Monday, September 13, 2010

A Taste of Ukrainian Etiquette and Customs

I sent Sasha, my Peer Advisor, a list of questions about basic etiquette and cultural customs in Ukraine, since I researched these very same things before traveling to Singapore and China last summer. I googled Ukrainian Etiquette, and wasn't able to find all of the answers to my questions so I am glad to have such an awesome Peer Advisor to answer my questions!

1. Do they tip in Ukraine? Like are tips expected at restaurants, bars, taxi drivers, etc?

Yes, you usually tip around 10%. Not everyone does it, but the custom is appreciated. Depending on the place, tips could already be calculated into the wages... but really, throwing down an extra 50cents for a tip to make sure they have a good impression of Americans is worth it. 
Hryvnias are the official currency in Ukraine. 
2. Do they serve ice cubes in drinks? 
The tap water in Ukraine is not safe to drink, and ice cubes are typically made with tap water. They do not serve drinks with ice cubes there; so bring your own ice cube tray. People believe that super-cold drinks give you a cold or a sore throat, so you won't see ice cubes often (or ever). Anything they serve in restaurants will be safe to drink. 
Kvas, a traditional Ukrainian non-alcoholic brewed drink based on bread.
3. Is it considered polite or impolite to finish all of your food on your plate? 
This tends to vary by culture, like some people are offended if you don't finish your plate and some people find it offensive if you do finish your plate (meaning you are still hungry or something). You'll find that it's often impossible to finish everything on your plate! Ukrainins LOVE to feed their friends/family, so often times, they'll put a ton on your plate. So you may often leave a bit on your plate, simply because you can't stuff any more food into your stomach! 
I have no idea what this is-this is one of the results I got when I googled "Ukranian Food".
4. Is it common for people to buy a Brita water filter to filter their tap water into drinking water? Is that filtered water safe enough to drink? 
Many PCVs in Ukraine just boil water every night, let it cool overnight, then put it through the filter in the morning. It's a great system, and saves lots of money. Peace Corps calculates water in your living allowance, but you can save that money for travel or other expenses like shopping :-)
This looks like the water filter that I had while in college, loved that thing. 
5. Since many people smoke in Ukraine, will I be peer pressured to smoke? (I've never smoked a cigarette in my life and plan on avoiding it if I can.) 
If you don't smoke, you don't smoke; they'll understand. And along those lines, if you just say you don't like to drink, you won't really have to drink. So don't feel pressured to engage in anything that you wouldn't normally!
I'm definitely a non-smoker. 
6. Can you stream videos on Hulu or Youtube in Ukraine?  
It's totally possible to stream videos here! Many volunteers use skype to keep in touch with fam and friends. Internet works differently in different towns; your host family may not have internet, but most PCVs have access to the internet regularly at their permanent sites after Training. 

The Ukrainian Parliment is frequently on the news in Ukraine. 
Only 10 more days until I leave for Staging in Washington DC! I hope my North Face snow boots and Swiss Army Knife arrive in the mail this week. And I guess that means I need to go find somewhere to get a flu shot soon... apparently we are supposed to get our flu shots (with H1N1 vaccine) before we arrive at Staging. 


Sasha said...

Old pic of the Ukrainian money! I've only seen a couple of those bills. By the way Swiss Army knives are pretty awesome; I also bought mine right before I came here. BTW, I think PC will give you a flu shot when you get here; we all got them the first or second day after we arrived in Ukraine.

Tammela said...

Thanks, Jing & your advisor, for these helpful things! Clearly I haven't asked enough questions, haha. I was especially wondering about the Brita thing. I got my flu shot at CVS for $30 or so without insurance.

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