1. Toilets in Ukraine are almost always smaller than toilets in America. Perhaps this is to conserve space or money spent on porcelain. Toilets, or “squatters” can sometimes be found in the floor, or even lacking a seat. I have no idea how the babushkas and dadushkas (grandmas & grandpas) can handle this, especially without rails to hold onto. I’ve heard of people on trips actually carrying a seat with them in their bag.
2. Public toilets are much more scarce so good luck finding one, unless you’re in a shopping mall or a restaurant. Somehow this doesn’t seem to present a problem for most people. They must be experts at “holding it”.
3. Often public restrooms can only be used after paying a fee. Sometimes they will give you some paper in exchange for your payment. Don’t waste it!
4. The toilet paper they use is far less fluffy and soft and does not have a hole in the middle for a roller. You can buy American toilet paper there, but typically people stick with the cheaper rougher kind.
5. Water heaters for the shower in Ukraine are usually about half or third the size of water heaters in America.
6. Often a small room for the toilet is seperated from the room where the bathtub is.
7. Many people, in order to save hot water when showering, will turn the water off while lathering up the soap and cleaning themselves, instead of just letting the water run.
8. Sometimes the water will randomly stop working, which is why it is a good idea to keep extra jugs of water stored in the house somewhere. For a hot bath people may boil pots and teapots full of water.
9. Many of the bathtubs are smaller than American bathtubs and often do not have a place to hang your shower hose.
10. Ukrainians do not call their bathrooms “bathrooms” but “туалет”, or “tooalyet”.
1. Usually at the crosswalk you cannot wait for cars to stop. You just have to start walking and expect the cars to stop. This took some getting used to for me especially at the rate of speed people drive. Somehow it doesn’t seem to cause any accidents and people always manage to somehow see you and stop to let you cross.
2. Police do not chase speeders down in cars. They stand on the side of the road and flag people down. Often they are a little out of shape, waving a wand, and puffing a cigarette.
3. On the marshrutkas (buses), although people often tend to squeeze their way through people or don’t like to step to the side to let people pass through, they will gaive up their seats readily for a babushka or a woman with a child. Their culture seems to have a lot of respect for the elderly.
4. Although there is plenty of poverty, drugs, crime, and mafia in Ukraine the amount of violent crimes is relatively low and gang members can not be spotted so easily as they can in America. Everyone tends to look or dress very similarly with not a lot of variation in styles. Although individualism is slowly being seen more and more.
5. If you are an American tourist be careful who you accept help from at train stations, airports, or public places where lots of people are. They may be scammers, thieves, or just looking to charge you extra for being an American. Which may be okay with you since many people are underpaid and just trying to make a living.
6. It’s generally a good rule not to talk too loud on the marshrutka’s either. People are usually very quiet on these rides (for me it sounds like glim and glum communist oppression of the human spirit) and it may upset people if you are a loud free spirited American. I do see signs of this changing as well, but it is small.
7. At any given time of the day, any time of the year, in any part of the city you can look out your window and see people walking. There is always somebody out going somewhere.
8. Far more often than in America you will see couples walking down the street or on the bus holding hands.
9. Cafes are less popular. There are cafes but many people go there to eat or smoke. It is not like a Starbucks in America where people go to read, do homework, have a business meeting, or use wireless internet. I went to a coffee shop once to read and felt like people looked at me like “what in the world are you doing”, it felt incredibly awkward. I do suspect in time this will change as well.
10. Parking is often scarce and people park on the sidewalks. Parking lots are only at a few large stores and most people park along the street, even if they have very nice cars.
11. In Ukraine people pay when they get off the bus instead of when they get on.
1. If your friend or family has a birthday there it is important to try and see if you can be the first one to say happy birthday. The birthday wishes are more than just a simple wish and you will want to be sure and include something that you wish for them, a toast of sorts, speak a word of encouragement, or a blessing upon them.
2. Always take your shoes off at the door and never shake hands over the threshhold as this is considered bad luck.
3. Although Ukraine has been called a “christian nation” (which it is not) during Christmas it is next to impossible to find nativity sets for sale. However, you can find Grandfather Frost decor and red stars everywhere.
4. On New Years everyone buys lots of tangerines, a favorite of my wife’s. I do not know why, and neither does she, it’s just what everyone does.
5. For almost any occasion or holiday it is normal to buy a woman flowers.
6. Christmas trees don’t go up until just before New Years and can be left up for a month or two afterwards. New Years is a bigger holiday than Christmas and some people celebrate them for weeks.
7. At first I thought it was weird when people would always tell me to tell my wife hello. I’m not sure what people would think in the States if someone said this all the time. After awhile I realized it was something many people in Ukraine say, and is a typical and polite way of saying goodbye.
1. The bride and groom are the first to enter the wedding ceremony together.
2. Married couples where there rings on their right hand.
3. When gifts are presented at the banquet people often stand in line to personally present each gift along with an encouraging word, expressing their love, a prayer or a blessing.
4. There is often much more food at the weddings in Ukraine and will sometimes be celebrated for days.
5. Excluding rings and costumes my wife and I spent a total of only $3,000 for a relatively nice wedding!
1. The grocery stores always have someone standing at the door to check your recepit and your bags as they watch for people stealing things.
2. Although most of the grocery stores do not have parking lots, they have replaced these with cubbyhole lockers in the front of the store where you can leave your bag while you sre shopping.
3. The shopping carts are smaller and so is the room between isles in most stores.
4. Most things are packaged differently. Sauces such as ketchup are in foil type pouches and often lie obnoxiously sideways in the refridgerator. Milk comes in cardboard cartons different than America’s.
5. Be prepared to pay for your bags when you check out, which are called “packets” or “pakyet”.
6. Many people work and shop on the street corners or in the public market. You can find good deals here. it may not be the greatest quality but the products are usually sufficient.
7. Imported goods generally cost 30% more to twice as much, such as cars, electronics, or name brand clothes from Europe or America.
8. When purchasing things such as protein or creatine for weight lifting you may get a placebo powder. Be careful who your merchant is. Make-up for women can be fake too with a designer name on it.
9. A store clerk will weigh and bag all your fruits and vegetables. However, on your way out of the store, be prepared to take care of all your own bagging, the great majority of the time.
10. At retail stores which accept visa, be prepared for them to print up two receipts and ask for two signatures and even sign one themselves. God knows why. Perhaps many of them rarely run a visa card.
1. Everything is ordered a la carte on the menu, so if you would like a salad with your meat dish you will have to have two seperate orders delivered on two seperate plates.
2. Make sure the way you order your food is how it is on the menu because generally cafes do not take special orders and don’t really care if this bothers you. A few nicer restaurants will take special orders.
3. Your check will not be brought to you unless you call and ask for it and don’t expect a waiter to come by and ask you if everything is okay with your meal.
4. The portions are usually small compared to America and they are overpriced. They seem a bit delusional as to the quality and portion of the food they are delivering you. (However we have found our favorite restaurants where you can get a good value for your money).
5. The waitresses do not seem to have enough to do much of the time and will sometimes stand and watch you eat like a Russian guard, making things a little bit uncomfortable.
6. Small tips are acceptable. The 20% rule does not apply here and 10 or 20 hryvnas is plenty ($1-3 dollars). If you give more they may just think you are a sucker…or just unordinarily generous.
7. Even the non-smoking sections are often full of smoke. There are lots of smokers in Ukraine.
8. Water is not complimentary. Neither are smiles. :)
9. If you ask for a plastic knife (at McDonald’s) they will grab a napkin before handling it to give it to you. This I like.
10. Pizza’s, mexican food, or sushi has all very many different ingredients then restaurants in America has. It takes trial and error to learn which places serve good dishes. They try to have a European image but fail to delivier in the quality of the dishes, for the most part anyway. The restaurants themselves are usually very nice but with few people in them.
1. Homosexuality is extremely rare in Ukraine and if you went to a village some people there have never even heard of it. My friend said if you told them about it they would think you were making it up. So much for the theory of the homo gene– at least in Ukraine I suppose.
2. The movies, after being translated into Russian and Ukrainian often have less or no cusswords in them. Cussing in movies and pornography was not allowed during the Soviet era and has still influenced the culture somewhat today. This is reason enough for all of you to sell your homes and all your belongings and move your entire family to Ukraine as missionaries!
3. Men’s underwear in ukraine is just terrible! Be sure to bring your own. The quality of socks is not that great either. If you would like to send us some we would love to distribute them to the homeless for you!
4. The cost of living there is far higher than people’s income and people often survive by crowding into flats owned by relatives since the soviet era, or find other ways to make ends meet, such as living in not so nice flats, or eating far less meats and things than Americans typically eat.
5. Many movies and American TV shows can be found on the internet to watch for free on websites such as their Russian version of facebook called “kontakte” which means “contact”, or ex.ua, and others.
6. Kitchens in Ukraine are very small and the rooms are most often built much narrower than in America. When you rent a flat often it already comes filled with old furniture. If you have to buy new furniture, you will have to go new as there are no used furniture stores in Ukraine. People tend to use things until they’re completely all used up.
1. Doctors, teachers, and police are some of the lower paying jobs in Ukraine which leads to lots of bribery and corruption. To help find a good doctor people don’t generally trust ads but go by word of mouth and experiences of friends.
2. Most jobs operate in a shadow economy so often people are paid cash without paying taxes.
3. Sometimes people don’t get paid or have to wait longer than they should in order to get paid. If people find a job making $500/month they think they are making “really good money”!
4. Businesses without a license, which is most businesses in Ukraine, can expect a monthly visit from the mafia to collect payment.
5. The “free market” isn’t exactly free and high import costs keep competition levels lower, selection less wide and lesser quality of products as well.
1. Dental work in Ukraine costs 20-30% what it would in America.
2. Public transportation costs only about 30 cents a ride. However, hang on as the drivers like to whip between other vehicles, have lead feet, and love to push on the brakes hard.
3. High speed internet can be purchased for around 10-15 dollars/month.
4. Unlimited internet for the phone can be purchased for around $15/month although this price fluxuates up and down a few dollars at times so be sure you can read the notifications in Russian via text message.
5. By making a trip to the 7th kilometer market, the largest outdoor market in Europe on the outskirts of Odessa, one can find almost anything among all the important goods they need from china, turkey, and other places, for decent prices.
1. Be prepared to pay way too much for your flat rental or hotel room as they tend to have a perceived value of these places which is way too high.
2. Refrain from accepting a taxi at the airport or the train station. It is far better to call a taxi and ask in Russian what will be the price of the trip before the taxi arrives. They will text you back with the cars description and license plate number.
3. If you are in a hurry to get somewhere you can stand on the side of the road about anywhere and stick your hand out. Within 5 minutes someone will stop and pick you up and you can negotiate a price.
4. Do not carry your wallets in your back pocket, keep your camera strap around your neck, and don’t act afraid of the dogs. If you’re not afraid of them they will leave you alone.
5. Try borsch, olivye, varenyky, deruny, and napolean cake.
6. You might want to visit the Dolphin show, the Eastern Orthodox monastary, the city center, the beach, one of the many outdoor markets, the catacombs, or one of Odessa’s many saunas.
7. If you ride the overnight train, be prepared to share the room with strangers and unless you’re an exceptionally heavy sleeper you probably won’t sleep that well on the loud and bumpy train.
8. Learn to say “Adyessa” instead of “Odessa”.
9. Do not drink the water unless it has been boiled well.
1. Odessa has no freeways so be prepared to spend at least an hour on a bus weaving through the narrow network of streets if you have to go to the other side of town. Unfortunately because of the catacombs they deemed it unsafe to build a subway system.
2. A staple of Odessa humor is to answer a question with a witty question.
3. Odessa is known as the city of humor with it’s own unique Russian accent highly influenced by the Jews who used to live there. This influence is waning as more and more urban people are moving into the cities to find work.
4. Many saunas can be found in Odessa all across the city. Health spas have been here since it’s beginnings.
5. Odessans are not morning people and at 6 AM not many people can be seen out. Definitely no coffee shops are open at this time.
6. The zoo in Odessa is kind of run down. There is a much better zoo in another city a couple hours away.
1. If you’re going to Ukraine, I hope you like sour cream, as they love to eat it with many meals.
2. Bread is often served dry without butter and mashed potatoes without gravy. Do not complain. :)
3. Potatoes are often prepared in many different ways and pickeled vegetables are common. Ukraine has the best pickles I’ve ever tried. Be sure to try the pickled tomatoes too.
4. On the street or in the supermarket you can purchase small expensive bird eggs you poke a small hole in and suck out the yoke, small shrimp you crack and suck out the small piece of meat, salted squid tentacles, or dried fish, a snack equivalent to chips.
5. Kvas is a traditional drink made of black or rye bread.
6. Ukrainians are surprisingly hospitable people and will continue to bring you tray after tray of different items, all of which no human being could possibly eat. If you enjoy pure sliced lard, try the salo with some tea!
7. Tea is a favorite of Ukrainians and they like coffee too, but mot likely the cups they serve it in will be much smaller than you are used to.
1. The favorite sport is soccer and lots of kids are really good at it. And it’s not called soccer it’s called football, but you knew that right?
2. The method of payment for cell phone service can be done at small machines placed throughout town. I am not sure exactly how these phone bills work yet, all I know is it works differently than it does in the U.S. and you pay up front each month. Good thing my wife is in charge of these things.
3. If you are renting a flat you can expect at random for the electricity, the internet, the elevator, or the water to stop working, anywhere from a an hour to a week. Be prepared with candles, internet through your phone, workout pants for the stairs, and back up jugs of water.
4. Warrantys on products can be sketchy as the service centers can be outside of the country. My wife had a Swarovsky ring which was under warranty and a stone fell out. They just told her it was her fault. lol
5. I find it interesting that in almost all the stores and restaurants you can hear English music playing although very few people know what they are actually saying. Of course Ukraine has it’s own stars and musicians as well, but these don’t seem to be heard as often. Sometimes you can hear covers of American songs done with a Russian accent.
6. The methods of teaching and education are much different in Ukraine. I think there, people might actually learn stuff even though there are those who bribe there ways into and through school.
7. The standard size of printing paper used in Ukraine is different. It is slightly narrower and slightly longer. In their notebooks, instead of standard lined paper they have paper with squares.
8. Government offices tend to be somewhat unorganized and inefficient. If you have to go to a tax office or something, be prepared to stand in line way longer than you should have to and it may be multiple lines, often the same line more than once to accomplish one task.
9. In Ukraine laws can be twisted and manipulated, or often changed overnight. It is a very uncertain place to be as far as the laws go. Part of the reason I suppose bribes go so far there.
1. It’s okay if the president has a criminal record and it’s okay to throw the former prime minister in prison.
Read 101 Uniquenesses I noticed in Beautiful Ukraine | Part II