What stereotypes about Ukrainians are there in the world? It would be better to ask you hoping to understand what foreigners think about Ukraine and about people living there. Some time ago a son of our partners tried to find out the answer to this question. He has just returned from the USA where he spent a year being a student in an ordinary school in a small town of New York state. Communicating with teachers, students and the family he lived with, he tried to find out what stereotypes about Ukrainians foreigners have.
His main conclusion was that foreigners know very little about Ukraine. They know so little that it would be more correct to tell that they know almost nothing except our Chernobyl and sometimes about Orange revolution. And stereotypes can arise only about something or somebody what or who is known. Many people do not know about existence of our country at all. Someone looks for it in the map of Africa. We think that it is the main stereotype about Ukraine.
People, who associate our country with Russia, think that it is very cold here and everybody wears ear-flapped fur hats. It is one more stereotype about Ukraine. It's not all that. We have frosts but in winter (see the article about the climate). The temperature does not go below zero at the Southern coast of the Black see. People really wore the ear-flapped fur hats when it was in fashion – in the middle of 80-ies. They were made from fake fur or from lapin and almost everybody wore it - young and old.
There is a rumor that Ukrainians drink too much alcohol. It is not quite so also. Actually it happens but in a definite population group, mainly in small towns and villages where they have job shortage resulting in low level of life. If to compare alcohol consumption with the other countries (liters per person annually), Ukraine is not in the top position! According to the information of the World Health Organization, Luxemburg and France take the first place as for alcohol consumption (due to the large volume of exports), and then Ireland, Hungary and Check Republic come. The level of alcohol consumption in Ukraine is the same as in Italy, which takes the 22nd place.
There is a stereotype that Ukrainians eat too much lard and that lard is almost the main dish on the table of the ordinary Ukrainians! Possibly it was the case some day, as a tradition to eat lard is something like Italians’ obsession with pasta! Ukraine is an agricultural country and some time ago the hog growing was very popular in every family living in the country side. Historically lard breed of hogs were grown and the lard was used in different types: rendered, salted or fried. Today, taking into consideration that the tradition of growing the lard breed of hogs is lost, and that young people prefer to live a healthy life style, eating of lard can’t be considered as a national kind of sport. Not many people do eat the lard – may be elder generation or to honor the tradition you could be offered ground lard with garlic in Ukrainian restaurant with other national dishes... If you are interested in cuisine preferences of Ukrainian people see our article about traditional Ukrainian cuisine.
They also say that Ukraine is the same Russia or its former part which decided to be independent. We bet you have thought the same way! If to study the history, some events of liberation struggle of Ukrainian people for their independence have always happened in the territory of modern Ukraine. However, Ukrainians fought not only with Russia but oftener with Poland, Austria-Hungary, Turkey and even with mongol-tatars! Why do you think Ukraine was considered to be a pleasant region for neighboring countries which were fighting for its territory during the history of our country? We think it would not be a surprise that Ukraine entered the Soviet Union as a separate republic only in 1922. May be it is the proof of the fact that Ukraine could not be considered a part of Russia and that the desire of Ukrainian people to be independent is a follow-up of its long-term history. One more stereotype about Ukraine, connected with the previous one is the similarity and equality of the languages – please see the article Russian and Ukrainian languages. Please note that the Ukrainian language has as much common with the Russian language, as English with Dutch (37-38% differences in vocabulary).
We should mention that often we seem very gloomy to the foreigners and they think that we often quarrel with each other (especially the people who do not understand our language). They also say that we speak too quiet. We do not notice it. If it really happens, may be it is connected with the long-term history of living in the country, where it was unusual and even dangerous to speak out. Most probably we are hard on the outside to be hurt, as were very delicate and tender inside. We consider ourselves to be very hospitable, ready to help and eager to advise even when we are not asked for. And we are the people with an acute sense of humor!
Foreigners also say that there are a lot of beautiful women here. It is hard for us to agree or not agree with this statement. Comparing our women with the foreign ladies we could tell one thing – we are different. We like beautiful clothes and really a lot of Ukrainian girls take care of their appearance. Make up, beautiful clothes, high heels... They cannot but attract attention. To go to work or to the party or just to go for a walk – make up for most of us is a point of honor! And despite one more stereotype, Ukraine is famous with – Ukrainian prostitutes (actually bitter fame but don’t you have the same in your country?) – the girls in Ukraine are grown up in the atmosphere of chastity and modesty. Taking into consideration that Ukrainian men were often busy with land protection and went to wars, the women historically had to take care of the house, work and grow children. That is why, the Ukrainian women are not only beautiful but clever, independent, self-sufficient, determined and smart (to give a banquet having an empty fridge – that’s the way they do it!). In many families the last word always belongs to a woman! Many of them are career-minded but they keep the main value – the family and children.
Lately many workers from Ukraine have been working in the Western European countries – in Italy, Portugal, Spain and other countries earning the money at the positions, which local people consider to be low-paid. Here there are absolutely other stereotypes about Ukrainian people. They mention diligence, hospitability and dignity among the characteristic features of Ukrainians. Though even a few years ago they either told nothing or told bad things about Ukraine recollecting the consequences of Chernobyl, irregular migration and Ukrainian prostitutes.
Possibly in a few years we will start to challenge bad stereotypes about Ukrainians opening our doors and manifesting us as a nation ready to take a decent position among our neighbors. We really have things to be proud of. However, we do not completely understand it...
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