Chapter 18 Ukrainian Culture


  • Sean N. Bennett, RN, MSN - Assistant Professor - Utah Valley University - Orem, Utah
  • Oxana Volkova, RN, BSN - Utah



  • .






The Ukraine is a diverse country in Eastern Europe with a mix of Eastern and Western European traditions and influences. It is the second largest country in Europe. It also shares similar cultures with neighboring countries such as Russia, Poland and Belarus. Ukraine has a wide diversity of the cultures and dialects. Current Western Ukraine composed from parts of former Hungary and Czech Republic, Poland and Russia.The ethnic groups are predominantly Ukrainians, and Russians with Jews, Belorussians, Moldovans, Poles, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Crimean Tatars, Romanians, Greeks, Armenians and Roma (gypsies). These varying groups speak their native languages as well as Ukrainian and/or Russian. Majority of Ukrainians are fluent in Russian and Ukrainian. Western part of the country speaks predominantly Ukrainian and western Ukrainian dialect which is a mix of five languages of neighboring territories. Eastern Ukraine speaks predominantly Russian even though school education taught in Ukrainian since the collapse of USSR. Also, Since the fall of the Soviet Union there has been a resurgence and interest in the traditional Ukrainian culture, art, history and music. The art and literature is an interesting blend of old and new styles as people are interested in pre-Soviet and pre-Russian influences as well as pushing the boundaries of new techniques.

Ukrainians are family oriented people and value their time together. They love to sing and dance and have a long history of folklore. Bright and embroidered blouses for man and women are worn while celebrating holidays. Women wear beaded kokoshnik – an old form of tiara.Ukrainians are very family-oriented with the grandparents living with their children and children’s children. The people are very hospitable and enjoy sharing their homes, food and drink with visitors.

The landscape of the country differs from east to west. Carpathian Mountain touches western part of Ukraine and enriches its soil with minerals. Eastern part is flatter and offers spacious fields that produce wheat, barley and other crops and vegetables. Ukraine is known for its agricultural achievements. Ukrainians also love good food and skilled at cooking. They cook delicious meals not only to celebrate holidays but on the regular basis.When eating at home, they use fresh ingredients to prepare a meal. They eat lots of tomatoes, cucumbers, pepper, lettuce, onions, apples, grapes and peaches grown in the black soil of Ukraine.

Ukrainians somewhat a patriarchal society and the word of a man is usually more valued than opinion of a woman. However, western influence slowly changing this strong tendency. More and more women take leadership positions in politics, business and ect.

Main religion of Ukraine is Christianity. It represented by Orthodox Church which prevails in the east and Greek Catholics in the west. There are also people practicing Roman Catholicism and Islam but those are in minority.

Many celebrations incorporate very old dances and songs that have been passed from generation to generation. One tradition that many of us participate in has roots in the Ukraine: Easter egg coloring. The Ukrainians have been coloring eggs since pre-Christian times. Eggs are seen as the rebirth of nature, new hopes and new life. The symbolism is different but like many ancient practices, egg coloring also has been given a Christian meaning. The colors and styles all have special meanings. They are usually made from chicken eggs but duck or goose eggs can be used. Sometimes they are hand carved out of wood then hand painted.

Values and Norms


The values and norms of life are the foundations of a national culture. Ukrainians value relationships, hospitality and traditional gender roles.

They are traditionally family oriented people. It is very common for parents and grandparents to live together with their children and grandchildren and help them to raise their kids. This tradition was and still is a necessity in some parts of Ukraine due to financial situation in the country. Therefore, grandparents play a great role in raising children. There is a popular saying: “Children are our future”. Sometime they may sound overprotective but they do try their best to bring the children up as decent people.

Ukrainians are well known for their hospitality. They love to invite people in their home or visit at their family or friends. Traditionally Ukrainian customs are to put the best food they have on a table for their guests. However, Ukrainian parties are not just about food, it is a long process with plenty of homemade food, drinking juices and wine, saying toasts and having meaningful conversations.Ukrainians are generous with food and drink but be careful of table manners. The oldest and most honored guest begins eating. Keep your hands visible at all time with wrists on the table. The knife is held in the right had for cutting and the left hand holds the fork for eating. A guest should try every dish or otherwise would seem rude.

It is customary to bring a gift when visiting a home. Flowers, odd numbers only, are a great gift or wine or vodka. Many people will have the visitors remove their shoes to keep the home clean. Ukrainians are curious people and ask many questions that may feel very personal. They enjoy talking and getting to know people.

Also, feminism is very foreign mentality to Ukraine. The typical custom for the older generation is for wife to do cleaning and cooking, while the husband manages the “technical jobs”. However, it is changing for the younger generation and now both commonly work around the house sharing responsibilities. Despite that and some other influences of the west Ukrainian women appreciate chivalry. Ukrainian genders absolutely aware that women are strong enough and capable of doing thing men do however, women welcome men’s attempts to offer a seat in a public transport, to carry heavy luggage, to open doors, to give a hand when getting out of the car or even out of the bus. Women on other hand try to look feminine and to look good for themselves and their man. They dress up even to go to the store and it is normal to see female students on high heels in a classroom or running to catch a bus. They embrace their femininity with grace in any circumstances.

Ukrainian men greet each other with a warm handshake with direct eye contact and sometimes a brief hug with a pat on the back. Women friends kiss each other three times on the cheek in greeting. When meeting for the first time, a person’s whole names is repeated. Names are comprised of three parts: a Christian name, a patronymic and a surname. The patronymic for men is –vich or ovich, women –avna, -ovna, or ivna. If the father’s Christian name is Petro, his sons would carry the patronymic of Petrovich and his daughters Petrovna. It is customary to use professional titles when a person has one.

There are a few taboos in the Ukraine. For example, making a fist with the thumb between the middle and index fingers is an obscene gesture. Pointing with one finger is impolite, better to point with the whole hand. Also, it is very bad manners to sit on the floor, ground or stairs. Walking on grass is in public spaces is frowned upon especially if flowers are growing there. (Links to an external site.)

Traditions, Beliefs and Attitudes


Ukrainian customs and traditions were created through years of history, experience, holidays and folklore. Every new generation has added to the traditions and created their own versions of holidays and customs. For example: sitting or lying on the floor in public places considered inappropriate. Eating in the classroom during a lecture or eating something without offering to your neighbors and sharing your food is considered rude.

To understand any traditions in any culture one has to remember a few points:

~Customs and traditions differ throughout Ukraine. There are major cultural differences between city and village, Eastern and Western Ukraine

~Some will find that certain Ukrainian customs are compatible with their own. However, others might be perceived as irrational and perplexing. Those are neither “good” nor “bad”; they are just belong to another culture and are therefore different.

~People on the streets don’t typically smile too much. However, Ukrainians are masters at forming warm informal relationships with even strangers.

~Ukrainians are more expressive with their emotions than majority of western countries. Whether emotions are positive or negative they are expressed openly and honestly.

Ukrainians also believe in some superstitions. Superstitions are some of the oldest and most well known beliefs in the world. One has to remember that for hundreds of years the Orthodox Church in Ukraine coexisted beautifully with the ancient Pagan traditions. Superstitions are part of the Ukrainian cultural heritage. That’s why elements of mysticism and irrationality might be a noticeable part of Ukrainian mentality. Most of them are rooted in the culture and may touch any aspect of daily life. Some of the most known are black cat, lucky horseshoes, broken mirrors, scattered salt, Friday the 13th, etc. Some of less known outside of Ukraine are:

~Never shake hands, give keys or anything else in a doorway. It may bring misfortune to your guests.

~Never leave an empty bottle on the table, also if it is open, drink it up.

~If you sit between two people with the same name it will bring you luck.

~Don’t be alarmed when somebody spits or pretend to spit over his left shoulder or sits on his luggage before going on a trip.

Everyone knows them and jokes about them. However, many who say that they don’t believe in these superstitions still try to avoid breaking them. They don’t want tempt fate just in case. Also, most people believe and love God, but try not to make the devil angry either. Just in case. http:/ ,

Weddings are joyous occasions and cause for celebration. The Ukrainians are no different in desire to celebrate but their traditions are. Long before the actual ceremony a man asks the father for the bride’s hand. However, in Ukraine it is not just the prospective groom that comes to the woman’s father’s home, it a group of the man’s friends and his own parents. If the woman says yes, the pair’s parents start making arrangements.

On the actual wedding day, the groom, in a heavily decorated car, picks up the bride. The bride’s mother tosses seeds for well-being, rose petals for health and prosperity and coins for financial stability over the happy couple. They then go to the registry office for the official civil service when the couple is officially married. They say vows and are congratulated by the family. Then they are off to the church for a blessing of the union by the priest.

The reception is full of eating, drinking and dancing with many toasts to the new couple like at Western receptions except for a few events. The groom attests his devotion to his mother-in-law and gives her new boots. At some point during the party, the bride is “stolen.” In order to get her back, he must pay a ransom of several hundred hryvina for her shoes and even more for the bride herself. The crowd will shout “Gorka!” at the couple or at the best man and maid of honor and they are then expected to kiss their respective partners in front of the whole crowd.

As the party is winding down, the final dance is a waltz performed by the bride and the unmarried young women signifying that all deserve to find love, happiness and a family. The bride tosses the bouquet over her left shoulder. Her mother will then lift the veil off the bride and put a traditional scarf on her head, and then the bride is officially a married woman.



Ukrainians were originally a pagan nation of idol worshippers. In 988 AD, Zar Vladimir the Great of Kiev accepted Orthodox Christianity and brought the entire country under the influence of the Byzantine Empire. The period was characterized by mass baptisms, when many of the Zar’s subjects converted to Christianity. Despite changes over the past 1000 years, Ukrainian Orthodox Christianity remains the main religion of Ukraine today, with some 70% of Ukrainians still claiming to belong to this faith. One of the most outstanding accomplishments of Ukrainian Orthodox Christians was that they converted scripture and the liturgy into Slavonic which made it more accessible to the people. Today many Ukrainians own a Bible which they may have read from time to time, but many still struggle to understand it since few have taken the time to explain what is written in its pages. In addition to the lack of understanding, Communist atheism has had a strong effect of the people of Ukraine. 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, however, a lot of people still claim atheism.

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. There are also some Muslims (i.e. Crimean Tatars) as well as followers of other religions. There are also more than 11,000 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Ukraine, one stake and one Temple in Kiev, the capitol.

The religious climate of Ukraine in this century is one of tolerance for those of other faiths. That fact has not always been the case. At various times in the history of Ukraine have different religious groups been targeted. The Jews and the Muslims had previously had large populations in Ukraine but are both less than a percent of the people.

Jews in Ukraine have been in Kyiv and the surrounding areas since the 8th century and had enjoyed acceptance and flourished under Polish rule in the 10-16th centuries. With the accession of Bohdan Khmelnytsky in 1648, the beginning of pograms and other religious persecution was instituted. These pograms continued through the 20th century. The Nazis during World War II, nearly exterminated the Ukrainian Jews with mass killings and removal of Jews to concentration camps. Nearly one million Jews left Ukraine for other parts of the Soviet Union. Since WWII, many Jews have immigrated to other parts of the world including the United States and Israel. There are concentrated communities of Jews in the large cities. The World Jewish Congress states Ukraine has the fifth largest Jewish community in the world (2014).

The Muslims in Ukraine have not fared well either. The Crimean Tatars were descended from the Turkish nomads who settled in the area around the 7th century. These Sunni Muslims fell under the control of the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire’s chief adversary. Since the Tatars were collaborating with the enemy they were ruthlessly persecuted and forced to exile. Later during World War II, Stalin accused the Tatars of colluding with the Nazis and forced a mass deportation of the people to Uzbek SSR and other far flung destinations. The numbers of ethnic Tatars has dwindled but the numbers of Muslims in Ukraine are on the rise. According to the Religious Information Service of Ukraine,, there are approximately 2 million Muslims in the country (2013).

Religion in Ukraine. (n.d.) Russia-Ukraine-Travel. Retrieved from

Ukraine. (n.d.). World Jewish Congress. Retrieved from

Ukrainian Muslims: Problem Resolved? (2013, July 10). Religious Information Service of Ukraine. Retrieved from

Sense of Self and Space


Ukrainians make closer physical contact when they converse with each other. It is considered rude to speak loudly in public. Therefore, Ukrainians tend to stay closer to each other when talk and they do so in a lower voice than Americans. A pat on shoulder or a hug is the acceptable norm of communication among friends or close acquaintances. There is definitely a difference between rural areas and cities in the personal space perception. People speaking on the street in the city stand much closer to each other then the same people would stand in the rural area.

Eye contact is less important than in American culture and it is considered rude to keep staring at someone unless you are talking to that person. At the same time, like in America, 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 Americans 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. Putting a thumb between a pointer finger and a middle finger considered very rude but not vulgar in comparison to the American middle finger.

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. Therefore, you would see less smiling faces on the street and from passing by strangers. It is not a sign of their unfriendliness it is just a part of the cultural norm. When you stop to talk to any Ukrainian they will smile at you and will invite to their home complete strangers.

Ukraine has only recently gained independence but the sense of Ukrainian identity had been challenged throughout history. Many Ukrainians are divided over what their national identity means. The struggle can be simplified to an East vs. West dilemma. Some Western Ukrainians desire to be aligned with the European Union and belong to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Western Ukraine for much of pre-Soviet history was dominated by Poland and its interests. On the other hand, Eastern Ukrainians identify with Russian politics and concerns (Bishop 2014)

The nation of Ukraine was united in 1919 and did not have much time to figure who it was as a country before being engulfed by the USSR in 1921 (BBC, 2014). When the Soviet Union fell in the 1990s, Ukraine struggled with who they were as a nation (Bishop). Many Ukrainians feel that they are being dragged back into the Russian sphere of influence but do not want to be allied with Russia anymore (Marples, 2011). Again it comes down to an East vs. West problem. Russia had many vested interests in Ukraine because of its vast natural resources like iron, titanium, coal and oil and Ukraine had been the ‘bread basket of USSR’ (Bishop).

Bishop, Leana. (2014, February 3) Ukraine Protests: Self-Determination and Identity. Retrieved from (Links to an external site.) Marples, David. (2011, April 20). A Crisis of Self-Identity. Retrieved from

Ukraine profile (2014, September 3). BBC news Europre. Retrieved from

Communication Style and Language


Foreigners often comment that Ukrainians usually do not smile in public. In fact loud talking and smiling to strangers usually indicates the person is a westerner. However, in personal and professional relations Ukrainian see themselves very direct, open and straight forward. They let their emotions be known to those concerned.

Public displays of affection, anger or other emotions are more common than in America or in western worlds. Those are generally acceptable if they do not involve rude gestures or/and using physical force against another person.

Ukrainian men greet each other with a warm handshake with direct eye contact and sometimes a brief hug with a pat on the back. Women friends kiss each other three times on the cheek in greeting. When meeting for the first time, a person’s whole names is repeated. Names are comprised of three parts: a Christian name, a patronymic and a surname. The patronymic for men is –vich or ovich, women –avna, -ovna, or ivna. If the father’s Christian name is Petro, his sons would carry the patronymic of Petrovich and his daughters Petrovna. It is customary to use professional titles when a person has one.

Ukrainian is an Eastern Slavic language and the official language of Ukraine. It is spoken by about 51 million people in Ukraine and around the world (, n.d.) Written Ukrainian uses a variation of the Cyrillic alphabet that is similar to Russian but has a few different letters.

The Ukrainian language traces its origins to the Old East Slavic Group of languages of the early medieval state of Kievskaya Rus'. In the thirteenth century when Ukraine was incorporated in the Duchy of Lithunia and Ruthenia, Ruthenian was the principle language. It is the predecessor of Ukrainian and Belarusian.

From 1804 until Russian Revolution Eastern Ukraine was a part of Russian Empire and Ukrainian language was discouraged. In 1876, by imperial decree, the printing or importing of books in Ukrainian was forbidden. In fact, many Russians felt Ukrainian was a dialect of Russian as opposed to a true distinct language. ( Then in the 1920s and 1930s, Stalin renewed the effort to extinguish Ukrainian by purging dictionaries and encourage Russification of the language (Peterson, 2014). Linguists also differ in their opinion on Ukrainian and Russian. Western linguists consider the languages separate, while Russian linguists consider Ukrainian a dialect of Russian. There is a 38% difference lexicon difference, which is greater than the difference of Spanish and Italian (Peterson, 2014).

However, despite active discouragement the Ukrainian language has continued to exist and be used by Ukrainians. There was a renewed interest in Ukrainian poetry and historiography as well. It has always maintained a sufficient base among the Ukrainian people in its folklore songs, travelling musicians, and prominent authors. Western Ukraine always kept speaking Ukrainian. Moreover, because the borders of Ukraine kept changing through the history Western Ukraine, Zakarpattya or Transkarpathia, the people speak Zakarpatskii which is a mix of 5 other languages closely related to Ukrainian. “Lexically, the closest to Ukrainian is Belarusian (84% of common vocabulary), followed by Polish (70%), Serbo-Croatian (68%),Slovak (66%) and Russian (62%). (Languages of Europe).

Today, Ukrainian is the only official language of Ukraine. However, a lot of people in Eastern Ukraine still speak Russian. Many people in Ukraine speak a mixture of Ukrainian and Russian called surzhyk. Even though schools and colleges are taught in Ukrainian, Russian is equally prevalent (popular). It is common to see two people conversing on the street one of them speaks Ukrainian while the other answers him in Russian. While engaged in the conversation both might not realize they converse in different languages. ~Мови Європи: відстані між мовами за словниковим складом (Languages of Europe: distances according to the vocabulary composition).

Even with the differing views on Ukrainian, when Prime Minister Victor Yuchenko met with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the men needed a translator since PM Yuchenko spoke Ukrainian and PM Putin did not. (Peterson, 2014).

Peterson, Britt, (2014). The long war over the Ukrainian language. Retrieved from (Links to an external site.)

Food and Feeding Habits


Ukrainians are very hospitable and generous when it comes to feeding their guests. Moreover, Ukrainian women love and know how to cook. It is accustomed in Ukraine almost in every family to cook all the food (from the first to the third course). So, if visiting be prepared to eat a lot and try not to refuse a second helping of anything when you are invited to dinner. Otherwise, hostesses might think you shun their hospitality and dislike their food and efforts put towards cooking it. Also, many employees and including office workers bring homemade food to work to consume it during the lunch time. Ukrainians go the restaurants usually for two reasons. First, during a lunch time: not everybody has the time or desire to commit to cooking in the afternoon or morning and taking the meal to the job. Second, it is families who go out on weekends and the youth. They go just for fun. However, it’s more an occasion rather than the rule.

Ukrainian cuisine runs the whole gamut of dishes - from the very tasty to the exotic. The most traditional of Ukrainian dishes are Salo or Pig's fat with garlic, Borshch or beet soup, Vareniki or the Ukrainian version of Ravioli, Nalisniki or pancakes, and Golubsti or cabbage rolls.

Salo is one of the most favorite snacks at almost every meal. It can be smoked, spiced with garlic, paper and paprika and so on. It is usually eaten in thin slices on a piece of wheat brown bread with a main dish. Current trend is salo in chocolate but it is losing its popularity.

As to the Ukrainian drinking habits many Ukrainian men drink a lot. Most Ukrainian men prefer vine which especially in Western Ukraine they make themselves although vodka is very popular as well.

Traditions of Ukrainian cuisine and modern customs of Ukrainian diet

Things To Know About Ukrainian Eating And Drinking Culture

Breakfast is usually a light meal consisting of bread and butter with coffee or tea, sometimes pastries. Occasionally kasha is served for breakfast. Kasha is a hot cereal made with buckwheat, barley or millet and milk. The main meal of the day is eaten in the early afternoon and consists of borsch and a meat or poultry dish. The final meal of the day is eaten in the evening when the family dines together. (Ukraine, n.d.) Food is strongly linked to holidays with special dishes for each holiday. Easter and Christmas are the two main holidays in the Christian dominated country. For Christmas Eve dinner there are twelve dishes to signify the twelve apostles who were at the Last Supper. There are combinations of meat and fish dishes, as well as borshch. Kutya (similar to kasha), mushrooms, cabbage rolls, dumplings, fruit, cakes, traditionally a poppy seed cake, and xleb (bread) round out the menu (Ukraine).

For Easter, there are distinct food traditions as well. Breakfast foods like hard boiled eggs, kovbasa (sausage), baked cheese, breads, butter, and relish are placed in a basket to be taken to church where they are blessed then later eaten. The Easter dinner, ham or roast pork is eaten accompanied by vegetable salads, cheesecake, tortes and other pastries (Ukraine). Borshch is like the national dish of Ukraine. This dish takes on the tastes and region of the maker. The ingredients can range into the double digits and include cabbage, carrots, beets, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet peppers, eggplants, beans, pumpkin, squash, parsley and parsnips. The list doesn’t end there. The maker can include a variety of meats, poultry or fish. Traditionally the color of borshch is red from the beets and tomatoes but cooks are experimenting by making “white borshch” and “green borsch” and varying the ingredients. As many cooks who make the dish that is the varieties one can find. (Aha! Borscht) As to the Ukrainian drinking habits many Ukrainian men drink a lot. Most Ukrainian men prefer vine which especially in Western Ukraine they make themselves although vodka is very popular as well.

Suprunenko, V. (n.d.) Aha, Borscht! Oho, Varenyky! Retrieved from Traditions of Ukrainian cuisine and modern customs of Ukrainian diet. Retrieved from Things To Know About Ukrainian Eating And Drinking Culture. Retrieved from Ukraine (n.d.) Retrieved from

Time Consciousness


Ukrainians are somewhat time conscious. There is definitely a difference between rural and urban areas. In Kiev, the capitol time is something people are more aware of. Even though 5-10 minutes here and there probably is allowed. It also depends on work ethics accepted by the company each person works for. However, most of the population is totally ok with 5-10-15 minutes lateness. If that became habitual coworkers openly complain and confront each other and usually the situation changes. In personal life the same time consciousness applies. However, instead of 5-15 minutes can be 10-40 minutes. People are aware of it and negotiate it with each other frankly and often. Foreigners and businessmen have to be aware of that and try to confirm their plans with anyone from Ukraine so there will be less misunderstanding.

In Ukraine, the public and government follow the Gregorian calendar. However the Orthodox Church follows the Julian calendar to figure the dates of religious celebration days.

The Julian calendar is based on the old Roman calendar. The Julian calendar is about two weeks behind the Gregorian calendar, so religious holidays are celebrated on different dates. For example, Christmas in the West is celebrated on December 25 but in Ukraine and other places Christmas is celebrated on January 7. Government holidays and bank holidays follow the Gregorian calendar. (Holidays in Ukraine)

Traditionally, reckoning of time was by the sun and seasons it affected. Spring and the beginning of the growing season was a celebration that included the Feast of the 40 Martyrs, the release of animals to pasture on Saint George’s Day, ritual sowing during Lent, and the celebration of Easter. Winter was burned or drowned in effigy prior to Lent. (Mushynka, 1993)

The Kupalo festival is Ukraine’s version of Midsummer. Kupalo was the god of love and the harvest and the personification of the earth’s fertility. It is a mystical, magical time when trees and plants talked, witches gathered. Plants and herbs gathered on this night were believed to retain mystical powers through the year. An important part of the celebration was the feast which included eggs, varenyky, and liquor. Games were played and songs were sung. (Mushynka, 1993)

The beginning of the harvest had its own special rituals and prayer before commencing with the actual labor. In pre-Christian times the first harvest day started with a specific incantation. In later times, it started with a prayer. The eldest man in the village opened the harvest and kept the first sheaf was kept in his home until harvest was completed. After the last of the grain was cut, there would be a procession around the field. The last sheaf would go to the town elder and a feast would begin. The feast would include games and songs. (Kravstiv, 1988)

Holidays in Ukraine (n.d.) Retrieved from

Kravstiv, B. (1988) Harvest Rituals. Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol 2. Retrieved from to an external site.)

Mushynka, M. (1993) Kupalo festival. Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol 2.Retrieved from

Mushynka, M (1993) Spring rituals. Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol 4.Retrieved from

Relationships and Social Organization


Ukraine traditions of social behavior don't differ too much from Western standards. An average Ukrainian perceives the world around him in a way an average Westerner does.

They have similar life and family values: honor, loyalty, faith, education, respect for elderly and so on.

Ukrainian family life is based on dependence in parts due to the financial need. Majority of families live in apartments in the cities and in the houses in the rural areas. There are up to three generations in a 700 square foot living space due to the housing shortages common in the larger cities (Ukraine). Family members take care of one another sharing expenses. Because of the expense of having and raising children, many couples choose to have one or two children, if any at all. (Ukrainian lifestyle, 2008) A parent cares for a child and then the roles switch. Grandparents take care of grandkids during the day while mothers are away at work. The limited amount of space [makes] calls for tolerance and patience but many time leads to family dysfunction (Ukraine). Though couples usually get married young (between ages 18-25), infidelity and divorce rates are high, leaving mothers, parents and grandparents to do most of the rearing of the children. The Ukrainian Catholic Church does not grant divorces and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church discourages divorce,

Ukrainian families extend to a larger group called kin groups. These groups include cousins, aunts, uncles, godparents and other friends that are close to the family. These kin groups get together for family celebrations, feast days, marriages, baptisms and funerals.(Ukraine)

The Ukrainians are outgoing people who will often gather in cafes or street markets to socialize. A common practice is for friends to visit each other at home to spend some time chatting over tea. As Ukraine is a largely rural nation, most Ukrainians live in small farm towns. There are relatively few large cities, which are generally not very sophisticated by western standards. Therefore, most Ukrainians feel most at home in a rural or small town setting.

Ukrainians might seem a bit cold and reticent at first glance especially in the big cities. This is because of the genuiness of emotion expressed by Ukrainians. There is no smiling for the sake of smiling in Ukraine. (Ukraine Customs and Etiquette) Foreigners are usually confused not seeing smiling faces around. Perhaps due to the difficulties of daily living, as a basic custom derived from decades of tragedy, Ukrainians don’t greet passing by strangers with a smile or call attention to themselves. (Ukraine) Also, unless they really want to hear your answer none of them would say: "Nice to meet you. How are you doing?” However, very soon after people are introduced it’s common for people to invite each other to their home, where they will put on the table their best food, striving to impress guests with a great variety of prepared dishes.

Pristinskays, Marina. (2008). Ukrainian Lifestyle. Retrieved from

Ukraine. Retrieved from

Ukrain Customs and Etiquette. Retrieved from

Education and Learning


There is 99% Literacy in Ukraine. 11 years of schooling is mandatory. School and university instruction in Ukraine is quite a bit different from the United States. Schooling starts with preschool or nursery school available to children 6 months to 3 years. Then at age 3 the student starts kindergarten which lasts for three years. Secondary education starts at age 6 with elementary, progressing to lower secondary and finishes with upper secondary at grade 9. The student then gets an Attestat (like a certificate) of Incomplete Secondary Education which is required to continue in the system. The next two levels of Upper Secondary education is divided into three focuses: general education, vocational-technical schools, or specialised studies. Completion of one of these is required for entrance into university.

The student can then choose to enter a vocational school for further training, a technical lyceum (similiar to a trade school), or university. The different schools train and educate students for different careers. The university instructs students in various areas of emphasis where students can earn a bachelor's degree. There is further opportunity for additional education including doctorate degrees.

The objective of general schooling is to give younger students knowledge of the arts and sciences, and teach them how to use it practically.The middle school curriculum includes classes in the Ukrainian language, Ukrainian Literature, a foreign language, world literature, Ukrainian History, world history, geography, algebra, geometry, biology, chemistry, physics, physical education, music and art. At some schools, students also take environment and civics classes. Students attend each class only once or twice a week, however. Part of the school day is also spent in activities such as chess, karate, putting on plays, learning folktales and folk songs, choir and band. (Kummer, Patricia. Ukraine: Enchantment of the World)

The government funds many of the nursery schools and the primary schools in Ukraine.There are also provisions for special needs education and for orphans. The higher education is no longer free but students receive financial aid that covers most of the costs. (Oseas Europe) from

There is great attention is paid to science and education. There is a National Academy of Science of Ukraine, 1400 scientific-research institutes, 1009 higher-educational establishments in the country with 2.4 million students, among them 27 000 foreign citizens from 130 countries of the world.(Retrieved from Ukraine has a Ministry of Education and Science that regulates the licensure of learning institutions and awarding of degrees.

Teachers are seen as authority figures and rarely "pal around" with their students, but generally remain somewhat distant and stern. Students are given more material to learn and with significantly less hands-on practice than in the States. Ukrainian schools used to foster the ability to fit in to the system and not stick out, leftovers of the Soviet regime. Good behavior in schools is strictly enforced—no rowdiness and disobedience here! Nonetheless, cheating and other forms of "cooperation" are largely ignored and actually fostered by the system. Teachers rewarded poorly for the work they do by the government and therefore, accepting presents at the end of the year though primary to high school level is almost a tradition and is expected. In college presents turn more into bribes before the exams and for the graduation. Usually, it is done by the whole group or class and everyone is well aware of what’s going on.

Despite all of the above I can attest that Ukrainian education produces high quality professionals and intellectual individuals. As someone who earned a bachelor degree in Russia (which is very similar to Ukraine) and spent years studying in the USA I never studied as hard and as long for a test in USA as I did in Russia.

Russian as well as Ukrainian system doesn’t give an option of multiple choice. All of the exams were written as well as oral and most of them were comprehensive. When it is your turn to take a test, you take your “ticket” there you find 3-5 questions from different topics that you have learned before. You have 10-15 minutes to prepare and you can put something down on a piece of paper provided. Cheating is not allowed also widely attempted. When it is your turn to come to the teacher and report you have to know and tell the instructor about each topic. Instructor can and will ask you additional questions regarding topics on your “ticket”. You have to know the material for that kind of exam. Guessing as in multiple choice just won’t do it.

Work Habits and Practices


The last decade of the 20th century and the first few years of the 21st Ukraine have witnessed transition of economic system more rapid than at any previous period in history. Ukraine as many other nations that were a part of the Soviet Union with its planned economic system suddenly became independent. Ukraine and its people had the freedom to establish their own economic system and most of them didn’t know how to deal with it. Its transition has been difficult and is still incomplete. Despite the fact that economic growth has averaged an impressive 9% a year since 2000, more than one-third of the Ukrainian population lives below the international poverty line of $2/day (as off 1993 international prices). (Journal of Business Ethics, 2005)

Until recently Ukrainians didn’t have the concept of "working your way from rags to riches" or creating wealth through "good-old honest hard work." This seems to be a hold-over from the Soviet Union, where one did not "buy" an apartment; one "got" an apartment (after years of being on a waiting list). In the USSR one's wealth depended on how close one's connections were to centralized power structures. One of the main reasons for this distrust of the rich is that just 15 or 20 years ago everyone in the Soviet Union had essentially the same amount of wealth. Since the government controlled most assets, bureaucrats who managed these assets used their connections to sell off national assets and pocket the money.

Financial literacy is generally quite low even among intellectuals. When ordinary Ukrainians start making decent money, they tend to "waste" it on friends and relatives rather than hold on to it to build personal wealth. These Ukrainians generally do not have savings other than the proverbial stash of dollars in a jar, since people are suspicious of banks after inflation devoured their life savings in the early 90s. Their financial security is instead a network of relatives and friends whom they borrow from or lend money to freely.

Relationships between Ukrainians at work tend to be somewhat warmer and more openly emotional than in western countries where distance and formality are the norm. Employees usually celebrate their birthdays at work by treating coworkers to chocolates, champagne, cake, or even more elaborate buffets, and companies often allot money to be spent on birthday gifts for employees. Olena Vynoslavska, Joseph A. McKinney, Carlos W. Moore, Justin G. Longenecker;Journal of Business Ethics October 2005, Volume 61, Issue 3, pp 283-299 Transition Ethics: A Comparison of Ukrainian and United States Business Professionals

Ukrainian businesspeople are generally less formal than in many other countries. Firmly shake hands with everyone upon arriving and leaving and maintain eye contact. It is common to repeat your name while shaking hands. Academic and professional titles are commonly used with the surname. If someone does not have an academic or professional title, use the honorific "Pan" for a man and "Pani" for a woman with the surname. Most business colleagues refer to each other by first name and patronymic. (Middle name which is a version of the father’s first name formed by adding "-vich" or "-ovich" for a male and "-avna", "-ovna", or "ivna" for a female.) When using someone's complete name, including the patronymic, the honorific title is not used. The way someone is addressed often depends upon the situation. Titles and surnames are used in meetings and may give way to first names or diminutives in social situations. Business cards are exchanged without ritual. Have one side of your business card translated into Ukrainian. Include advanced university degrees on your business card. Present your card so the Ukrainian side faces the recipient. If someone does not have a business card, note the information in your appointment book or portfolio.

Although direct communication is valued in the Ukraine, there is also an emphasis placed on delivering information in a sensitive manner. Often, the level of the relationship will determine how direct someone is. Obviously the newer a relationship, the more cautious people will be. Once a relationship has developed, people will then feel more comfortable speaking frankly.

Meeting schedules are not very rigid in the Ukraine. There may be an agenda, but it serves as a guideline for the discussion and acts as a springboard to other related business ideas. As relationships are highly important in this culture, there may be some time in the meeting devoted to non-business discussions. Engage in small talk and wait for the other party to change the subject to business. ( (Links to an external site.))



Healthcare system in Ukraine is in a transitional stage of continuous improvement. The healthcare in Ukraine is funded by the government although more and more private options are available. In the recent years after the collapse of communism and separation from USSR the mortality rate in Ukraine increased significantly and the birthrate declined. (PRB, 2013)

Even though healthcare funded by the government hospitals and clinics struggle financially and it’s noticeable to westerners who visit. Even though there is certain standard that is required hospitals are dirty and care provided is low due to small salaries and therefore stuff shortages. Salaries of medical professionals are so low that medical personal don’t mind backhanders. Doctors don’t charge additional fees but if a patient wants the surgery scheduled sooner or just trying to please the doctor so he will do his best during the surgery bribery takes place. That fact does not imply that doctors and medical personal incompetent, lazy or dishonest but signifies that they are overworked, overwhelmed and underpaid.Ukraine is 50,000 doctors short, and the heath service suffers from a lack of funding and the deterioration of its material and technical base. ( Emergency rooms open all year around and provide good quality care however, bribery sometime applicable there as well. Private clinics are few and are very close to the western standards. However, cost is so expensive compared to the average salaries that only a few people can afford it.

There are many pharmacies throughout the country and at least one in the area open 24/7. Despite that almost no medications require prescriptions except strong narcotics the population do not overdose themselves on antibiotics. Most strongly believe in home remedies and prefer to use them partly because of the financial reasons.

Medical tourism is growing rapidly in Ukraine, especially in the capital Kiev, where you can discover a fascinating city full of sights to make a trip of your treatment. In the Black Sea resorts, you can combine treatments with rejuvenating mineral spas, mud baths and traditional sauna-like Russian baths. Combine this with the relaxing scenery of the Crimea and the fresh air of the coast and there are many advantages of traveling to Ukraine for private healthcare.

In 2011, the Ukrainian government announced that healthcare reform would start in 2014. The changes would be based on pilot projects carried out in the cities of Vinnytsia, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk and Kyiv.According to Oleksander Anischenko, the Ukraine's Health Minister, the Health Ministry drafted two more bills aimed at reforming the healthcare system, in particular, on the principles of work of medical institutions and on the formation of a unified state emergency medical service, which were submitted to the government.

According to the law, medical aid is free of charge. It is provided using budget funds by healthcare establishments and doctors that carry out economic activity on medical practice as individuals-entrepreneurs with whom agreements on the service of rendering free aid were signed.

The law classifies medical aid as emergency, first, secondary, specialized, tertiary, and highly specialized.

In order to ensure proper quality and the availability of free secondary medical aid, as well as the efficient use of resources in the healthcare system, the law envisages the creation of hospital districts, the procedure for the creation of which is defined by the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers.

Earlier President Viktor Yanukovych has said that healthcare reform is a priority in public policy, and added that the state will always seek to protect maternity and childhood. (

See Also



External Links







  1. 1. Traditions of Ukrainian cuisine and modern customs of Ukrainian diet
  2. 2. Things To Know About Ukrainian Eating And Drinking Culture
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  12. 12. Мови Європи: відстані між мовами за словниковим складом (Languages of Europe: distances according to the vocabulary composition). Olena Vynoslavska, Joseph A. McKinney, Carlos W. Moore, Justin G. Longenecker. Transition Ethics: A Comparison of Ukrainian and United States Business Professionals. Journal of Business Ethics.October 2005, Volume 61, Issue 3, pp 283-299