Whatever the reason for your trip to Ukraine is – to see the sights, to relax, to find friends here, or to solve business questions - you will face close with the Ukrainian mentality and norms of behavior. Some of them are tribute to tradition, the others - the result of historical development. Let's try to find out about the habits, customs, typical for Ukrainians which helps you to familiarize yourself with the country and its citizens.
Meeting and greeting
Be not confused, if in a group of people you meet there are not many smiling faces. This does not mean that there is something wrong or people are not happy to see you. Ukrainians are not used to smile for no reason. But try to smile at anyone of them and they will respond with a smile.
Generally, all that relates to communication, Ukrainians are accustomed to do sincerely. Greeting, "How are you?" in Ukraine is perceived differently than in Western Europe and the United States. On hearing this question, Ukrainian can really decide that you are interested and you’ll get a detailed answer. Therefore it is better to use the traditional "Hello". Conversely, if they ask, "How are you?", people in Ukraine are ready to get a little more than a monosyllabic answer and not just out of interest, but rather because they are ready to support you.
As for forbidden topics for conversation, there are just a few. Unlike some other nations, Ukrainians gladly discuss politics. Religion is also not a “taboo" topic, and you can discuss religious views with colleagues or friends. And even money, health or personal problems could be a moot point in a close circle of friends in Ukraine. The topic which you shouldn't start - this is a nationality issue, because Ukraine is a multinational country and you can not know who is in front of you: Ukrainian, Russian, Jewish, Crimean Tatar or other nationalities. All of them consider Ukraine their motherland.
Languages to speak
In general, people here speak and understand two languages. Ukrainian is official language, so public, educational institutions, official events – all is accompanied by Ukrainian. But during the few centuries, beginning from the time of the Russian Empire, which included most of the territory of modern Ukraine, and later as part of the Soviet Union, the Russian language has taken a strong position in the Ukrainian society. There is territorial difference: in the east and south of the country a large part of the population in everyday communication uses the Russian language, while in the west and north citizens use Ukrainian in all spheres. You can become a witness of how two people are talking; one Ukrainian, the other Russian, and they feel comfortable.
If you arrive in Ukraine on business, then surely it will be possible to conduct negotiations in English. If you speak another language, each meeting will be held with translator. Ukrainians are used to discuss all important questions at the meetings instead of sending emails or calling by phone. During a personal meeting is easier for them to estimate the intentions of potential partners. In addition, important negotiations usually end with dinner in the restaurant, organized by the host side.
Ukrainians highly value the friendly relationships and trust their friends very much. Relations between friends are warmer than, for example, in Western Europe. People here usually have a small amount of such close friends - from one to several - and many pals, whom they maintain informal relationships with. Quite a considerable time is spending for friends’ meetings. Moreover, it is typically unscheduled events. Therefore, if you call your Ukrainian friend and offered to meet, be prepared that he will invite you tonight or tomorrow.
Romance and dating
Gender relations in Ukraine are somewhat different from those in European countries and the US - they are more traditional. Thus, ideas of radical feminism haven’t taken root in Ukraine. Here men show such traditional signs of affection as compliments, opening the door for a woman or offering a hand when leaving the car. Ukrainian men may even be offended if a woman does not allow paying the bill for dinner at a restaurant. As for women, most of them tend to pay much attention to their appearance, try to dress stylishly. But at the same time modern women are not afraid to be independent and make their own decisions in everyday life.
Should warn you, events such as visits to friends or parties, if it is not a significant event in their lives, Ukrainians also do not plan in advance. By the way, you can be invited to the birthday party on the same day. However, most likely your friends will not be offended if you cannot change your plans for the evening. It’s normal among buddies to call and ask if the evening is busy and whether it is possible to visit you or invite you to their house right now. If you want to party, why put it off?
If you come on a visit, you may bring a bottle of wine or juice, cake or candies. If you are invited on any family holiday, it would be appropriate to bring a bouquet of flowers for the women. And a few words about local superstitions - be sure there are an odd number of flowers in the bouquet.