Do's and Don'ts in Ukraine

Ukraine Customs, Traditions and Etiquette

Flying to the Ukraine? Ukrainians are very friendly and welcoming to guests to their country. One thing that Ukrainians value is blending in. In fact, children are often taught to “be like everyone else” by their parents! So, as a guest to Ukraine, you should abide by this as well and learn a bit about their etiquette so you can fit in, too!

1. Ukrainian Dress Attire

  1. DO dress formally for business situations. Men should wear suits with a white shirt and women should wear a suit or dress.
  2. DON'T wear shorts unless camping or hiking.
  3. DON'T wear shorts and a t-shirt if going to a church, theater, concert, or an upscale restaurant.
  4. DON'T wear sneakers unless partaking in sports.
  5. DON'T wear a hat at a church, home, office, or restaurant.

2. Ukrainian Table Manners

  1. DO partake in toasts. Toasting is a very important part of Ukraine's social culture.
  2. DO be prepared with an excuse if you don't drink. If you don't drink alcohol, blame it on a medical problem. Ukrainians can sometimes be suspicious of people who don't drink.
  3. DON'T clink glasses during a toast if you aren't drinking alcohol.
  4. DON'T eat until the host invites you to begin.
  5. DO rest your wrists at the edge of the table.
  6. DON'T refuse a dish. Try everything and save room for seconds. Turning down food could be seen as rude.
  7. DON'T leave an empty bottle on a table. It's considered bad luck.

3. Ukrainian Tipping

  1. DO tip about 15% at a restaurant but make sure the gratuity wasn't included in your bill.

4. Ukrainian Gift Giving and Accepting Gifts

  1. DON'T open a gift upon receiving it. Open it later.
  2. DON'T give yellow flowers, lilies, or bouquets in an even number. Even numbers of flowers are for funerals.
  3. DON'T feel the need to give an expensive gift. Thoughtfulness is the most important thing.
  4. DON'T give white Easter lilies. They are for funerals.
  5. DO wrap the present nicely.
  6. DO give tickets to an opera or concert, if you can obtain them. It would really impress the recipient!

5. Ukrainian Body Gestures

  1. DON'T make a fist with your thumb in between your middle and index finger. It's considered a very vulgar gesture.
  2. DON'T tap your temple with your index finger. It means “crazy.”
  3. DON'T gesture to someone with your index finger. That is only acceptable if beckoning a little kid or a dog.
  4. DON'T stand with your hands in your pockets.
  5. DON'T hand anything or shake hands over a threshold. It's considered really bad luck.

6. Ukrainian Greetings

  1. DO greet with a strong handshake along with direct eye contact.
  2. DO know the more informal greetings. Close female friends will cheek kiss three times, starting with the left cheek. Close male friends pat each other on the back and hug.
  3. DON'T shake hands over a threshold.
  4. DON'T shake hands with gloves on. Remove them first.

7. Ukrainian Visitors Etiquette

  1. DO take your shoes off, and make sure your socks don't have holes in them!
  2. DON'T put your feet on the furniture.
  3. DO bring a gift such as dessert, wine, flowers, or something from your hometown.
  4. DO bring a gift for the children.
  5. DO dress casually.

8. Ukrainian Business Meetings

  1. DO have one side of your business card translated into Ukrainian.
  2. DO include any advanced academic degrees on your business card.
  3. DO expect business meetings to occur during meals, including meals at a Ukrainian's home.
  4. DO be patient and realize that doing business in the Ukraine can take longer than what you might be used to.
  5. DO engage in small talk in the beginning of a meeting. Safe topics include computers, cars, and soccer.
  6. DO be punctual.
  7. DO make appointments as far in advance as you can. Ukrainians take last-minute meetings less seriously.

9. Ukrainian Socializing and Conversation

  1. DON'T confuse Ukraine with Russia or Ukrainians with Russians.
  2. DO understand that feminism is a little behind in Ukraine. Married women are taken more seriously than single women, and men still hold most of the high ranking jobs. Men will usually hold a door open for women; pour their drinks, light their cigarettes, etc.
  3. DO understand that smoking is common in Ukraine. If you smoke, it's polite to offer cigarettes to those around you.
  4. DO behave conservatively when in public. Don't be too loud.
  5. DON'T discuss politics.
  6. DON'T use slang or profanity.

10. Ukrainian Photo Etiquette

  1. DO ask permission before photographing someone. Some ethnic groups may decline due to religious reasons and gypsies may try to charge you money.

Throughout your trip to Ukraine, your best bet is to act somewhat conservatively and follow the behavior of those around you. If someone initiates a toast, take part in it. If going to a Ukrainian's home and you notice their shoes are off, take your shoes off, too. You'll catch on before you know it! Have a wonderful trip to Ukraine.

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