking. Dress casually for dinner in someone`s home. In cold weather, wear a hat or old ladies will lecture you on your foolishness.
- Be prepared to remove your shoes upon entering a home. You will be given a pair of slippers (tapki) to help keep the apartment clean. Take off your shoes before you enter a house (residence). Ukrainians do not wear shoes inside the home except for house shoes. Even if you are going to someone else`s home you will still need to remove your shoes before you enter their home. Most Ukrainians have several pair of guest shoes at their home for visitors. If they do not have enough extra house shoes for guests it`s normal to enter the room without shoes.
- When exiting a vehicle the man steps out first so as to offer his hand to the woman whom he is accompanying. When entering he should help his lady to enter.
- On public transportation, give your seat to mothers with children, the old or infirm. People will admire you.
- Men should offer to carry the parcels of women they are accompanying.
- Check your coat, briefcase, or parcels at the front door of a restaurant, at theaters or any formal receptions.
- Do not cross your legs with the ankle on the knee or put your feet on the furniture. It`s impolite to show people the soles of your shoes. When in the metro or sitting on the bus, don`t let your feet even come close to the seat.
- Offer to share your snacks and cigarettes with those around you, especially on the train or at the office.
- Be prepared to accept alcohol and all food offered when visiting friends, and it can be quite a lot. Refusing a drink or a toast is a serious breach of etiquette. An open bottle must often be finished.
- Be prepared to give toasts at dinners, etc. Be careful, the vodka can catch up with you.
- It`s a Ukrainian tradition to drink in any time. It’s customary to go to a friends house for a routine visit and have a drink. Holidays or special events usually warranty everyone showing up to the party with a bottle or two.
- At a dinner party, if you are the first person to offer a drink from a bottle, you will be expected to continue this and keep filling the other guests glasses.
- Ukrainians do not drink their wine and eat at the same time. Rather they drink “toasts”. At each toast you are expected to empty your glass.
- Dress for the theater; check your coat and any large bags at the cloakroom. Be on time. Absolutely no photographs.
- Be careful in complimenting something in a home. Your host may offer it to you.
Every country has its own appropriate and not appropriate topics: something one may or may not talk about. Ukraine is not any different.
- People here may ask you very personal questions about your life, earnings, and relationships - something you may be not quite prepared to answer. Try not getting angry and do not shy away: they are sincere and just do not know that you are not used to such types questions.
- What is strange though is that people would not talk or would avoid conversations about their body or the way it functions. Women in an open conversation should avoid mentioning anything related to solely their problems. Very often not only in talks with men but with unfamilar female friends as well.
- Complete strangers; mostly the senior generation, often offer unsolicited advice on a wide range of topics usually having to do with health. Be tolerant with them and view them as it is a part of culture.
- If you get married in Ukraine it`s a tradition for the brides mother to hand you and your bride a loaf of bread at your wedding reception. Whoever can take the largest bite becomes the head of the household. Usually this is to the man`s advantage.
- Smoking would appear to be almost mandatory and Western visitors will most likely be aghast at Ukrainians` tolerant attitude towards it. Restaurants and cafes seem to feature two sections - smoking and chain smoking.
- Asking someone near you to put out a cigarette is unlikely to be met with acquiescence. Smoking is not permitted on public transport.
Although sexism in all it’s manifestations is being stamped out in the egalitarian West, it’s vestiges are still quite ingrained in Ukrainian culture (fortunately).
- It is considered proper for men to do such things for women as: hold doors open, pour their drinks and serve their food first, assist them in and out of vehicles, light their cigarettes (even if it means rubbing two sticks together), and help them put on and take off their coats.
- Women should be accompanied by a man in restaurants and in hotels.
- Women are not supposed to be assertive in public, carry heavy bags if walking with a man (even if they do heavy construction work or work in warehouses and are quite healthy), open doors, uncork bottles or pay for themselves in social situations. This custom of relying on a man makes the man look good in public.
- Likewise, there exists a pretty firm concept of the difference between "women`s work" (everything) and "men`s work" (hammering a couple of nails here and there in between bottles of beer).
- Don`t put your thumb between your first two fingers. It is a very very rude gesture.
- Exchanging money with retailers. It`s a tradition for you to hand the money to the cashier but do not expect the cashier to count the money back to you or offer to hand you back your money. Ukrainians receive your money and return your change to a small tray where you can count your money.
- Most Ukrainians understand that we have different customs and attitudes and won`t be offended if we don`t do the above things.
- Do not whistle inside or you will whistle away your money.
- Never light a cigarette from a candle. It will bring you bad luck.
- Never pour wine back-handed, it is impolite and it means you will also pour away your money.
- Black cats crossing your path are bad luck.
- Women should not sit on the corner of a table lest they wind up single for the next seven years.
- Women who sit on cold concrete or steps will catch an internal cold.
- If you spill salt at the table you will be plagued by bad luck unless you throw three pinches over your left shoulder immediately.
- If someone gives good wishes, or you talk about your good fortune, you must spit three times over your left shoulder and knock on wood to keep your good fortune.
- If you leave something behind in Ukraine, it means you are coming back.
- Before leaving on a long trip, sit quietly for two-three minutes.
Bribes and Tipping.
Gifts are given in order to grease wheels - whether it is to get a seat in a restaurant that is “booked solid,” a train ticket, or the sanction to work. This type of gift is also known as a bribe and is a part of day to day existence.
More than seventy years of communism did too much to the working populace to make life difficult so these little tokens serve to open all kinds of otherwise shut doors. The appropriate bribe depends on what you are trying to accomplish. A dollar or a bottle of something should conquer a doorman; on the other hand, anyone wishing to rent a place for a private party may need to give a little more. Note that the influx of consumer goods has outdated many of the old clich� bribes. For instance, whereas in the old days a pack of Marlboro would stop traffic and a carton would get you a fat public works contract, nowadays they are available on every street corner and so their bribe value has greatly diminished.
Tipping was abolished after the Revolution together with good service and it will take some time for the populace to get back into both these habits again. You can do your part by tipping whenever the service merits it; rest assured that this will not bankrupt you. As to the question of whom to bestow your generosity upon, tip as you would if you were in your home country - the doorman, the cloakroom attendant, the waiter, the bartender, the cat, etc. Tour guides, drivers, and other people who spend more than a little time with you should also be tipped or presented with something.
Food in Ukraine.
If you are staying with a Ukrainian family and eat what the other members of your host family eat, you will most likely have food with more calories and fat rather than what you have back home. Very often, when it is winter or early spring, there won`t be a lot of fresh vegetables or fruit in your daily meals, but rather sausage, bread, soups, plenty of potatoes and dairy products.
A main meal in Ukraine will usually consist of soup, perhaps some salad and a main meat/vegetable dish followed by tea. Ukrainians drink a lot of tea, often with no milk but with sugar, sometimes lemon. It is customary to have something sweet with tea, such as biscuits, cake, jam (eaten by the spoonful!) or sweets.
There are vegetarians in Ukraine. Not too many, probably though. Being one is not hard: your environment will be tolerant to your choices.
Eating out in Ukraine can cost a lot of money if you choose to eat in the centre of a city in Western style restaurants. Check out the prices first. There are however many other places to eat with similar quality although these are best found with someone who knows their way around and the language.
Healthcare in Ukraine
If you have stomach problems or have caught a cold, you won`t have great difficulties buying medicine to treat them while in Ukraine. A pack of 10 tablets against stomach ache or cold (provided being Ukrainian made) should not cost you more than 1-3 USD. If you have more serious problems, it is wise to know somebody, who is Ukrainian and who can take you to a doctor, the one he or she knows, who in one`s turn will assist you for either free of a token of payment. Health insurance does not help much in Ukraine, strictly speaking.
Religion in Ukraine
The Ukrainian society is generally tolerant towards various religions. Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Jews - all of them practice their religions freely and very often live just across the street. When in Ukraine, most of the time one has the feeling of a wide acceptance of other`s values and should not worry too much if he or she will not be properly understood from the values and perceptions point of view.
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