Ukrainian customs are a mix of European, Soviet, and its own unique culture. A lot of foreigners may be surprised by the things that are natural for most Ukrainians. These are five unique things Ukrainians do and the reasons behind them.
#1 Do not give an even number of flowers
So, let’s begin with some gifting traditions. A bouquet is always a nice gesture but make sure to bring an odd number of flowers. For some reason, even numbers of flowers are reserved for funerals in Ukrainian culture.
If you buy a bouquet at a florist, you do not have to worry; all Ukrainian florists are well aware of this tradition, and they will not let you down.
#2 Carnations are for veterans
The kind of flowers you bring is also very important. Once a Polish boyfriend brought a bouquet of red carnations for my Ukrainian roommate. Imagine his surprise when she and I started laughing at this sight!
The thing is, red flower carnations are traditionally given to veterans on May 8. They are not appropriate for romantic evenings, so you should pick something else for your date.
#3 Do not gift a watch
Ukrainians believe that a watch is a reminder of fleeting life and the death that comes nearer with every move of its arrows. If given as a birthday present, it emphasizes that people are not getting any younger.
It is also a bad idea to give a knife or an empty wallet as a gift. These beliefs, like many others, have grown weaker in the 21st century but these gifts are still inappropriate in Ukrainian culture.
#4 Vyshyvanka is for everyday
Unlike most of the traditional clothes in the world, вишиванка [vyshyvanka] is considered a casual outfit and can be worn anywhere anytime. Due to this fact, a lot of Ukrainians have a range of vyshyvankas in their wardrobe, with different levels of niceness 🙂 We are proud of our national clothing and never miss a chance to wear it.
#5 Feminism is Still Developing
If you are a woman, do not be surprised if a male colleague does not shake your hand. Ukrainians are friendly but these things happen quite often. However, if a woman initiates the handshake, a man will react appropriately.
Ukrainian customs are such that men are expected to open doors for women. It may also be a good idea to help them with putting their coat on or off. When Ukrainians go on a date, a man is expected to pay. Going Dutch is still rare.
Knowing these Ukrainian customs will come in handy when you go on a trip to Ukraine. If you have been here before, you have probably learned them already.
Have you experienced culture shock when visiting Ukraine? Tell us in the comments.
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