Every culture has its own rules regarding ethics. Even though the main principles are the same as in the majority of countries, it is very important to know the little details of each nation in some cases, for example, when you make business with them. For example, don’t worry if you are late for a meeting with a Spanish person. But consider your cooperation is over if you arrive five minutes late for a meeting with a German businessman. Don’t get surprised if you get a hug from an American, but don’t try to shake the hand of a woman from Iran. Just like any other country Ukraine has its own rules of polite communication and the main ones you will find in this article.
Ukrainians are not a cold nation but at the beginning it may look like that. It is not common to kiss each other on the cheeks at the first meeting. Although if you know a person well you may try to give them two kisses, one on each cheek starting with the right one.
Kissing cheeks is appropriate only between women or a man and a women. Two men never kiss and the maximum they can do is to give each other a light hug. Most of the time Ukrainians greet each other with a hard handshake or just by nodding.
Connections between people are very important for Ukrainians. If you meet a person for the first time expect them to be a bit cold towards you. But if you have a mutual friend it is always better if this person introduces you to each other. Ukrainians find it hard to be open and friendly with people they see for the first time. But they will go out of their way to make you feel good and comfortable if you have at least one person who you both know.
If a Ukrainian is trying to pay for you, in a restaurant or in a shop, don’t say “Okay” straight away and put your wallet back into your pocket. Even if you are extremely happy with the fact that you will not have to pay you must at least pretend that this is not the case. Try to say: “No, no, no”, try to push your way in towards the cash desk, if the bill has already been paid try to give the money straight to your Ukrainian friend.
If a Ukrainian really wanted to pay for you there is no way they will accept the money back. If you put too much pressure on them and make them take the money you will not improve their mood for sure. But if you agree on them to pay straight away, they might think that their move was under appreciated and get upset.
This might be the same in many Eastern European cultures but in Ukraine it might be more obvious than in other countries. If you are in a group of people you MUST drink if the drink is offered to you. Nowadays this unspoken rule is being changed especially among the new generation. But if you have to sit with elderly people, especially men, they might mock you or even get angry with you if you refuse to share a drink with them. Therefore if you really don’t want to drink any alcohol try to at least pretend that you don’t mind it.
If you want to make business with a Ukrainian try to prepare the documents in the Ukrainian language. You can duplicate them into English and Ukrainian. In fact, you can bring the documents in any other language of the world but the worst thing you can do is to prepare all the documents in Russian thinking that Ukrainians understand and speak Russian anyway so why bother? Language is a very delicate topic for Ukrainians and all of them (including those who speak Russian in their day-to-day life) will appreciate your effort to recognise the Ukrainian national language.
It may sound weird but try not to smile too much at least at the beginning. Ukrainians don’t have a smiling culture. It is not because Ukrainians are always grumpy, its because this is their way of showing their respect for you. And in the opposite way, if you are constantly smiling at them, the most innocent thing for them would be to think that you are just strange. But many people might find it rude and they would feel very uncomfortable thinking that there is something wrong with them that makes you smile. They will never ask you though what it is exactly that makes you smile, because they would think it’s not polite.
TALKING ABOUT UKRAINE
If your conversation with a Ukrainian goes into a topic about Ukraine or even worse about Ukrainian politics (which happens quite often), the first rule to remember is to never say anything bad about Ukraine. Even if your Ukrainian friend has been putting Ukraine down for the past hour, you may agree with them but be very careful. There is another unspoken rule – only Ukrainians are allowed to speak badly about Ukraine. Otherwise they will find it rude and may get offended.
As you can see there are some rules to consider before starting a business or just a friendly relationship with a Ukrainian. But remember that at the time of globalization everything is changing and these rules become less important. On the other hand there are still a lot of Ukrainians who have never been abroad and they might not know the ethics of your nation. But good intentions, an honest smile and friendly attitude is an international way to break even the hardest ice.