Tag: Ukrainian Traditions

101 Uniquenesses I Noticed in Beautiful Ukraine | Part II


1. Emoticons are typed differently in Ukraine.  Instead of a smiley face like so: :), you will see them like this: ))).  The bigger the smile, the more of those: ))))))))))))))))))))).  And of course the same goes for the opposite sad face ((((((((((((((((((.

2. Ukrainians and Russians have their own version of Facebook called Vkontkte.  It means Contact.  People can have all kinds of music and movies uploaded on their accounts.

3. It’s a lot easier and a lot more regular for people to take things illegally on the internet including music, movies, books, software, etc.

Body Art

1. Tattoos are not near as commonplace in Ukraine.  Usually if you have a tattoo it means you were in prison.  Each tattoo means something, prison tats that is.

2. Body piercings are much less frequently seen here as well.


1. The public buses do not have an electric strip or a cord to pull to chime a bell.  You must walk to the front of the bus and tell the driver where you would like to stop.  Or, if the bus is packed full of people you must pass your fair up through the crowd.   People are extremely cooperative with this in Odessa.

2. To make the bus stop you must hold out your hand.  They won’t just stop because it’s a bus stop.

3. Sometimes there’s no bus stop, or at least a sign that there’s one.  Ukrainians often know the route and seem to instincively know where to catch the buses.

4. Buses in Ukraine are much smaller than the ones in the States.  They can get pretty crowded at times.

5. The bus drivers are pretty crazy.  One guy I know calls it surfing.  Often all the seats are taken and you will have to stand, hold on, and keep your balance.  Watch out for screaking sudden stops.

6. Previously the Odessa airport had no arrival or departure signs.  Well, a new update — they just had em put in!

7. Trains have departments where people can all sleep in open rooms with other people.  It gets quite hot and uncomfortable and there is little privacy.

8. The trains are all pretty old.  I think they have ridden them until the wheels fell off and then just put on some new wheels.

9. A few weeks ago our friend Mark had the front of his van hit buy four policemen out of uniform at 50 MPH, racing four policemen in uniform.

10. Odessa has lots of narrow streets and no freeways. It is a city of over 1 million people and it hugs the curve of the sea, so if you want to go to the other side of town it takes forever!

11. They cannot build a desperately needed underground subway in Odessa because of the endless paths of catacombs.

12. Instead of a fire extinguisher on the trams you will find boxes full of sand for putting out fires.

13. On the airplanes they give you a white papercloth for your head. Why didn’t we think of that?


1. You will not find paper toilet seat covers in the public restrooms. I had grown so accustomed to this. Guess us Americans are spoiled.

2. Like many places in Europe you will sometimes have seperate small rooms for the sink and the toilet.

3. Sometimes public restrooms will not even have a seat.  I’ve even heard stories of people carrying them with them on trips.

Having Babies

1. Often when people are having children they have to travel to their hometown where they have their names registered at the hospital.  It is quite a time consuming ordeal.

2. Due to the low birth rate in Ukraine, when people have a baby they are paid a good amount of money.  I am not sure of the exact amount, but after a month after birth you will be given 1 or 2,000 dollars.  I believe for each child this number increases a bit.

3. The birth rate in Ukraine do to poverty. The poulation in Ukraine and Russia is actually decreasing every year.


1. Rental agreements can be very unreliable.  We recently almost had to move out of our flat again because the owner was thinking to sell.  We prayed and he changed his mind.  :), excuse me, ))))).  You’d be as well off spitting in your hand and shaking on it then signing any forms.

2. All the flat buildings, even the new ones being built are the old Soviet style concrete buildings. I do not know why they continue to build these types of buildings, it does not seem very time effcient.

3.  These buildings do not have fire escapes.

4.  All these buildings are heated by radiators.

5. When looking to rent a place, you will not have much luck using a classified.  Maybe use the internet if you want to get ripped off.  People usually hire someone to find a place for them.  Once the place is found and an agreement is signed this person will collect their share.

6. The perceived value of the flats is way too high for what you get.  A nice one bedroom flat would go for 100,000 to 200,000 dollars.

7. When they count rooms in a flat they count every room.  A two bedroom house in the States would be considered a three bedroom house in Ukraine.

8. Many people extend their building size by building bigger balconies.

9. One good thing is there haven’t been any earthquakes or tsunami’s here, so that is good. Just an occasioanl flood. Odessa was flooded this year because the drains are clogged with too much litter.

10. Some people have a second vacation home not far outside of the city by the beach. They call these dachas.

Cultural Dont’s

1. It is considered rude to point at people in Ukraine.

2. Sometimes saying thank you to them sounds insulting.  Don’t be offended if you give someone something and they don’t say thank you.

3. Don’t spit on the street, although it is said to be very common for Ukrainians.

4. Don’t where hats inside buildings. No biggy there right?

Interesting cultural things

1. The number of roses you give someone usually has some kind of significance.  It is not good to give a woman an even number of roses, make sure it is an odd number.


1. The handicapped are called invalids and usually really looked down upon.  Many of them are stuck in their homes to be ignored by society, if they have a home.

2. It is not very common to find delegated parking for the handicapped anywhere.


1. People in Ukraine say thank you after the meal, not before.

2. They like to eat Carp in Ukraine.  Of course they eat it in China and other places as well.  Only in the States is it considered garbage fish.

3. McDonald’s is usually crazy busy.  I have never seen McDonald’s so crazy busy in the States, except maybe New York, as it is in Odessa almost every time I go there.  Sometimes you can’t even find a place to sit.

4. Ukrainians have very good manners and are very picky about washing their hands.  Often people will want to wash their hands just from coming in from outdoors.

5. Ukrainians in some ways are healthier than Americans as they are satisfied with much smaller portions of food.

6. They eat a lot less meat in Ukraine at far less frequent meals.

7. It is common to see people come back to Ukraine from the States a few pounds heavier than when they left.

8. My wife is a great cook!

At the beach

1. Many guys are into speedos and it is not a thing.

2. People in Ukraine tend to be pretty unashamed of their bodies and don’t have many inhibitions about themselves on the beach either.  In one way I suppose that’s a good thing.

3. The beach along Odessa is great although it gets very crowded sometimes.

4. The water is a little polluted but everyone swims anyway.

5. Many people seem to live on the beach in the summer and look like they go there every day.


1. In Ukraine they call their cats differently than Americans do.  In the States we say, “here kitty, kitty, kitty…”  In Ukraine cats understand, “ksss, ksss…”

2. There are lots of stray dogs in Ukraine.  Because of the poverty I suppose and not being able to have adequate places to house the strays.  There are quite a lot in our neighborhood.

3. Many people own dogs in Odessa.  It is very common, which I don’t understand because most people live in flats.  They are good sized dogs too.

4. Often people, including ourselves, bring their leftovers or old bones outside for all the stray cats and dogs.

5. It is not good to bring strays into your home as they often carry sicknesses.


1. No definite and indefinite articles.  Russians do not use the words, “the” or “a”.  It is in the syntax.

2.  Russians tend to stress every word differently than I naturally do as an American.  It is just one of several things which make learning the language a challenge.

3. Pronunciation is very important.  Unlike English where you can pronounce words different ways, in Russian this can sometimes mean very embarassing things.  Be careful with your pronunciation.

4. Russians know it is hard to learn their language and respect anyone who’s willing to give it an honest try.

5. In Russian people are usually allowed to mix around the sentences more. This is helpful in translating, at least from English to Russian anyway.


1. I have seen some ads of girls on buildings that definitley wouldn’t legally fly in the States.

2. Girls in Ukraine definitley like glamour and showing their femininity.  A friend who was recently visiting commented that they all look like they are on a runway.

3. High heels and boots are everywhere.

Safety Protocols

1. Often on kids toys at restaurants or public places you will see safety hazards.  In the States these would definitley be some kind of insurance liability.


1. In the movie theatres they use the same 3D glasses over and over.  If you don’t return them they will charge you $50, even though they are sometimes old and scratched up.

2. The public movie theaters show movies in Russian although most the populace speaks Russian.  I have a friend from Russian who can’t even understand them.

3. At the movie theaters in Ukraine, when you buy your tickets you have assigned seating.  You don’t just buy a ticket and then go in and find your seats.

4. Many people do not go to the movies or buy DVDs but rather download their moves for free on torrent sites.  It’s the way people do it in Ukraine, movies or digital products are usually pirated as a normal part of life.


1. Cigarettes in Ukrain are dirt cheap.  People can buy a pack of Marlboros for about $1.20, and cheaper cigarettes for half that.

2. Smoking is extremely common in Ukraine. I think they have the second highest smoking rate in all the world.


1. Payscale is crazy.  Once we had a poster of the payscales for the employees in our flat building.  The cleaning lady was the highest paid.  It is not uncommon to see a claening lady making more than a doctor or a teacher.

2. $500/ month is considered excellent pay and is well above the average earnings in most cities.

3. Most jobs are paid under the table as people wouldn’t survive very well if they paid their required taxes. Most of the economy is in the shadows.

4. In February 2013 a new law will be inacted where people exchanging dollars will have to pay a 15% tax. This is because people will hoard dollars, wait for the value to go up, and then exchange them and this hurts the economy. However, if your check is coming from the States this rule doen’t apply to you.


1. In public buildings people don’t usually actually stand in lines.  If there is a line for some public service people randomly sit around the room.  So, what you do when you enter the room is ask who is last in line and you know you are after them.

Garbage Cans

1. Garbage cans are often made of heavy thick concrete.  The people who clean them out have to actually reach down inside and take out all the trash.  What a time consuming way to so it.


1. The bottoms of the tress are painted white in Odessa.  I have been told that people do this to keep bugs off the trees.  It made sense to me then until I saw they painted the bottoms of the concrete poles too to match.  I guess they like the way it looks!

2. In the summer Odessa is beautiful with full green trees everywhere. As well the white flowers come out for a couple weeks on the cherry trees.


1. Go off randomly.  Sometimes through out the year somebody will start lighten off fireworks in your neighborhood.  What would be illegal in the States, here is a birthday celebration!  You can walk into most grocery stores anytime and find them for sale.


1. When someone is playing music on the street to make money, instaed of putting a cup on the ground there will usually be another person holding a hat and walking up to people.  Guess they have to split the tips between the two of em.

2. It is common to see people faking a handicap or being mute to try and ask people for money.  You can usually tell.

3.  Sometimes beggars can be agressive and even get mad at you if you don’t give them anything.

4. If you get on a bus in the city center sometimes you will have someone get on and give their speech to the entire bus asking for money.  They usually seem to get a couple bucks out of the deal.


1. When posing around a monument, a statue or some kind of interesting thing people, especially girls like to hug it.

2. People smile less often for pictures.

Grocery Shopping

1. At the grocery stores you do not weigh your produce in the check out aisle.  Their will be an employee or two in the produce section to weigh everybodies fruits and vegies for them.

2. Bread is often bought without packaging and I wonder how many people’s hands have been on my bread.

3.  Ukraine has amazing chocolate, cookies, sweets, vegetables, and dairy products.

4. There is still no peanut butter here yet.

5. The aisles are usually a much tighter squeeze in the grocery stores in the States.


1. It isn’t much of a surprise if people get a little edgy or hot tempered with each other and then go about their business as if nothing happened.

2.  Many people are extremely polite and it is common to find etiquette and manners that often seems to be forgotten in the States.

Good Deals

1. I had some pretty good chiropractor appointments for under $20 when I was having back problems.  That’s pretty good!

2. There are places here where you can have good sushi for two people for $15! That’s a pretty good deal!


1. Books are quite a bit cheaper. Usually about half what they would cost in the States.

2. Bibles are usually hardbound instead of leather bound, at least most of the time. There is one modern translation from last year, but they have far fewer translations to choose from than English speakers do.

Good hymns

1. The selection of good Christian hymns to sing is much fewer and far between although there are some around. In time we plan to help these numbers some.


Read 101 Uniquenesses I Noticed in Beautiful Ukraine | Part I


Have you been to Ukraine? What kind of interesting things did you observe?

101 Uniquenesses I Noticed in Beautiful Ukraine


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

A Christmas Note to Odessa & the World

This week I was upset about the fact that everywhere I go in Odessa I see Grandfather Frost decor and zero nativity sets.  I did manage to find one pretty small one of relatively poor quality.  I have since been informed that many churches do build their own.  It remains very noticeable though that communism did an overwhelmingly excellent job of removing Christ from Christmas.  Here, the New Year holiday has been exalted above Christmas.  A friend told me they even have red communist stars for the trees and this was confirmed by myself as I browsed the stores decor.  

Upon event of my being a little upset about this and having grand images of a countrywide campaign to put Christ back into Christmas, a pastor friend encouraged me to create a flyer with some space for a personal note which we could translate into Russian and leave with our neighborhhod friends inviting them to church.  Hence…

Christmas Greetings,

It’s hard to imagine the government suddenly moving our traditional Christmas holiday three months earlier to September. Christmas is literally celebrated in some fashion on every continent of the globe. For all of us, worldwide, whether we celebrate it December 25th or January 7th it means something far more significant than a winter solstice praising Saturn, the mythological god of the harvest (3rd century BC Rome). Hopefully it means something far greater than merely exchanging gifts with our loved ones. The Sovereign God must’ve known the comfort and the blessing we’d receive from hearing the Christmas story each year through the sound of carols, the beauty of the glowing lights against the snowy backdrops, and the cheer of meeting with our relatives in a warm home, safe and secure from the biting winter cold. Somehow it all seems to fit.

Historically, when we study old Jewish customs, we discover that shepherds did not usually have their sheep out at night after the “first rain”, which began in October. The Gospel of Luke 2:8 tells us, “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Christ may have been born born in the fall. It can be debated whether the 4th century western church Christianized a pagan festival, which took place nine months after the day they celebrated the virgin conception or the eastern church had already been remembering the incarnation on December 6th. Whatever we believe about the past, today January 7th can be redeemed and established in our hearts as a day to exalt the living Christ child in recognition of God’s redemptive mission.

There are many distractions that come with the Holidays and it can be a depressing time for some less fortunate souls. The important thing is that we remember the love Jesus had for us all when He emptied Himself of His throne and took on flesh. This sacrifice of being born in such a humble state, to suffer as a man, was the greatest gift anyone ever gave and anyone ever received. This price was paid for the poorest beggar to the wealthiest snob.

The greatest question for all of us is not whether St. Nicolas is Santa Claus or Grandfather Frost, whether he had nine flying reindeer or three horses, little helper elves or a granddaughter, or whether he has a magic scepter or sneaks down the chimney from the roof while all the children are sleeping. The most pressing question is what the incarnation means to us. We invite you to remember with us the importance of the words from the prophet Isaiah (8th century BC) and together we can put Christ back into the center of Christmas and back into the center of our lives.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.”

Isaiah 9:6-7

English Flyer

And after shortening it up a tad, translation, and some design editing we came up with a final pruduct!  Praise God!/Slava Bogoo!

A Christmas Blog from Ukraine

It’s been one year, one month and thirty days since I crossed the Atlantic for the first time and placed my feet on Ukrainian soil.  Odessa is a charming city in its own right, hugging the Black Sea, hiding thousands of trees on the streets behind its many tall rectangular concrete buildings.  The center is always full of people walking down its cobblestone streets and quaintly covered alley ways.   The architecture is a unique blend of Mediterranean, Greek, French, Italian, and more.  The true blue Odessan people have a past influenced by survival, communism, Eastern Orthodoxy, wry humor, mobsters, corruption, Russia, Jews, and rural Ukrainian roots.  When I came here, at once I had been transported into a parallel dimension to a place I hadn’t a clue existed.  Never before had I imagined this world or even saw anything like it.

My wife says I still have culture shock.  I thought I was just being overly picky.  The customer service here is a far cry from five star, people push their way through the small crowded buses and if they see you coming don’t bother to step aside, and whether you’re driving down the rode or jostling your way to the cash register at McDonald’s its survival of the quickest in this territory.  These kinds of things test my nerves sometimes and as I examine the people behaving in what I consider outright rude, inconsiderate, or extremely selfish behavior, I am stunned at how indifferent they seem.  They could care less, and they care less so little, that they could care less that they care less about you – that’s how much they care less.  If someone gets out of their seat by the window on the ‘mashrutka’ (bus), the person by the isle will stay sitting there and force the next person sitting down to squeeze and step over them.  I came to the point where I had to come to terms with the mentality here, and while trying not to allow myself to follow suit and behave as though I am entitled to my seat, or unstepped on shoes, learn to be more gracious.  The best thing for me to do is swallow my own pride and display patience and kindness without judgment.  Being as I still notice and mention some of these things I guess one could say I’m not quite over my culture shock yet.

However, I am long past the honeymoon stage of the enchantment of this foreign place.  I suppose this lands me somewhere between the initial romance phase and the acceptance stage.  Although there are many things I still have yet to get used to, it is nice to get away from the materialistic “Disneyland we call America” (Piper).  For me it is an adventure of sorts, something different, something new.  Not to say capitalism and consumerism hasn’t crept into this country, but most people here are just a lot more broke.  At the store I have a lot smaller selection of all the luxuries I had in the States, although they have plenty of interesting things.  They make this dish here with cold chicken in a pie of cold jello (“holodec”)– still in culture shock on that one.  If you try to start a business here, they’ll tax you so hard you’ll have no money left over for your business, so you either need to pay some serious bribes or know somebody who can pull some strings.  At my wedding ceremony, my wife and I were the first ones down the isle, that’s just how they do it in Ukraine.  When we moved into our new flat I thought to bring a cake to our neighbors to be friendly but I was warned by a few people that that would not go over well.  The Baptists here are very different from what you’d call a Baptist in the States and from what I’ve learned their soteriology is very similar to Eastern Orthodox, which is unlike any western soteriology.  80% of the people here are wearing black shoes and black jackets and almost everyone has the same cookie cutter clothing style.  Their “e”’s sound like “ye” and they mix consonants at the front of words like “mn…” and “vch…”, etc.  All the ladies are taking the bus and walking long distances in pretty high heels or boots.  When you eat at the café you must pay for water, or sauce, and everything is in small portions, a la carte.  The cafes are not even cafes, they are restaurants.  They don’t have Starbuck’s here and their coffee cups are half the size I’m used to.  Most people eat and serve bread dry and I’ve always had at least butter.  The water heaters are much smaller so there’s no taking your time in a nice hot shower, it is always a race against the lukewarm downpour.  The water isn’t that clean also which means a couple walks to the well to fill up some jugs every month.  They don’t even have tortilla chips!

My wife and I, if it be the Lord’s will, have committed ourselves to serving here as missionaries for life.  As I think about Christmas and the family I may have in the future, it dawns on me that things in this country, my new home, are just a little bit different.  While Christmas may be the biggest holiday for us all-Americans, here it is New Years.  They celebrate Christmas on January 7th, Santa Clause is called Grandfather Frost and he has a granddaughter even with an unpronounceable name for me at this point.  Let me just say that I’ve never in my life had the perfect Christmas.  For the record, I love Christmas.  This goes to show that none of them need be perfect to be loved.  I won’t have those same kind of Christmases I had in America.  My children will celebrate Christmas with our immediate family on the 25th and with Lera’s folks, cousins, etc. on the 7th.  The point is this.  Life for me will never be the same.

God has been planning since before creation, to spread His Word all across the earth!  This aim is strategic, purposeful, powerful, and unstoppable.  God calls us to walk away from our comforts.  He calls us to lay down our traditions, our entitlements, and our ways.  Christmas is all about Jesus.  You know that.  Jesus came in the form of a man.  This is huge.  He was born.  He didn’t have to do it, but in it He is most glorified and we are most blessed.  He let go of all the comforts of Heaven and was born in a manger so you and I could have life and celebrate Christmas wherever we are in the world, celebrating the Incarnation every day.  This mission of His to earth brought about our redemption and is only one part of God’s plan to scour the globe.  He’s calling you and I to let go of some things and have the same mind that was in Him when He emptied Himself.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  May this Christmas bring you much happiness and this year many things new!  And remember what Jesus said, if you lose your life for His sake and the Gospels, only then will you find it.

A Few Ukrainian Traditions, Foods, & Superstitions


Recently my wife and I moved into a new flat in Odessa. There is a tradition here when you buy a new flat to have people over for dinner. Well, we didn’t buy the place but decided to celebrate the tradition anyhow, especially since both my wife’s parents had treated us to dinner.

Since her father had already tried my roast beef stew the rest of his family was eager to try it. He’d also heard me say I liked to make homemade chili and asked if they’d like to come over and try it. Well, he did. So it looked like we were going to have two American main dishes. To top it off I threw in a loaf of Italian style garlic bread. I’m happy to say that everyone loved it! We had enough for heaping helpings for 5 guests one night, 3 guests the next night, and two more days for ourselves. It was a delicious and full bellied week!


One part of this housewarming tradition is to bring a gift for the home. Her father brought us a set of knives which we actually desperately needed. However, there is another superstition which says you are not supposed to bring knives as a gift unless you are given some money. So we gave him 10 Kopiyka which is currently equal to about 1.3 cents.  If you don’t pay, the superstition says your relationship will be at “knives”.  This is my in-law so I’d better pay up.

Ukraine has many interesting and fun superstitions. A few of them are listed here.


I would like to say that although overall Americans may have more money than most Ukrainians, although I have met or seen quite a few Ukrainians who have a great deal more money than I do, and we all know there are many impoverished and needy Americans, that by in large Ukrainians eat much healthier! They do not have all the preservatives or the fast food we have. The only fast food you can find is McDonald’s. There is one Dominoes in Kiev, and a Baskin and Robins in Odessa, but other than that only a few small chains such as McFoxy in Kiev.

Potato Truck on our Block

Home Eggs and Young Potatoes

The best food you can buy here is farmed and you can get on the corner from the Babushkas or at the big outdoor markets. Produce, dairy, meet, and lots of it, all fresh, organic and a little cheaper than in America. All of it unprocessed and without all the additives. I can easily say my health here is probably doubled just from how the people here eat.




Very Often People Sell Things Off the Back of Their Car

Some traditional Ukrainian dishes I like:

Ukrainian "Fast Food"

Above is a tray from a restaurant serving traditional Ukrainian food.  It is actually one of the cheapest ways to eat out in Ukraine.  Kvas, a famous Slavic drink made from rye bread is served with Syriniki, a cheesy cake with sweet sour cream on top, Varenyky, something of sorts from the dumpling family with a variety of different stuffings used, in this case beef, with sour cream, and rice with Kotlety, a ball a beef mashed with egg, onions, and bread crumbs sometimes with butter or cheese inside.  Ukrainians love sour cream on lots of things…as do I.


Above is my personal helping of Pelmeni, another hybrid of dumplingish origins can be filled with beef, fish, or mushrooms.  People commonly cover it in sour cream, pepper, or vinegar.  I add a little Tabasco and another flavorful Ukrainian sauce myself.


Last, but certainly not least, a ceramic bowl stuffed with delicious meat and potatoes called Zharkoe.

Below is a small taste of the food market in Odessa.  Who needs Trader Joe’s when you have Ukraine?

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