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Etiquette in Ukraine

In each country there are certain particularities of behavior. Knowing them helps to overcome cross-cultural barriers and to socialize easier with the local people. Ukraine is a European country which makes the way of life of its people and the behavior rules more or less predictable to the foreigners. Nevertheless, the national traditions and beliefs are very strong in Ukraine, having a unique impact on the mentality of people and the etiquette in Ukraine. Here are several rules which may help you during your stay in Ukraine.

  • When you are invited to visit somebody’s house, usually, you are expected to bring a small gift with you. It is very common in Ukraine to bring gifts when coming to people. It can be sweets (Ukrainian love sweets), a bottle of wine, or a bouquet of flowers. If there is a small child in the family, you may provide him/her with a small present too.

  • Be prepared to take off your shoes when entering the house (you may be offered to put on slippers instead).

  • Don’t be surprised if hosts propose you to wash your hands. Many people in Ukraine are very cautious about hygiene.

  • When shaking hands make sure that you took off your gloves (it is very inappropriate in Ukraine to shake hands with your gloves on). Do not shake hands through a threshold, in Ukraine it is believed that it may bring bad luck.

  • Ukrainians are known for their generosity when feeding others. Be ready to try all the meals offered by hosts. Turning down food may be considered rude, although if you really do not eat some kinds of food no one will force to eat it.

  • It is accepted to wear casual dress coming to someone’s dinner. At the dinner be prepared to give toasts, guests are often asked to do it.

  • Make sure that the flowers you bring are of an uneven number. Ukrainians are very cautious about that. According to the Ukrainian beliefs, you bring a bouquet of even number of flowers only to dead people (to funerals or to a cemetery).

  • Be ready to share your snacks or cigarettes with people around you if there is such an opportunity (at least, offer it to them, they may not always take it, but this is a kind of important ritual too).

  • At business meetings the dress should be conservative. It is good if you have a Ukrainian side on you business card in addition to English.

  • In public transport give your seats to mothers with children, elderly people, or disabled people.

  • Do not put your thumb between your fore and the middle fingers, it is considered to be a rude gesture.

  • When visiting Orthodox churches women should cover their heads with scarves or kerchiefs and men must take off their hats.

Good luck and remember that, in general, Ukrainians are very hospitable and assisting people (there are some exceptions, of course, as elsewhere), the most important thing is to behave friendly and naturally and people will pay you back the same.

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