What surprises foreigners the most about Ukraine and Ukrainians
BBC Ukraine conducted its own poll of foreigners to learn how they perceive Ukraine and Ukrainians today, compiling a list of the most popular responses from citizens of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Denmark, Japan, Pakistan, Canada, and Mauritius.
The peculiarities of Ukrainian character, most notably sincerity and hospitality, were mentioned by almost everyone with whom the BBC Ukraine correspondents spoke.
“Sincerity. If you’ve ever traveled to other countries, you’ve probably noticed that the locals appear to be very friendly, but I don’t believe this is genuine. For me, it is often just a mask. However, when it comes to Ukrainians, you can clearly understand how they feel about you,” — Gabriel from Miami says.
“There are a lot of things that I like about Ukrainians. But the warmth and sincere hospitality are at the top of this list. It amazes me how easily I can communicate with them on a deep, spiritual level. An hour spent over a cup of tea and good company is the best medicine for my heart and soul. This is what I call a unique feature of all Ukrainians, and it is something I appreciated a lot during my time in Ukraine,” admits Randa, who returned to her homeland, the United States, after living in Ukraine for 21 years.
At the same time, Randa dislikes Ukrainian men being rude to women in public.
“Men on the subway or bus would frequently push me away just to pass by and take a seat. Ukrainian men would never offer their seats to a woman, no matter how old she is and no matter how heavy her bags are. Total ignorance.”
Johannes from Denmark has shared similar impressions: “The most irritating aspect is the lack of mutual respect and courtesy. This is true for both the elderly and the young. This is an attempt to be the first, without regard for others…”
“The people I met in Ukraine were all highly educated and well-mannered” — says Hideo from Japan.
“It seems to me that Ukrainians are very hospitable and united as a nation,” explains Peter from the United Kingdom.
“I am amazed by the entrepreneurial spirit of Ukrainian people. They have ambitions, they have business projects. Although I understand that it is also a matter of survival for people who pursue careers due to the country’s economic uncertainty,” -adds Francis from Canada.
“Strive for liberty and private property. Even during the communist era, many Ukrainians retained these sentiments,” — Alain from France said.
“On the plus side, there are Ukrainian girls. This is, of course, one of the reasons I’m here!” — Gabriel from the United States admits.
“Ukrainian women are smart, well-organized, and good housewives,” — says Shoaib from Pakistan.
“They are very beautiful and warm-hearted women,” — says Toshiyuki from Japan.
Roads and cars
“There are only new foreign cars on the streets. How is this possible?” — inquires Hideo from Japan.
“There is a huge number of expensive cars: Porsches, Range Rovers, and new Mercedes models. Come count them in the center of Kiev during the rush hour. It’s one great car after another! And this is in a country that is in the grip of a crisis and a war,” -says Gabriel from Miami.
“Roads and little yellow buses! Oh my goodness! It’s just a state of disarray. Drivers who are overly aggressive are attempting to squeeze into the lane. And look at these bright yellow buses! How can they not turn over during rush-hour packed with people!?”- Peter from the United Kingdom says.
“There is no regard for one another. This is especially noticeable in how cars are parked: when they park at crosswalks, they block the passage for pedestrians, including those in wheelchairs,” — says Johannes from Denmark.
“The quality of the food was a huge surprise for me. When I first came to Kiev, there was a bias towards food. But, as time passed, I realized that traditional home-cooked meals are delicious. My fiancee Irina is a fantastic cook, and some of her traditional Ukrainian dishes are out of this world,” — says Peter.
“I enjoyed Ukrainian cuisine a lot. Your chefs are of the highest caliber. It’s unclear why Ukrainian dishes still don’t have Michelin stars,” — says Hideo.
“Alcohol is like oxygen for Ukrainians; it seems like they can’t live without it,” — states Shoaib from Pakistan.
“It turns out that they drink alcohol every single day,” — Toshiyuki from Japan shares his thoughts.
Nature and the past
“Ukrainian nature is very beautiful,” — says Shoaib.
“The Carpathians’ natural beauty astounds me. This is truly amazing. It must be protected against fraudsters, both large and small, public and private,” — Orest, who moved from France to Transcarpathia, agrees.
Beauty, however, is not the only factor that professionals consider.
“Every day in Kiev, you discover something new or unexpected. These are brand-new penthouses in high-rise buildings with kitschy decor. And houses from the Soviet era that have been destroyed or demolished. The cityscape is increasingly indicative of an ongoing crisis, deeply rooted in the intricacies of the country’s political, social, and historical landscape,” — says Mauritian-based architect Laura Lim Sam.
“The combination of two different lifestyles is most striking. This is the old worldview, the Soviet approach to everything, which is very rough, even primitive. At the same time, the younger generation, which travels to Europe and the United States, sees the world and a new modern life, thinks in a modern manner. And I’m surprised at how well it works in just one country,” — says Gabriel from Miami.
“I’ve always been amazed at how Ukraine, on the verge of disaster, managed to avert it at the last minute. This has occurred several times throughout history. And again during the last revolution,” — says Alain from France.