Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Cultural Information - Ukraine

Country Facts

Links to the best Web sites for virtually every country in the world.

Cultural Information

Answers to your intercultural questions from a Canadian and a local point of view.

Cultural Information - Conversations

Question:

I am meeting someone for the first time and I want to make a good impression. What would be good discussion topics?

Local Perspective:

Dobryj Den! — Good Day! (in Ukrainian).

When meeting Ukrainians for the first time, a formal introduction of yourself including your name, your organization and your position is expected (in fact - all this information should be provided when setting up the meeting). When addressing each other in a professional setting Ukrainians use their first name, their patronymic and then their last name, for example, Mykola (first name) Petrovych (patronymic - means a son of Petro) Savchenko (last name). However, addressing each other using only first name is becoming popular in Ukraine. It is used amongst young-to-mid age people and between friends regardless of their age.

The introduction is accompanied by a handshake though Ukrainian women rarely shake hands with each other. This will be followed by the exchange of business cards (try to have bi-lingual ones in English and Ukrainian). Ukrainians would usually be very pleased to hear your remarks about the beauty of the city and the country, as they take a great pride in Ukraine.

Many Canadians have found that Ukrainians react positively when Canadians offer information about their families, especially their children. While Ukrainians may not speak about their families in the first place, they may follow your example especially in a small group, as the family is highly valued in Ukrainian culture.

Ukrainians like to discuss politics - there is a saying that where there are two Ukrainians, there are three political parties! However do not initiate discussion of politics with Ukrainians, and be careful if they raise the issue. They may be at times quite critical about their own country’s politics but could take an offence when a foreigner will do the same.

It is important to note some grammatical changes that have taken place since Ukraine became independent in 1991. The usage of the article "the" preceding the name of the country "Ukraine" has been omitted, as Ukraine no longer constitutes a part of another state—the former Soviet Union. Some in Ukraine may take offence or immediately correct you.

Ukrainians like humour and wit and always enjoy a good joke or anecdote (a short story with an unexpected end.) It is important to remember that jokes are usually based on a specific cultural context and in the situation when the cultural context differs the joke may not be properly understood. Only "general" jokes that are not culture-specific will be successful during first meetings. A lot of jokes from popular movies, anecdotes and songs are used and require a substantial knowledge of the context to be understood correctly.

Canadian Perspective:

Canada, family, work, school (I was working at a university) are all good topics of conversation.

As Canada has a close connection to Western Ukraine due to a long history of immigration, Ukrainians generally see Canadians as their friends. There were always conversations about their relatives in Toronto, Edmonton or Winnipeg. When I was looking for an apartment, everyone I met had a relative in Canada. Some would even show me pictures of them, their homes and their addresses asking me if I knew the location.

Ukrainians have a strong belief in acquiring an education, so education is something they value greatly. I am formally educated, so I was accepted. Distance education is something that many Ukrainians are becoming interested in and many are returning to school for further education.

There seemed to be elections, all the time, for all sorts of things and politics were discussed openly. Three people in our office were running for office. People seemed to stay away from discussing religion however.

Ukrainians generally do not want to talk about the past, for example, the role of Ukraine during the war, the artificial famine (1932-33), the Holocaust, and the treatment of the Jewish community.

Ukrainians have a good sense of humour, although not with strangers.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Communication Styles

Question:

What do I need to know about verbal and non-verbal communications?

Local Perspective:

Ukrainians tend to make closer physical contacts than Canadians when communicating with each other or with their foreign guests. It is regarded as rude to speak loudly when in public. As a result, Ukrainians tend to stay quite close to each other when talking and they do so in a lower voice than Canadians. A pat on shoulder, a hug, a kiss on a cheek are the acceptable norms of communication among friends or close acquaintances.

Eye contact is less important than in Canada and it is considered rude to keep staring at someone. At the same time, like in Canada, avoidance of making an eye contact when speaking to someone may be regarded as a sign of dishonesty, or shyness. Ukrainians use gestures more than Canadians while speaking or making a presentation. Some gestures, for example, the "thumbs-up" to signify approval, are similar in both cultures. Using one’s index finger to point to something or someone is considered uncultured.

Ukrainians are usually more reserved and formal in public with less facial expression than when they are among family members or friends. This especially would be true about the older generation of Ukrainians.

Canadian Perspective:

Ukrainians work, live and communicate quite closely. Eye contact is common and it is considered important. Ukrainians always say hello and good-bye with a handshake. It is a bit different for women though, as hand shaking is generally a "man’s activity". I used to shake the hands of everyone however.

It is quite common to be bumped into or at times, knocked over by someone in hurry or just getting to another place. I have been told that people generally do not say excuse-me as it shows that the person is "inferior", and therefore no one wants to be considered inferior.

I found Ukrainians to be loud among friends but very quiet in public.

People do not seem to want to get involved if something happened in public and very rarely would people stop to help other people after they had fallen, cross the road, etc.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Display of Emotion

Question:

Are public displays of affection, anger or other emotions acceptable?

Local Perspective:

It is often remarked on by westerners that Ukrainians usually do not smile in public. In fact loud talking and smiling to strangers usually indicates the person is a foreigner.

At the same time when it comes to personal or professional relations Ukrainians usually see themselves as open and direct in terms of letting their emotions be known to those concerned. Public displays of affection, anger or other emotions are more common than in Canada and generally acceptable if they do not involve rude gestures or/and using physical force against another person.

Canadian Perspective:

Men and women embrace and people argue (seem to argue) in public. I have also seen fistfights between men, several times, on public transportation. Although fights are not necessarily common, it is very common to see intoxicated people day and night.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Dress, Punctuality & Formality

Question:

What should I know about the workplace environment (deadlines, dress, formality, etc.)?

Local Perspective:

There is a Russian proverb adopted in Ukraine: "people meet you by the way you dress, and see you off by how smart you are". Ukrainians pay a lot of attention to their dress and appearance especially in a professional environment. The importance of status is often shown by the way people dress and it is important "to be seen" as person of certain status even if in reality the person does not possess this status. Women pay a lot of attention to their physical appearance, and appreciate being complimented.

General advice for Canadians: when in doubt choose the more formal and always pack a business suit.

The approach to time differs from that in Canada. It is often observed by foreigners that Ukrainians do everything at the last minute. It will certainly have an impact on deadlines and may affect the quality of work. The majority of the workforce is salary-based and not paid on an hourly-basis. Punctuality is understood in more relaxed fashion and usually applies to subordinates rather than to everyone on Ukrainian hierarchy. The higher a person’s rank, the less punctual the person may be. It is accepted to be late to a meeting within 15 minutes of the designated time.

Generally the level of absenteeism is higher in a Ukrainian workplace compared to Canada (i.e. a person may take a sick leave as often as required and expect to be fully paid for the days missed). Very few organizations limit the paid sick leave to a certain number of days. Some observe that in the Ukrainian workplace promises are made relatively easy but sometimes are not kept. Productivity varies and usually relates to a common fire-fighting work style (meaning pace and workload significantly increase when closer to deadlines and are relatively slow at the beginning of project or an initiative.)

Canadian Perspective:

Ukrainians are very formal in their office dress (jacket /tie or skirt/blouse). As mentioned, a handshake and a hello are always given. They are formal and it would be appropriate to address people formally (Mr. /Mrs). Once you know people, things may relax somewhat. At work, people love coffee/tea and cookies/chocolate and most people start their office day around 10:00 am and will work until 6:00 or 7:00 pm. Lunch usually takes place around 2:00 pm and can last two hours; people may have alcoholic beverages. Meetings are scheduled and most of the time, start late, run late, or are cancelled without notifying people. Punctuality is not something people pay close attention to.

In addition, it is common for people to leave their cell phones on during meetings and take calls, even to talk, while other people are speaking. Also, the sense of privacy is different, so people will look at and read your computer screen quite often.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Preferred Managerial Qualities

Question:

What qualities are most highly regarded in a local superior/manager? How will I know how my staff view me?

Local Perspective:

Traditionally a Ukrainian leader in a professional setting is a strong leader who is expected to know all the answers to any possible problem in the workplace and to make decisions not consulting much with the subordinates. That is especially true in the bureaucratic and business environments. A typical leader would have a university-level education. Experience does play an important role in the person’s position within the organization, but the same is often true regarding the person’s connections within the professional establishment or in the society in general.

If the professional leader is a non-local, Ukrainian colleagues will likely expect him/her to learn as much as possible about the country, professional field, organization etc. Ukrainian staff would normally expect the leader to "set the tone" of the organization/project and establish the rules. Expectations will be higher, meaning Ukrainians will expect fair treatment and would usually compare their own professional situation/conditions of employment with ones in similar organizations/projects. A non-local leader should not expect too much initiative from the local employees unless he/she encourages them. Ukrainians tend to be rather sensitive about the evaluations of their professional performance and may take criticism as a personal offense.

It is a tradition to socialize with one’s co-workers. In the Ukrainian professional environment the most important conversations often take place in a corridor or in places for smoking while having a smoke or even a drink (or right in the office as many Ukrainians smoke). This phenomenon of social smoke or drink is a mechanism of acceptance/non-acceptance and trust/mistrust. Sometimes it also helps to clarify issues or relations. The same goes for parties at work. To join such meetings usually serves as a check if one becomes "one of us."

Birthdays and other holidays are important part of Ukrainian life and are usually celebrated at work.

Canadian Perspective:

Ukrainians regard education and job titles as very important and place a great deal of importance on decision-making and financial transactions. To a lesser degree, they value experience and our perception of hard working.

Whoever has the authority to handle the money and make decisions is considered important. A volunteer, for example holds very little regard as they have no title, no decision-making abilities and do not control the flow of funds. This applies to both residents and ex-pats. Although an expert can be respected and highly regarded on the surface, underneath this, many Ukrainians will not see the person as being really relevant.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Hierarchy and Decision-making

Question:

In the workplace, how are decisions taken and by whom? Is it acceptable to go to my immediate supervisor for answers or feedback?

Local Perspective:

The ultimate decision-making authority typically rests with the organization’s leader. Though an appreciation of teamwork is slowly making its way in the Ukrainian society it is mostly observed in the third sector and in international organizations working in Ukraine.

Ideas are usually generated by the leader and his/her immediate subordinates, and presented by the leader. The subordinates rarely take an initiative or are asked for feedback. The organizational culture is usually very hierarchical. There is a saying: "If you are boss, I am a fool. If I am a boss, you are the fool."

At the same time, in the third sector or in international organizations, more democratic work relations are being observed when a boss consults his/her subordinates and decisions are made after being discussed with all affected employees.

Canadian Perspective:

Although there are repeated attempts to be inclusive in decision-making, most decisions are made by a few select people. Meetings are generally for sharing information and socializing. Decisions are made after or before meetings by those individuals who have the ability to make those decisions. Meetings are great for brainstorming, and for discussions about ideas and suggestions. Information can be held by a few people quite often and the sharing of this information isn’t always forthcoming. Asking questions about financial aspects requires some patience and understanding.

It is possible to go to your supervisor for answers and feedback. You may find that if you express disagreement with decisions that are made, the decision will be explained once again, as if it had not totally understood the first time.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Religion, Class, Ethnicity, & Gender

Question:

Briefly describe the local culture’s attitudes regarding the following: Gender, Class, Religion and Ethnicity. What impact would the above attitudes have on the workplace?

Local Perspective:


Gender:
In many years of receiving western assistance so many western experts talked about gender issues that very often when Ukrainians hear the term "gender" they become either sarcastic or even angry.

In the 1990s, there was a definite backlash in some quarters against the communist-espoused notion of equality of the sexes. From the mid-90s onwards, a number of women’s political, academic, ethnic institutions began to form, some of which protested the dramatic reduction in the numbers of women in politic and economic life. These groups tried to educate about the importance of hearing about "women’s issues" in society and for them to be reflected in the legislative and decision-making processes. At the same time, western consultants introduced the concept of "gender equity". Many have been quick to point out that, under the law, women enjoy the same rights as men. Indeed there are more women with university-level education than men; women receive the same wage for the same job, they are well represented in many fields which are dominated in the West by men (such as engineering, medicine and law) and a significant number are now running their own business.

It is unquestionably the Ukrainian woman who has been carrying the heaviest burden of social reconstruction - taking care of the family, and working sometimes on several jobs and often attending a garden to provide for the family. There is a saying that a man is a head and the woman is a neck: wherever the neck turns—that way the head looks (meaning that women play ruling roles in their families but presented in a way that it is a man’s role). There are also more traditionally divided gender roles and expectations in Ukrainian families.

Women are less visible in senior positions in the political and economic spheres, and there is not a strong belief that they should be more prominent. The dress code for women tends to place a heavy emphasis on femininity, especially in the winter, when many wear fur. The issue of sexual harassment as it is understood in the West is not understood or accepted in Ukraine. Some gestures that would be considered intimate in Canada and viewed as inappropriate between work colleagues tend to be commonplace.

Religion:
Religion as a social phenomenon and the church as an institution were placed outside of the social realm during the Soviet times. Citizens were strongly discouraged from celebrating religious holidays or attend services. As a result, several generations grew up without religious values or traditions. Since independence there has been a religious revival in Ukraine. Most Ukrainians are Christian but there are some Muslims (i.e. Crimean Tatars) as well as followers of other religions. The majority of Ukrainian Christians are Eastern Orthodox (divided into Russian Orthodox, Ukrainian Orthodox and Autocephalous churches); Ukrainian Greek-Catholic (who follow the Orthodox tradition of religious services and have a married priesthood) found mainly in Western Ukraine; and Roman Catholic.

Class:
During the Soviet period everyone was considered equal, although "some were more equal than others" (meaning the Communist Party elite enjoyed unspoken rights and privileges about which the majority of population was not even aware.) According to Soviet ideology, there were only two classes: peasants/ workers and the so-called "intelligentsia" (i.e. professionals). As a consequence, notions of equality remain strong in the Ukrainian society. In real life, however, personal connections, family, and parents’ position in the society often define a social position of an individual. Since Ukrainian independence the old Soviet elite has not relinquished its power, just changed colour (meaning the Communist red flag and ideology were changed to the yellow-blue Ukrainian flag with the absence of clear ideology). There is still a high respect of authority exhibited in public. However, in everyday life people show disrespect and distrust in the government. Typically Ukrainians would say that there are two classes in today’s Ukraine: rich and poor. The middle class is still not very significant in numbers.

Ukrainians are very status conscious. It is typical for people in high positions to expect preferential treatment. When hosting a Ukrainian official delegation it can be very hard to explain why a more luxurious hotel could not be provided or why they cannot have a car with a driver at their disposal.

Ethnicity:
There are two main ethnic groups in Ukraine: Ukrainians (about 70% percent of the total population) and Russians (close to 20% percent). Other ethnic groups include Crimean Tatars, Jews, Polish, Romanians, Hungarians etc.

The main issues are the usage of Ukrainian and Russian languages in Ukraine and politics played by Ukrainian and Russian politicians around this issue. The official language is Ukrainian, used especially in the bureaucracy and educational institutions. However, the majority of population speaks Russian in their every day life, except in Western Ukraine – historically a stronghold of the Ukrainian language and culture and generally regarded pro-Western (as opposed to Eastern Ukraine, which is historically pro-Russian). Different political forces often play the language card in their political negotiations. Also, the spelling of places in Ukraine has also been changed to reflect the pronunciation of their names in Ukrainian i.e. Kyiv, Lviv, Odesa (Ukrainian spelling) as opposed to Kiev, Lvov, Odessa (Russian spelling).

Canadian experts should use the Ukrainian language as a language of translation during their negotiations, respecting the fact that it is the official language. However, many (especially in Eastern Ukraine) would appreciate a translation into Russian.

Generally speaking, it is important to understand the historical foundations of those attitudes and not to rush with conclusions or expectations that these attitudes will soon change. One of the Ukrainian counterparts told his Canadian advisors: "You can’t fix Ukraine by Tuesday!" back in 1995. This advice is still valid.

Canadian Perspective:


Gender:
Men and women are treated differently in most settings. At meetings, it was commonplace to hear men talk about the viewpoint of a women and then to mention her beauty, her hair, etc.... These attitudes have a dramatic impact on the workplace, as women are not viewed as decision-makers. As mentioned, men rarely shake hands with women. In addition, women rarely pick up the tab in a restaurant and order or direct a taxi. Women are often subjected to male chauvinism and expected to remain quiet about this type of behaviour.

Religion:
Religion is a sensitive subject and rarely did I hear or participate in discussions about it. Ukrainians go to church often and when passing by a church, many do the sign of the cross, even if driving.

Class:
As money and power have a dramatic impact on people in Ukraine, those without are left out of the loop, and away from the decision-making table.

Ethnicity:
Ukrainian society is fairly homogeneous. I met an African-American Peace Corps volunteer and she had some trouble with harassment and racism. Many Ukrainians have never met people of colour so it is odd for them.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Relationship-building

Question:

How important is it to establish a personal relationship with a colleague or client before getting to business?

Local Perspective:

Generally Ukrainians value relationship over the task. Ukrainians place very high value on personal relationships prior to professional relationships and this is a very important difference. It is very important to establish trustworthy personal contacts with your Ukrainian counterparts prior to establishing your professional contacts.

A small Canadian souvenir like a poster, calendar or a pen with a Canadian maple leaf on it would be a good start/icebreaker especially when attempting to build a long-term professional partnership.

For a meeting, Ukrainians will often ask to receive as much advance information as possible about the participants, the objective of the meeting, issues to be raised and anticipated results.

The professional group of the bureaucracy, being status conscious, will want to know the status (professional position) of everyone participating in the meeting so they can provide participants at the same level. Usually the most senior person from the Ukrainian side would be leading the meeting. In the business environment, again, trust is important and good personal relations are critical. Learn as much as you can about the general context of doing business in Ukraine as the legal environment is different from the one in Canada and is constantly changing.

Protocol is important and it is important to rely on the advice your local colleagues with respect with whom meetings should be organized and in what order. Time invested in the building of trust and partnership and perhaps friendly personal relationship at the beginning will definitely pay off later on and vice versa if overlooked a lack of personal support will impede the project implementation throughout the whole project life.

Canadian Perspective:

It is crucial to establish a personal relationship with people you work with, the person at your corner store, the server at your local restaurant, etc. Ukrainians value personal relationships quite highly.

It’s important that you open yourself up to Ukrainians, letting them get to know you, what your motives are, why you are there, etc. You have to build trust, so it’s important that you are honest with them.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Privileges and Favouritism

Question:

Would a colleague or employee expect special privileges or considerations given our personal relationship or friendship

Local Perspective:

Usually a personal relationship or friendship is a good reason to expect and ask for a favour. In many organizations, loyalty to the leader (not necessarily to the organization) is often the most crucial criteria to receive a job (next to professional experience). That is why every leader hires his/her own team. There is a saying that a new broom swipes in its new way (meaning a new leader will establish new rules and hire a new team). Usually in order to make sure that everyone in organization (or at least in key positions) is "his" person, the leader would ask around and hire only people recommended by his/her friends, relatives or other trustworthy people.

One of the most important questions business partners ask about a possible new partnership is who is behind its leader (meaning what high up group or official supports this particular organization/business).

In many international organizations hiring is done in a similar fashion. It is always good to ask around when looking for new employees. But make sure you check that all the main job requirements are met. Preferential treatment based on personal relations would only create problems because Ukrainians are very sensitive to how their performance is evaluated and may become jealous (and non-cooperative) of somebody’s success. Things like pay increase or other perks for some will eventually become known and will only result in tensions and interpersonal conflicts.

Canadian Perspective:

I think that a colleague or employee might expect to have an advantage or special privileges or considerations based on your personal relationship. I did not encounter any of these situations.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Conflicts in the Workplace

Question:

I have a work-related problem with a colleague. Do I confront him or her directly? Privately or publicly?

Local Perspective:

Interpersonal problems are better discussed privately (as they say, to have beer together). Perhaps a lunch of coffee together starting with general talk and then coming to the understanding of the issue on both sides would be a good tactic. Trying to solve an interpersonal conflict in public will likely only worsen the conflict.

Ukrainians are usually very hospitable towards foreigners. If a colleague all of a sudden becomes very formal with you, this could be a sign that something went wrong or was misunderstood. It is best to try to clarify things as soon as possible and privately (for instance, having a social smoke or a drink—even if you do not smoke or drink.)

Canadian Perspective:

Although I never experienced serious problems, I did find the way in which problems were handled were different. In my experience, people are not confrontational and when problems arise, the management style of many people becomes a sort of parent-child approach. For example, a typical comment would be "Yes you can take that day off, but you better finish that report before you go, or else".

It would be best to go out for a coffee and discuss the problem at that time. As well, ask for feedback regarding your approach and at times, you may need to re-check to see if you are understood. Although many Ukrainians understand English, they may not understand some of the words you are using, and may not tell you that they don’t understand.

If you have done something wrong, Ukrainians will not be so forward with it. A colleague of mine had some trouble and people would just stop talking to her. When you ask them what is wrong, more often than not they will tell you, but it is a very sensitive thing for them.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Motivating Local Colleagues

Question:

What motivates my local colleagues to perform well on the job?

Local Perspective:

Though it may not be openly admitted, Ukrainians are first of all looking for prestige (social position and connections) and fair remuneration when it comes to job search. Once they find a job that satisfies those requirements they perform well as the fear of losing the job is relatively high. Other motives like job satisfaction, good working conditions are relatively important but not necessarily crucial. Ukrainians, as they say, are not very spoiled yet they are picky and often have more than one job to make a living. The professional market is very competitive.

Canadian Perspective:

There is a keen sense of what is expected out of you, and your level of productivity on the job. Although the working styles are somewhat different than in Canada, people are motivated by money, the ability to make decisions, looking good in front of others, and community perception. As many people I worked with continue to work with international organizations, it was very important for then to have a good reputation, which would almost guarantee future employment opportunities.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Recommended Books, Films & Foods

Question:

To help me learn more about the local culture(s), please recommend: books, films, television shows, foods and web sites.

Local Perspective:

Books to read: Ukraine: A History by Orest Subtelny; some books by modern Ukrainian authors like S. Pavlychko, Y. Andrukhovych, O. Zabuzhko.

Films to see: Zemlia by Oleksandr Dovzhenko, Hory Dymliat, Za Dvoma Zaytzyamy, Roksolana. Soviet-times and many Russian movies are very popular and would be advisable to watch if available in local video-rentals.

Television: There are two Ukrainian shows available in Ontario on Saturdays (channel CFMT-OMNI): Kontakt (1:PM) and Svitohliad 8:00PM EST (but they require understanding of the Ukrainian language).

Ukraine’s most famous poets include Taras Shevchenko, Ivan Franko and Lesia Ukrainka. Selected works translated into English of modern Ukrainian writers like S. Pavlychko, O.Zabuzhko, Y. Andrukhovych and others could be found in Canadian bookstores.

Ukraine’s most famous composers include S. Hulak-Artemovsky, M. Lysenko, D.Bortnyansky, and M.Berezovsky. Ukrainian folk and dance music arrived in Canada with the first Ukrainian settlers and has become a part of Canadian culture. Traditionally Ukraine is famous by kobzari, bards or minstrels who devote their lives to moving from place to place and playing music and singing songs about Ukraine.

Traditional Ukrainian cuisine is well known in Canada. The most popular Ukrainian dishes are borsch (beat soup), perogies or varenyki (dumplings with various staffing), holubtsi (cabbage rolls with rice and meat), potato pancakes and various salads i.e. potato salad called Olivier and beat and vegetable salad called Vinegret. Other popular dishes include chicken Kyiv, various types of sausages, many types of soups, cereals like buckweat and oatmeal, various dishes with cottage cheese and a variety of baked products like cakes, pastry and cookies.

Useful Internet links:

Welcome to Ukraine: http://www.ukraine.online.com.ua
Zerkalo Nedeli - Mirror Weekly: http://www.mirror-weekly.com/ie/index/404/
Ukrbiznet - Ukrainian business news: http://www.ukrbiz.net/eng/index/
Ukrainian united portal: http://www.ukrop.com/
Ukrainska Pravda - Ukrainian Truth: http://www.pravda.com.ua/en/
Ukrainian Canadian news: http://www2.uwindsor.ca/~hlynka/uknat.html
Brama: http://www.brama.com/
Kyiv Post: http://kpnews.com/data/main.html
Info on Ukraine: http://www.infoukes.com/
Embassy of Ukraine in Canada: http://www.infoukes.com/ukremb/
Embassy of Canada in Ukraine: http://canadaonline.about.com/library/fed/blfembukrn.htm

Canadian Perspective:

Books: Dingley, J., & Olena Bekh, Lonely Planet Ukrainian Phrasebook (excellent); Dingley, J., & Olena Bekh, Ukrainian: A complete guide for beginners (excellent); Marshall, R., (1991) The Sewers of Lvov (heard it was absolutely excellent); Reid, A. (2000) Borderland (excellent); and Subtelny, O. (2000) Ukraine: A History (good read but long).

Food: Holubsti (cabbage rolls) are great but not in all restaurants! Dirooni (potato pancakes) too greasy for my taste! Vareniki (perogies) amazing! Salo (pork fat) too fat for my taste! Chicken Kyiv is really good and so is the chocolate (Svitoch).

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - In-country Activities

Question:

When in this country, I want to learn more about the culture(s) and people. What activities can you recommend?

Local Perspective:

Ukraine is a place with a highly developed cultural life; especially in the major cities like Kyiv, Lviv, and Odesa. The diversity of Ukrainian cultural life will satisfy the diverse tastes of guests of the country. Traditionally famous for its classical performances including opera, ballet, drama theaters and concert halls, its historical places and art museums and galleries, its folk singers and groups, and its modern rock, pop, show business, and night clubs. Luckily it is not only easily accessible but also very affordable because traditionally cultural activities have been subsidized by the state.

Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, being more than 1500 years old has many historical and architectural buildings and places to visit. In the last few years Kyiv is experiencing a real (re) construction boom. It’s most famous buildings as well as the whole downtown core has been renovated and modernized and, as such, Kyiv is becoming one of the most beautiful European cities. Places to visit in Kyiv: Sofia Kyivska, Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, Andryivsky Uzviz; Historical museum; museums of art; Ukrainian Ethnographic museum in Pyrogovo; Taras Shevchenko museum; the National Opera and Ballet Theatre; the Phylarmony.

In Ukraine in general – Lviv, Odesa, Crimea, Carpathian Mountains, Chernigiv, Kamianets-Podilsky, Uman.

Westerners usually rely on the English-language newspaper Kyiv-Post to receive updated and accurate information about cultural life in Kyiv and about dining out. Many of Kyiv’s accommodations have cable/satellite TVs that allow an access to many European channels. There will be no problem to find a "cultural interpreter" in Ukraine, as the majority of your local colleagues will be happy to advise you on what Kyiv has to offer. Also there is quite a significant presence of westerners in Kyiv. Every second Friday the Canadian Embassy in Ukraine hosts a "happy hour". These happy hours proved to be an essential community information-sharing event attended by many expatriates working in Ukraine.

Television shows: In Ukraine: Piatyj Kut, channel Inter, channel 1+1 (in Ukrainian).

Canadian Perspective:

Great things to see and do:

Lviv: Opera and Ballet at the Opera House; Coffee houses and desert and Svitoch (chocolate); Jewish memorial; The Christmas Tree on Prospect Svobody; High Castle ; Lychakiv Cementary.

Kyiv: Churches: St. Sophia, St Michael’s, St Andrew’s; Dnipro River; Strolling down Khreshchatyk; Kyiv University; Shopping Malls; Independence Square.

Odesa: Prymorsky Stairs; Opera House; Odesa Colonnade; and Taras Shevchenko Park.

Some good clubs in Lviv, Kyiv and Odesa with live bands, jazz, dance music etc...

I would highly recommend reading books, learning the language, travelling to rural areas, going to the Opera, and sitting outside at a café. Quite often, Ukrainians offer cleaning, laundry and cooking services, at a very small fee by western standards and you can get to know people quite well through these activities. If you do use one of these services, many Ukrainian women enjoy your company when they go shopping and it is a great way to see the culture in action.

I was also invited to a Christmas dinner at a Ukrainian’s home and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - National Heroes

Question:

Who are this country's national heroes?

Local Perspective:

Historically the most famous Ukrainian heroes have been poets and political figures like Taras Shevchenko—Ukraine’s greatest poet, artist and thinker of 19th century who first openly demanded Ukraine’s independence from Russia and for which he was sent away to serve as soldier. Taras Shevchenko has been a symbol of Ukrainian independence for generations of Ukrainians in Ukraine and abroad. His most famous collection of poems entitled Kobzar, has been translated into English and is available in Canada.

Other heroes include famous poets like Ivan Franko (there is a city in Western Ukraine named after him—Ivano-Frankivsk) as well as Lesia Ukraiinka, V. Stus, M. Rylsky, L. Kostenko, D. Pavlychko, P. Zagrebelny and others who worked under the constant watch of the Soviet authorities in the 1960-1970s but were able to dedicate their works to Ukraine.

Ukrainian heroes include hetmans like Bohdan Khmelnytsky, Ivan Sahajdachnyi and Ivan Mazepa. Hetmans were military leaders whose role was to defend Ukrainian lands from various intruders in the XV - XVIII centuries.

There is another Shevchenko—Andriy, the most famous contemporary Ukrainian football (soccer) player. Soccer is by far the most popular sport in Ukraine. The Olympic and World champions in boxing and kickboxing Volodymyr Klychko and Vitaliy Klychko are two other sport heroes of Ukraine.

Canadian Perspective:

Taras Shevchenko: A poet who transformed the Ukrainian language proving that "Ukrainians did not need to depend on Russian as a vehicle of higher discourse. His poetry became in effect a literacy and intellectual declaration of Ukrainian independence"(Subtelny: 234)

Ivano Franko: One of the finest Ukrainian writers, and along with others, formed the National Democratic Party in 1899. The NDP’s long-term goal was national independence (Subtelny: 328)

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Shared Historical Events with Canada

Question:

Are there shared historical events between this country and Canada that could affect work or social relations?

Local Perspective:

In case of Canada-Ukraine bi-lateral relationships the majority of historical events are positive. Ukrainians always like to remember during official functions that Canada was the first Western country to officially recognize the independence of Ukraine. The second fact that Ukrainians remember is that close to 1 million Canadians (or about 3% of the Canadian population in total) trace their roots to Ukraine. It is also worth noting that one of Canada’s most recent Governors General was Ramon John Hnatyshyn, a descendant of Ukrainian settlers. Ukrainians contributed greatly to the development of the Canada first of all in "transforming the uninhibited prairie into one of the world’s most productive grain fields" (O. Subtelny, Ukraine: A History, second edition, p.547, University of Toronto Press, 1994.)

Historically there were three waves of Ukrainian immigration to Canada:

-1891 - 1914 about 170 thousand Ukrainian settled in the mainly agricultural Prairie Provinces;
- interwar period (between the First and Second World Wars) about 70 thousand Ukrainian immigrants arrived and settled mainly in cities like Winnipeg, Montreal and Toronto;
-post Second World War immigration about 30 thousand Ukrainians came to Canada.

Some researchers believe that the contemporary Ukrainian immigration to Canada (following the collapse of the Soviet Union) may account for the fourth wave.

Usually Ukrainians in Ukraine are proud of this special connection to Canada. Only very few may remark that the West, including Canada, is luring the best Ukrainian professionals as immigrants. Most Ukrainians hope that the immigrants will play a major role in the establishment of closer ties and economic cooperation between the two countries.

Canadian Perspective:

As mentioned, there is a long history of a strong connection between Ukraine and Canada. Ukrainians also feel that they helped "build" Canada in late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - Stereotypes

Question:

What stereotypes do Canadians have about the local culture that might be harmful to effective relations?

Local Perspective:

Generally speaking, Ukrainians have very positive impressions of Canadians. Ukrainian people particularly value the approach that most Canadians take when they go to Ukraine, that is, to share their experiences and expertise, and not to be directive, telling Ukrainians what to do. By and large, the Ukrainians whom Canadian visitors will meet are well educated and proud of their country and history, and appreciate Canadians who have taken the time to learn about Ukraine and not bring their own stereotypes with them. See the previous question also.

Canadian Perspective:

I think Canadians still see Ukraine as "the Ukraine" a part of the old Soviet Union, and this can be harmful. Although there still is a great deal of tension in present-day Ukraine over language and identity issues (Russian versus Ukrainian), it is slowly improving. I think you must try to understand the history of the independence movement in Ukraine to really understand its people. In addition, Ukraine is a lot more than perogies and peasants. It is a country rich in history, fought over for centuries with its culture and language almost erased, finally achieving its full independence. The depth of this needs to be fully understood.

Submit Your Comments

Cultural Information - About the Cultural Interpreters

Local Interpreter:

Your Cultural Interpreter was born in Kyiv, Ukraine, the eldest of two children. She spent her childhood in Lviv, her mother's hometown in Western Ukraine. She graduated from Kyiv National University with a diploma in Philosophy and Political Studies, and at the age of twenty-six, went to Canada to do her post-graduate study. She graduated with a Master's Degree in Public Administration from the University of Manitoba. Your Cultural Interpreter was involved in several Canadian technical assistance projects in Ukraine, Russia and regional projects for Central and Eastern Europe. She immigrated to Canada in 1999, and is currently living and working in Canada. She has one child. She likes history, classical literature and music and takes a great interest in international politics and cross-cultural issues.

Canadian Interpreter:

Your cultural interpreter was born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario the third of four children. He studied Urban Studies at Concordia University in Montreal and went on to study Non-profit and Voluntary Sector Management at Ryerson University in Toronto. Recently, he accepted a position as Educational Development Consultant for the Canadian Bureau for International Education posted at L'viv National University in L'viv, Ukraine where he resided for eight months. He is currently living in Toronto studying at Ryerson University in Human Resources Management where he is also employed as Administrator at Ryerson's Centre for Voluntary Sector Studies. Your cultural interpreter is of Ukrainian descent.

Submit Your Comments

Disclaimer

Country Insights - Intercultural Issues are intended to provide snapshots of the overall social and cultural norms as well as the workplace environment that a Canadian might face working in a specific country. For each country, two perspectives are provided: one by a Canadian and the other by a person born in the selected country. By comparing the "local point of view" with the "Canadian point of view", you will begin to form a picture of that country's culture. We encourage you to continue your research using a variety of other sources and to use Triangulation as an evaluation process. Although cultural informants were asked to draw on as broad a base of experience as possible in formulating their answers, these should be understood as one perspective that reflects the particular context and life experiences of that person; they are not intended to be a comment on any particular group or society.

You may disagree with or object to the content of some responses. This is to be expected given the complexity of the subject and the problems associated with speaking generally about an entire country and its people. We would encourage you to share your experiences; your contributions will help to make Country Insights a richer environment for learning.

The content of Country Insights in no way reflects official policy or opinions of the Government of Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada or the Centre for Intercultural Learning.