From a Ukrainian in the Highlands

‼️CULTURAL BACKGROUND‼️for HOSTS/ SPONSORS

As there are so many families matching I thought hosts might appreciate a few ideas on how they can ensure their guests feel welcome. These are just little things, of course your guests will have more pressing needs, they will need your help in many crucial areas, but if you’d like a few tips on little things you can get or do see below:

I would highly recommend to write a WELCOME GUIDE to your home/household/routines/house rules. In this way your guests will have a better idea what’s happening on a daily basis (morning routines, meal times, leisure/work, responsibilities, shopping, local facilities, emergency contacts,etc). Anything you think is relevant to you and your family and will be helpful to your guests to feel at ease in your home.

KITCHEN

Most Ukrainian woman are keen cooks and love spending time in the kitchen. We like cooking meals from scratch rather than using ready meals and fast food. Many guests might like to cook you a Ukrainian meal as a sign of application for your hospitality. It’s common when you have guests in Ukrainian home to sit down for all meals together. You’d need to tell your preference on this.

Dishwashers are not common in Ukraine so you’ll need to explain what dishes you prefer to be hand washed and which ones usually go in the dish washer.

Eastern Europeans have a close relationship with tea (as do Brits!) but we take it a bit differently. A common choice is black tea / earl grey/ green tea with lemon and sugar or honey. Many like fruit or herbal teas. Tea with milk is not a thing. Tea or coffee is always offered to guests upon arrival and served with sweet or savoury accomplishments like biscuits, cakes, chocolates, jams,  cheese, sandwiches, etc. And NEVER on its own.

MEALTIMES tend to be a bit different. It’s very common to eat a cooked breakfast in the morning especially for kids- porridge, omelette, scrambled eggs, pancakes, potato pancakes, meat products with rice or pasta, curd cheese with yogurt and jam, sandwich. At lunchtime Ukrainians enjoy homemade soup where possible. Smaller children would be given a light meal/snack around 3.30-4pm. And dinner is usually around 7pm

COMFORT

Eastern European houses tend to be very, VERY WARM. Many people live in blocks of flats and those are often heated by the council, so heating is blasting. It is a surprise to most Eastern Europeans when they visit their British friends how cold the houses are. I am not suggesting you go bankrupt on gas bills, but maybe consider providing your guests with an extra blanket or water bottle while they adapt to their new home.

SLIPPERS are very important and worn in most houses. Again, I am not suggesting you start wearing them in your own home, but it is very likely that your guests will either bring slippers with them or wish to quickly purchase a pair. Wearing outside shoes isn’t  acceptable in Ukrainian homes. So if you don’t mind the shoes in your home, your guests will need to be made aware of that.

Some people insist on changing into ‘LOUNGEWEAR’ as soon as they come into the house. Many were told by the older generation that wearing ‘out of the house’ clothes inside brings in dust and dirt from the street and will insist on wearing two different outfits throughout the day, depending on whether they are in or out.

CHILDREN

Children in Ukraine are definitely dressed warmer than in the UK (it’s colder there plus there is a deep ingrained belief that a child will catch a cold if underdressed). Don’t be surprised if your guests insist that a small child must wear a hat well into spring if not a year round (to protect them from the cold or the sun).

Children are given homework every day so it will be a pleasant surprise for your guests to find out that that’s no longer the case. They also go to school for different number of hours per day (depending on their age they tend to be in school for anywhere between 4-7h a day). Where kinder gardens have children from 8am until 5.30pm.

HEALTH

Ukrainians take a great care about their health. It is much more common  to visit a doctor with mild symptoms or any other concerns. A wide range of medicine can be purchased over the counter including different antibiotics. The common colds are usually treated with nose sprays, lemsip alike drinks, cough medicine, hot drinks with lemon and honey, hot milk with honey, vapour rub. It might come as a shock to your guests that PARACETAMOL is a universal remedy rather than a prescription of something more specific.

GETTING ALONG

Eastern Europeans tend to be more blunt (STRAIGHT FORWARD ) than British people. In a direct translation saying ‘Can you pass the salt?’ is very POLITE and typically a ‘please’ wouldn’t be necessary. Much of MANNERS is expressed through PHRASING something AS A QUESTION rather than by using specific phrases. Many won’t know the difference between “could you…?” and “can you…?”, “would you…?” and “will you…?”. It comes as lack of knowledge of the language specifics and differences and not to be seen as rudeness. People usually say what they mean without any hidden meaning or reading between the lines. Another thing that worth keeping in mind that your guests will not be accustomed to saying “please” and “thank you” with every request. Requests in Ukrainian are often expressed in a question form with a polite tone of your voice.

Your Ukrainian guests might also not understand subtle hints such as ‘would you mind doing ….’ – for them that will be a question, demanding a “yes” or “no” response. It might be worth using simpler phrases such as ‘please do…” will be positively accepted while you are finding a common tongue with your guests

COMMON GROCERY SHOPPING ITEMS

Fresh FRUIT

VEGETABLES – carrots, onions, white cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, gem lettuce, spring onions, cauliflower, aubergines, courgettes

Tinned chopped tomatoes

BUTTER, not SPREAD

SUNFLOWER OIL for general cooking, olive oil is often used for salads

FRESH DILL and PARSLEY

HARD CHEESE and DAIRY products are much loved, blue or green top milk would be a preference. Ukrainians love soured cream which I personally find that CREME FRAICHE is a closer match in taste. They will also enjoy plain GREEK STYLE YOGURT

Mayonnaise

Plain flour

Rock salt is commonly used, so majority would prefer sea salt as a substitute rather than table salt

MEAT- Whole chicken, chicken thighs or breast, ground pork, pork chops, diced pork, diced beef; ham or polish sausage for sandwiches. Ukrainians love and appreciate SEAFOOD

Eggs

GRAINS and PASTA- spaghetti and spiral pasta, basmati rice, bulgar wheat, buckwheat, semolina, porridge oats, muesli

Jam – strawberry, raspberry, blackcurrant

DRINKS – teas, ground coffee, apple/ orange juice, sparkling water, kids would enjoy summer fruit or blackcurrant squash

We love BREAD 🥖 🍞. Majority would prefer a quality loaf bread, baguettes, whole meal and multigrain varieties. It’s not common to have a toast. However some would like a slice of baguette with butter and jam with their tea.