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Culture / Etiquete

Visiting Orthodox Churches
When visiting orthodox churches, women should wear scarves over their heads (sometimes provided). Men should take off their hats. Both sexes should not wear shorts or sleeveless shirts.

Disabled Travelers
Few tourist sites in Odessa are equipped for disabled visitors. The philharmonic theater has many stairs and no elevator, and the opera theater's upper floors are only accessible by staircase.

Ukrainians are often helpful to those that are disabled.

When greeting, relatives and close friends often kiss cheeks. Ukrainians address each other by first name. A respectful form of address is using the first name followed by the patronymic, which is the person's father's first name with a gender specific suffix. When you ask a Ukrainian their name, they will often give their first name and patronymic only.

Ukrainians are uncomfortable by constant eye-contact. Facial expressions are reserved. Ukrainians rarely smile at strangers. North Americans will be surprised at how "unhappy" Ukrainians first appear. In Ukraine, it is considered dishonest to appear happy when you are not, whereas in North America it is considered polite. Ukrainians tend to say thank you and excuse me less than North Americans. If a person bumps into a stranger accidentally they will usually not acknowledging it by saying "excuse me" or "sorry". Cutting in line/queues is also very common.

When Russian men engage in conversation, the distance between the two is typically about ten inches, well within a North Americans comfort zone.

When women chat they frequently touch each other on the hand or arm, even embracing from time to time during the conversation.

Chivalry is still important in Ukraine. Women expect men to open doors, take their coats, carry heavy items, and help them from buses and route taxis. It is such an expected part of the culture that women rarely say thank you.

Some Ukrainian superstitions and etiquette

  • If invited to someone's home, a small gift is appropriate.
  • Only purchase flowers with odd numbers (bad luck if even numbered) and never yellow (symbolizes goodbye and for funerals).
  • Showing the soles of the shoes is sometimes considered rude.
  • Never shake hands in doorways (bad luck).
  • Take off your gloves before shaking hands
  • Take off your shoes when entering a home. Most hosts provide you with slippers.
  • Never whistle in a home (it causes all the money to disappear).
  • Never wipe a spill with paper, as it also causes all the money to disappear (uncommon)
  • Never sit at the corner of a table (you will never get married).
  • Never leave an empty bottle on the table, set it on the floor.
  • Be prepared to give toasts at dinner, this is common.
  • Don't turn down food or drinks, unless you don't drink alcohol or are a vegetarian. It is considered rude.
  • Men should not take off their jackets unless asked
  • Ukrainians dress very sharp, especially in business situations.
  • Never walk with an empty pail across a person's path.
  • Never buy a watch for a significant other, as this means the relationship will soon end.
  • Ukrainians sometimes will look in the mirror before they leave if they have forgotten something and had to return.
  • Ukrainians will sometimes take a brief moment of silence sitting down before leaving on a trip.
  • Many older women will wear bobby pins on their sweaters, to stop the evil eye. (more on the evil eye: www.luckymojo.com/evileye.html)
  • The devil sits on the left shoulder, an angel on the right. Sometimes, when a person says something about a Ukrainian's good fortune, they make a gesture of spitting over their left shoulder. It is the same as "knocking on wood" in Western cultures.
  • Ukrainian women hold hands and walk arm in arm in public.
  • On Odessa beaches topless women is common.

From odecca.com

Daily life in Ukraine:

  • Odessites are fiercely proud of their gorgeous city. Odessa was the first city in Russia to celebrate a city birthday. Odessites have always been Odessites first and Ukrainians, Soviets, or Russians second.
  • If a person is drunk, wants to drink, or wants to suggest drinking, they click their thumb and first finger under their neck.
  • People, especially women, have an aversion to sitting on cold surfaces, feeling that it is unhealthy.
  • Older Ukrainians often will not open a window for fear of a draft
  • You will quickly notice that the majority of people do not wear watches, and if you wear a watch, annoyingly you will often be asked you the time.
  • Many Odessites have dogs, and they often care less were the dog uses the bathroom. Some Odessites own huge dogs that live with them in tiny a one or two apartment.
  • Frustratingly, in many businesses, often only one door is unlocked if there is more than one door.

It is forbidden to take pictures of army and naval bases. This law is strictly enforced. One American volunteer was sent home for taking pictures of a naval base.


Ukrainian men and women tend to dress in dark European-style clothing. Ukrainians take pride in their appearances and despite low incomes by western standards are meticulous dressers. The easiest way to offend a Ukrainian is accidentally step on their highly polished shoes.

Ukrainians always dress their best in whatever circumstance. Young Ukrainians are often very thin. Obesity is rare.

Ukrainian men tend to very have short hair. Ukrainian women tend to use a lot of cosmetics by Western European and North American standards. Women wear lavish fur coats in the winter and very short skirts in the summer. Older men wear fur hats and all men wear black leather jackets.

Tourists will often be surprised at how attractive the women of Odessa are. As the Eastern Economist expresses, " What…attracts Western men to Ukrainian women is their more traditional femininity, which has been lost to a great extent in America"

The older generation tends to dress more conservatively. Elderly women usually wear dresses and head scarves.

On special occasions such as religious holidays, people wear the national outfit. This includes the vsishivanka--a white blouse embroidered with many brightly colored patterns.