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Ukraine - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture

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Culture Smart! provides essential information on attitudes, beliefs and behavior in different countries, ensuring that you arrive at your destination aware of basic manners, common courtesies, and sensitive issues. These concise guides tell you what to expect, how to behave, and how to establish a rapport with your hosts. This inside knowledge will enable you to steer clea Culture Smart! provides essential information on attitudes, beliefs and behavior in different countries, ensuring that you arrive at your destination aware of basic manners, common courtesies, and sensitive issues. These concise guides tell you what to expect, how to behave, and how to establish a rapport with your hosts. This inside knowledge will enable you to steer clear of embarrassing gaffes and mistakes, feel confident in unfamiliar situations, and develop trust, friendships, and successful business relationships. Culture Smart! offers illuminating insights into the culture and society of a particular country. It will help you to turn your visit-whether on business or for pleasure-into a memorable and enriching experience. Contents include * customs, values, and traditions * historical, religious, and political background * life at home * leisure, social, and cultural life * eating and drinking * do's, don'ts, and taboos * business practices * communication, spoken and unspoken "Culture Smart has come to the rescue of hapless travellers." Sunday Times Travel "... the perfect introduction to the weird, wonderful and downright odd quirks and customs of various countries." Global Travel "...full of fascinating-as well as common-sense-tips to help you avoid embarrassing faux pas." Observer "...as useful as they are entertaining." Easyjet Magazine "...offer glimpses into the psyche of a faraway world." New York Times


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Culture Smart! provides essential information on attitudes, beliefs and behavior in different countries, ensuring that you arrive at your destination aware of basic manners, common courtesies, and sensitive issues. These concise guides tell you what to expect, how to behave, and how to establish a rapport with your hosts. This inside knowledge will enable you to steer clea Culture Smart! provides essential information on attitudes, beliefs and behavior in different countries, ensuring that you arrive at your destination aware of basic manners, common courtesies, and sensitive issues. These concise guides tell you what to expect, how to behave, and how to establish a rapport with your hosts. This inside knowledge will enable you to steer clear of embarrassing gaffes and mistakes, feel confident in unfamiliar situations, and develop trust, friendships, and successful business relationships. Culture Smart! offers illuminating insights into the culture and society of a particular country. It will help you to turn your visit-whether on business or for pleasure-into a memorable and enriching experience. Contents include * customs, values, and traditions * historical, religious, and political background * life at home * leisure, social, and cultural life * eating and drinking * do's, don'ts, and taboos * business practices * communication, spoken and unspoken "Culture Smart has come to the rescue of hapless travellers." Sunday Times Travel "... the perfect introduction to the weird, wonderful and downright odd quirks and customs of various countries." Global Travel "...full of fascinating-as well as common-sense-tips to help you avoid embarrassing faux pas." Observer "...as useful as they are entertaining." Easyjet Magazine "...offer glimpses into the psyche of a faraway world." New York Times

51 review for Ukraine - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dave Courtney

    An absolute must for anyone visiting Ukraine. This is a concise, easy to read pocket book that is stock full of information on Ukrainian culture, peoples, land and travel. Having been privileged to spend over a month in the Ukraine, much of this book has helped to illuminate my own experience. No people can be summed up in the confines of a 150 pages, but all people have traditions and customs and history that make them unique and help shape their worldview in a diverse world. This book is a cel An absolute must for anyone visiting Ukraine. This is a concise, easy to read pocket book that is stock full of information on Ukrainian culture, peoples, land and travel. Having been privileged to spend over a month in the Ukraine, much of this book has helped to illuminate my own experience. No people can be summed up in the confines of a 150 pages, but all people have traditions and customs and history that make them unique and help shape their worldview in a diverse world. This book is a celebration of the uniqueness of the Ukrainian people from the lens of a visiting foreigner. Published at the beginning of 2012, culture smart Ukraine begins with the Orange Revolution and a young, independent Ukraine of 1991. Of course we now know of the ongoing struggle that remains in defining this independence practically and actually a mere 2 years later. The book moves through a geographical snapshot (the land is the geographical centre of Europe and can be divided East and West by it's central river, the Dnipro, and as well by the Carpathian mountains which stretch South West to North East, and what is known as the Steppes, which reach from the North East to the South. In respect to the larger landscape, much of the Ukraine represents some of the best farmland and soil around, thus contributing to its sentiment as the "breadbasket" of Europe). It then provides a concise history, leaving one with a sense that, for as young as their independence is, the rich Ukrainian history has survived a much longer legacy of shifting borders, political and military battles and divided loyalties that is lived out in the ongoing battle between the common person and the powers that be. It would be true of many lands, but although the Ukrainians originated with the Slavs (which they share with Russia), the country (in liberal terms) has shifted hands so many times that it's true multi ethnic flavour is hard to miss. In the West we have Hungarian, Czech, Polish and Austrian influences (and not surprisingly a much more pro-West and traditional flavour), and in the East we find a mix of Russian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Greek, Tatars, Turkish and Moldovian influences (depending on which part you live in). By far, the most dominating of these ethnic representations in the East would be the Turks, Greeks and the Russians, a result of a long history of political and military conflict between these two areas. And of course, of these three the immediate relationship of note for a modern day Independent Ukraine is that of its Eastern neighbour, Russia. This is the result of the ongoing process of what one could refer to as "Russification". In the day of the Slavs, the land of Ukraine (again, liberally), was called Kiev-Rus, and was centred out of modern day Kiev as an important point on the Viking trade route. This empire reached from the Baltic Sea (at the edge of modern day Poland) to the Black Sea. During this period of immense growth and flourishing (which included the mass conversion to Christianity and the gift of their language), the book points out that their power grew on relationship rather than war (the ruler Yaroslav would marry his daughters to European monarchs). But this 'flourishing' also attracted invaders from the area known as the southern steppes (of course being the Mongolian invasion). The land was conquered and divided in to three central areas (which reflects something of our modern day Poland, Lithuania, and Russia). In the fifteenth century (under Lithuania), the city of Kyiv was granted a sort of autonomous position, free to have their own self government. These tendencies (of the ability to flourish under independence, and the ongoing discussion of autonomy and autocratic power) have followed the Ukrainian history ever since. This leads us to the Cossack, an important group in the history of the Ukraine. The Cossack's consisted of those who were forced out of their land in this early period of division, and pushed out in to the (at the time) empty southern steppes region. These people were ready and willing and able to defend themselves (and their people/country) against the surrounding invasions of the Turks, Tatars and the Polish. In 1654, one of the Cossack's made a historical agreement with Russia to defend their people together against the Polish invasion. Many see this as the point that allowed Moscow to use this relationship as leverage to amalgamate the Ukraine into a larger (and now growing) Russian empire (and further down the road this would also lead to the gifting of the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia had also absorbed, to the Ukraine in a commemorative gesture of this union). It was not long before the Ukrainian identity as the early Slavs and Cossacks had given away to a mere "province" under the hand of Russia (earning it the moniker "Little Russia"). History would show that these lands would go on to be divided once again in to two empires, the Austrian and the Russian. It is interesting to note (as the book does) that all throughout history, the Ukrainian fight for independence has arguably been defined by the "intellectuals". This would be the poets, artists, thinkers and writers. It is this strong tie with the arts that has allowed the Ukrainian culture to flourish so readily at every corner that ideological independence has come within their grasp (such as the brief year(s) following the first world war). And every time they flourish, the empires (or powers that be) that surround them seem get nervous (or envious perhaps), causing the knee jerk reaction to even ban the Ukrainian language on a few occasions. This is one reason why the subject of a national language (which fluctuates between Russian and Ukraine in our modern day) can get so heated. This speaks to the strong tie between culture and people, arts and identity (and even architecture). The Ukrainians are a well read people, and books and book markets play a big part in their society. Their passion for independence (and their continued drive to push for it) could be said to have come from a man named Taras Shevchenko and his poems (primarily "The Heretic"). The Ukrainian nation continues this passionate fight for freedom in poetic fashion after a long twentieth century that saw what the book refers to as "mass repressions" and the highest population loss in all of Europe (the artificial famine, the second world war, soviet rule, Chornobyl). It would be the Chornobyl disaster that would expose the lies of the Soviet Union, and create (finally) the opportunity for actual independence as a country (unofficially/officially in 1991, and then again in 2004 with the Orange Revolution). What one notes in the aftermath of such a storied twentieth century is an interesting cultural dynamic. Being in the centre of Europe, a mix of Soviet and European flavours still seem to co-exist. Much of the Soviet reign had remained so guarded that the truth is sometimes hard to find in a generational gap that hold sentiments of differing degrees. As the book says, the Ukraine has "shed its autocratic Soviet regime, and the democratic principles of fair elections and a free media are deeply engrained in the society", however, depending on where you live (east or west), and depending on what you lived through, the typical Ukrainian of today can still facilitate an interesting dialogue of differing expressions of this history that they have shed, for better and for worse. There are a few things that continue to complicate their independence and freedom as a people. One is the resulting effects of "Russification" (that is, the fact that Russians were steadily immigrated into portions of Ukrainian lands, and that in East and South regions the Russian language has been used for so long that it is essentially automatic as a "universal" language (even if these same people do not call themselves Russians, and do not hesitate to say, we are not Russians). So while the Ukrainian money and the Ukrainian language are attempts to define a measure of independence, there are still a lot of people on the ground who are perfectly fine speaking Russian. The Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic influences that have come in to the Ukrainian culture (and have been willingly embraced to a degree) also create a religious divide (and distinguishing of cultural identity) between the Orthodoxy that came out of Russia. And of course this religious divide has existed in the East/West dichotomy for a long time. Underneath these surface politics is also the complicated relationship with the creative arts. The arts are an expression of the local people, and for Ukrainians, celebrating their own music, painting, poetry, literature, is a part of what it means to distinguish themselves from Russian and Western influences. And ultimately what makes the independence a continued battle is the truth that the Ukraine and Russia do have a shared history, and that the Ukrainian land (particularly the industrial lands of the East) remain so important to Russian interests, and that the relationship of this land with the Russian economy is likewise important. These economic and political ties are hard to break, and arguably it is not always certain that these ties need to be broken. Any visitor to the Ukraine today will notice these tensions, some good and some bad. All of these things are a part of what Ukrainians (in my humble experience) will readily articulate themselves. It is all a part of what the Ukrainian people need to learn to adapt to and live with and embrace as a part of their own history, and they are well aware of how all of this plays in to their own sense of patriotic commitment. Some things that I have noted about the cultural make up since arriving in the Ukraine (which the rest of the book gives time to), is the interesting mix of traditional and modern expressions. This plays in to the area of male/female roles, music and arts, architecture, and day to day living. In my time here I often expressed the sentiment that the culture is hard to get a handle on. As soon you begin to recognize something that is decidedly European, you are faced with a strong Soviet tendency that veers you in the other direction. Here are some of the things that I have noticed, and that the book addresses: 1. They love to celebrate: You will notice weddings, funerals, meals, national holidays, events are communal and public expressions. And to this end, these events are not about self expression, but rather about traditional and communal opportunity to "come together" and celebrate all that they are as a larger family/people. It is not surprising to come against some stereotypical European/socialist responses to "Americanized" way of living, especially when it comes to how they do life. As a visitor it is easy to see that for Ukrainian culture it is not about "self", but rather about "we" (a positive hold over from socialist sensibilities), and that is something that has inspired me. 2. How you represent yourself publicly says everything about your culture and family: The first thing you will notice when arriving in this country is that Ukrainians dress up for everything. It is not unusual to see families going for groceries in their suit and tie and fancy dresses. While in more rural areas the actual style of dress might differ, in the bigger centres (and smaller towns scattered across the east), the dress is very much about designer clothes. Everyone (and I mean everyone), whether they come from upper or lower class, is dressed in really nice clothes. These clothes are really very cheap compared to what you would pay in North America., but it is a part of their cultural make up that appears to say, if you are not dressed nicely (and in style), you are not representing (self, family, community, country?) well. Next to your cell/smart phone, your wardrobe is the most important thing you can own. I learned quickly that if you don't follow suit (pun intended), you are likely to get ostracized and ogled publicly at some point (whether in a restaurant, or shopping, or just out and about trying to get information). If you dress respectfully, you will receive a much better response and life here will operate much more smoothly.* *the book does talk a bit about this dynamic, but I am convinced that underneath the fancy dress is an attempt to hide and negate the division of class (for better or for worse). One thing I noticed is that poverty in the Ukraine is not very visible, or at least not in the same way it is in a lot of North American cities. Students, whether high or low class, still dress in top end uniforms, buildings tend to retain a fairly uniform (Soviet) look, and you do not encounter much in the way of panhandling or rugged dress on the streets. One thing the book notes (which does not surprise me, and is not surprising given the most recent history, is that with independence there has come an increasing divide between rich and poor that does exist more visibly, even if it still functions behind the scenes. And interestingly, the book points out that the most educated and intellectualized tend to be the poorest (to the point where your taxi driver very well could have been a top project manager or doctor or lawyer). 3. There is a complicated relationship with the West, despite its openness to Western democracy: The book suggests that when Ukraine established its independence the West tried to capitalize (as it usually does). But the Ukrainians, having such a strong imbedded culture, turned this on its head. Where the Western entrepreneurs wanted to make money off of this "new" culture, the Ukraine's saw the opportunity to make money off of the West. Thus the quickly growing divide between rich and poor. What this means is that there remains a certain resistance to copying or adapting the Western culture, even as the allure of certain parts of western democracy remains strong and enticing. As a visitor, I feel like I am in very foreign territory. There is not a lot in this country that reminds me of home. Some of this is a natural cultural divide. And other parts exist because of this tension with the West/East. There is not a strong desire to speak english. Their culture continues to appear self sustaining in terms of food (which makes up the bulk of consumer goods), dress (a mix of European, Turkish and Russian from what I can tell), and the arts. The truth is, under Soviet rule the Ukrainians were not travelled. Now they have the freedom to travel. Time will tell if some of this changes. But at this point, even in Kiev, they do not seem fascinated with the Westernized culture as one might expect them to be (and this is probably a good thing). 4. The role of man/woman in society is both traditional and liberating: It is interesting to sit and people watch in the Ukraine. They know the value of work (and work fairly long days). But they also understand the value of down time. They use all of their time wisely. One of the things that stands out the most is the man/woman relationship. The book suggests that with independence came a certain liberation of the woman in Ukrainian society. That is not to say they frown on what some might describe as old fashioned behaviour. They live a sort of romanticized chivalry that demands the man to give up his seat, open doors, offer his arm, and generally take care of the woman. This also represents itself in public affection that is common to see, and for them not uncomfortable in any way. And the women in general love to be complimented on their looks, their dress and their figure (and you see this happen all the time). In fact, they see the opposite as a negative. If you are not playing up this sort of man/woman role, you are not engaging properly in society. It is interesting to note that while the dress of bot woman and men or seductive in nature (creating the environment for this sort of ongoing chivalry), it is not revealing in the same way that we find in Westernized culture. It is actually more subdued. However, saying all this, independence has allowed the woman a much more liberated place in society. While man might still be seen as the head, and family duty is still expressed strongly, the women have come to have a strong place in the business field, in making decisions. The dressing up of oneself represents the value of the person, the strength of the person, the ability of the person, and it would be very uncommon to even see an older woman who is not manicured before they walk out the door, or a guy who is not suited up and cologned. It has become more of a mutual partnership over time. *it should be noted that while on the surface the culture is not highly sexualized, there is a strong sexual undertone that exists in Ukrainian culture. Some of this European, some of this comes from independence. But I have found that it expresses itself differently than other Western European cultures. Nudity and public affection is not taboo, nor is it overly sexualized in itself (which is a very European notion). But at the same time, the power of sex does create complications in a society that is just beginning to understand the notion of liberation. As a visitor, if you look hard enough you can see some of these examples, which at its most negative I would suggest is seen as the blurring of lines between the actual person and the sexualized person. There is a strong sense of body issue (the women in the Ukraine generally celebrate being a small "size", and there are strong conformity issues that lead to the frowning upon different body sizes. And the young children are taught this from the days as an infant when they are immediately dressed up, led to understand their role, and then sent out in to the larger competitive world. The one thing I have also noticed is that there is not much room to talk about these issues in Ukrainian culture. Some other things I have noted: Ukrainians still retain the tradition of the Rynok (the large, local markets). Rather than shopping at big box superstores, this is where they go for groceries and other things. And they tend to shop every day in the spring/summer/fall, and prepare for the winter by stocking up, pickling, and storing. Ukrainians love their cafe culture, and while coffee gets more popular in the East, they love their tea. On the streets it is not uncommon to see Ukrainians yelling in fits of anger and then embracing in hugs at the next moment. As a visitor you have to learn how not to get offended easily. They also treat their kids this way (it is not uncommon to see one hitting their kids and then holding them closer either). The Ukrainians like to talk about healing and health (and how that links to food), but they also sport some of the lowest life expectancies and EVERYONE smokes (even your local doctor). Ukrainians love to grow fruit and have gardens in their backyard. Ukrainians do love a good drink, and will be surprised if you don't drink. Ukrainians love to tell jokes, and while they are good with recognizing solemn times, they do not spend a large amount of time dwelling on the darkness or the negatives. Ukrainians have a thing with never eating cold food, but also eating everything luke warm (haven't figured this one out). They will insist on soup over sandwiches, and of course borscht is a staple that can come in the form of many (subtly) different recipes. And lastly, Ukraine's love their flowers. It is a big part of their romanticized culture, and even have a day when all the women get a flower (and literally, everyone does). Culture Smart is a definite asset for anyone who is planning to visit the Ukraine for any length of time. A worthy investment that is easier to lug around than a multi page history of the Ukraine book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Vicki

    I'm learning that I'm going to have to eat and drink a lot while I'm there -- not so bad.... I'm learning that I'm going to have to eat and drink a lot while I'm there -- not so bad....

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    Informative and up-to-date. Just enough information to be a good introduction.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kathryne

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Bilodeau

  6. 5 out of 5

    Arbutus

  7. 5 out of 5

    William Meister

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jessie

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ian

  11. 4 out of 5

    elin

  12. 4 out of 5

    nikos Panteleakis

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sam

  14. 5 out of 5

    Paul

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bart Parsley

  16. 4 out of 5

    Anna Phillips

  17. 4 out of 5

    Karen

  18. 4 out of 5

    Giles

  19. 4 out of 5

    Trevor Wright

  20. 4 out of 5

    IPG Independent Publishers Group

  21. 4 out of 5

    Myself

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marcie

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

  24. 4 out of 5

    Marguerite S. Reeves

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ana

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mike

  27. 5 out of 5

    Don

  28. 4 out of 5

    Olga Kerziouk

  29. 4 out of 5

    DDD

  30. 4 out of 5

    Leanna

  31. 4 out of 5

    David

  32. 5 out of 5

    Carol

  33. 5 out of 5

    Karen Jones

  34. 5 out of 5

    Squeasel

  35. 4 out of 5

    G.w. Gant

  36. 4 out of 5

    Starr

  37. 4 out of 5

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  38. 4 out of 5

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  39. 4 out of 5

    Kathryne

  40. 4 out of 5

    Toryn Green

  41. 5 out of 5

    Oleksandra Koval

  42. 4 out of 5

    Robert

  43. 4 out of 5

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  44. 5 out of 5

    Inge

  45. 5 out of 5

    Ana Maria Roig

  46. 5 out of 5

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  47. 4 out of 5

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  48. 5 out of 5

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  49. 4 out of 5

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  50. 4 out of 5

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  51. 4 out of 5

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