What Everybody Ought to Know About Ukrainian Culture

We’re commonly asked exactly what Ukrainian culture is like, and with good reason. Simply put, it’s very difference from the Western world. On top of that, Ukrainian culture is even drastically different from it’s direct neighbors—Russia to the East, and Poland to the West.

To top it off, Russia and Poland are so drastically different that could warrant a blog post all on it’s own.

To understand the culture of Ukraine, you first must understand the history behind it.

Ukraine Has Always Been In The Middle


…no matter what.

Ukraine has always been the bridge between Europe and Russia. The European Union is a global superpower, as is Russia. Ukraine was a part of Russia for a long time. Now they are attempting to join the EU.

See where this is going?

You’ve got two global superpowers both of whom have a conflict of interest over Ukraine. The ironic thing is that neither of them actually seem to want to take on the burden of Ukraine, but that’s (again) another story for another day. The point is that Ukraine has always been the center of conflict.

Much like how Istanbul, Turkey—just south of Ukraine—is the gateway between Europe and Asia.

Well, Ukraine is the gateway between Russia and Europe. This makes it ripe for conflict and also ensures that Ukrainian culture will, by nature, be another conflict of interest. It will be difficult for people in either Europe or Russia to fully grasp, and even more so from people who originate in places even further west such as the United States.

Much like Istanbul, Ukraine as a country has also been seen as a bit of a gateway between both Europe and Asia. So not only are we dealing with an EU/Russia bridge in modern day, but also the years of history of Ukraine being a bridge between two entire continents.

What Does This Mean Regarding Ukrainian Culture?

Ukrainian culture

It means that they’re cautious. They’re going to be wary of outsiders coming in to the country. Ukrainian people will wonder what the intentions are of those who are visiting from Western countries.

It’s almost like a state of…anxiety. Worrisome. And who can blame them after being in the center of so many conflicts throughout their entire history?

Of course, as it’s been discussed prior on Ukraine Living, there’s definitely a change once they realize that you’re there on a semi-permanent basis. Sex tourists who try to drop in and score some easy fun are scorned, but true expats are welcomed with open arms. It just takes a few weeks, maybe even a few months.

Ukraine will almost feel like a different city once you start becoming engrained in the Ukrainian culture.

The best advice I can give is this: of all the expats I’ve met here in Ukraine (and there’s been dozens), almost all of them say the same thing:

It took me a while to figure this place out. I felt lonely and maybe a bit down for the first few weeks. It took me some time to understand the country/city/culture, and to start to feel at home. But once I got through that initial phase, it was incredible.

The Inner Turmoil

Ukraine is a huge place, and it’s often understated just how vast it is. Here’s a few images that will give you an idea of the size:



As a result, Ukraine itself is divided. Places like Lviv are very proud of the Ukrainian culture, and will refuse to speak Russian with you:

I went up to him and greeted him in Russian. Andrei studied me carefully before finally responding in Ukrainian.

This was the first time in my life that I heard the Ukrainian language.

I shrugged and told him that I don’t speak Ukrainian and didn’t understand what he said.

And that’s where the problems began.


“I’m Ukrainian and don’t want to speak the language of the enemy,” Andrei condescendingly answered in English.


“Just remember that you’re in Ukraine — not Russia — so don’t speak Russian here,” he seemed satisfied with my answers but still needed to reinforce his point.

On the flip side, the further to the East you go, the more Russian language, culture, and influence you’re going to find.

Within the Ukrainian population itself there is constant turmoil about whether to be Russian or Ukrainian, and Russian or European. Enough turmoil to cause civil unrest.

The Traditions of Ukrainian Culture


With that being said, Ukrainians are absolutely proud of their culture. Much of the country keeps all of these traditions alive, especially out in the villages. Bigger cities such as Kiev or Odessa have naturally migrated to a more typical metropolitan style of living, as they’re obviously doing business globally.

However, all of the customary Ukrainian traditions are alive and well if you venture out of the city centers. You’ll find the traditional dresses, foods, dances, and more.

Make sure you don’t miss these articles about food in Ukraine:

Proof of Pride

Ukrainian culture easter eggs

To see the pride that Ukrainians have of their local traditions, you need look no further than the holidays. The perfect example of this is Easter, which, to an outsider, seems like a two-week long celebration.

These photos were taken in Easter of 2016 in Kiev. The eggs were up for a period of 12 days, and there were people dancing in the street every day for an entire week. It was one massive party for a city of three million people. Granted, some of the residents of Kiev migrated out to the villages for a week—I can’t even imagine what those celebrations were like in areas that are very enriched in Ukrainian tradition.


While it’s probably not the best idea to head to Ukraine during their biggest holiday (as it’s not a normal impression of the place), if you’ve been before and want to experience something different, Easter might just be your best bet. You’ll have people from all over the country gathering in cities to celebrate.


Ukrainian culture can be absolutely fascinating. It’s a rich mix of Asia, European, and Russian traditions—all intertwined into one fantastic country. The food is delicious, the dress is colorful, and best of all…

…they’re proud of it.

Once you have a good understanding of where it all comes from, Ukraine’s culture becomes a beautiful thing. But the only way to see it is to experience it for yourself.


PS: If you’d like to read more about what the dating culture is like in Ukraine, check out this article.

  • December 6, 2016
Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 35 comments

‘As a result, Ukraine itself is divided. Places like Lviv are very proud of the Ukrainian culture, and will refuse to speak Russian with you:’

That’s the most common stereotype. In Lviv, many Ukrainians do speak Russian and OK to speak it with foreigners, while a number of Ukrainians in Eastern and South parts of Ukraine speak more Ukrainian than Russian. I am from Kyiv and use only Ukrainian in Ukraine.

Moreover, for some people, it’s offensive and disrespectful when foreigners come to Ukraine learning and using only Russian. Ukrainian is the only official langue and Ukrainian want others to learn it, not Russian.

    Ukraine Living

    “Moreover, for some people, it’s offensive and disrespectful when foreigners come to Ukraine learning and using only Russian. Ukrainian is the only official langue and Ukrainian want others to learn it, not Russian.”

    People such as you, I assume. Judging by the rest of your post.

    Well, if that offends you, I really have nothing to say other, other than—too bad.

    No people from the West should invest the time in learning such a difficult language such as Ukrainian when the payoffs pale in comparison to Russian. I honestly kind of find your entire comment offensive. While I expect my life to be difficult because I don’t speak either language fluently, it’s that pompous kind of attitude that will ultimately be the downfall of Ukraine’s tourism. Simply astounding arrogance.

    “I am from Kyiv and use only Ukrainian in Ukraine.”

    You’re missing out on a lot of opportunities then.


      Since Russia for centuries- and then USSR- oppressed the local culture and imprisoned/ killed many of its representatives, people will be sensitive about the language issue.
      The language was forbidden for a long time and people died trying to revive it or maintain it.
      It’s not just a matter of national pride. It’s a matter of honoring those who had died for the culture.
      They are really trying to replace Russian with English now. Which will take a long time.

      Bohdan Shandor

      “pompous type of attitude”? Gee, I guess that same attitude has TOTALLY destroyed tourism in France not to mention Paris. Ever hear the expression… “When in Rome…”? Since I speak both fluently I can tell you, it’s like a Spaniard going to Brazil and being PO’d that they speak Portuguese (Russian and Ukrainian being as similar as Spanish and Portuguese)!

        Ukraine Living

        What are you even trying to say?

        English man.


    i do not agree with you I been to kiev 4 times all the staff in resturant in shops speak russian their menu is in Russian there is hardley any sign out side a cafe which says Kava ukraine for coffee they all say coffee.

    Njibamum Betrand

    I lived in Ukraine for 8 years without knowing a single word in Ukrainian language , I speak Russian Fluently .All i know in Ukrainian is ya tebe kohayu , and you can imagine what i mean . I lived without stress when i was there ,and having friends who are armies on the front , telling me in the evening their operations how they are prepared to go kill Russians makes me sick . But one thing for sure , the west is preying on us all . Europe is acting demonic and US is not ready to set the brim on fire . I grew spend all my 8 years in Kharkov with my wife and baby But when i visited Livov (L’viv) i was welcomed in cleaned English . i Passed through Bila tzerkov ( White Church) Then i fell in love with Ukraine , though no one spoke English , but no one love slangs , like bled , sucka , nahoy etc which was regular in my city Kharkov , I swear i love Ukraine to heart beats and its my home to be by next month .

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Jay Woods

I have met the same deranged attitude here in Latvia. “Why don’t you speak Latvian instead of Russian?”

What sane westerner is going to learn a very difficult language (classified by the USG as only one level below Arabic and Chinese) spoken by maybe just over 1 million people in one tiny country instead of Russian, spoken all across northern Eurasia, including to a very high standard by almost all of the native Latvian speakers?

    Ukraine Living

    Jay, you are DEAD on. Actually, the best example of this is probably the comments in this post here: https://ukraineliving.com/learn-ukrainian/

    The answer is NONE. If you’re going to live in a place for a long time, it makes sense to learn a handful of words in the local language, but all and all if you’re in their country and not acting like a drunk British stag party, I don’t see what their animosity is.

    It’s simply delusion and pride.

    That stubbornness actually DOES show financially, use the other countries in the EU as an example.

    Poland is doing quite well for themselves, and in the months I’ve lived in Poland not ONCE have they whined I didn’t speak Polish. They’re happy to speak English. Same situation it sounds as in Latvia, except (while I haven’t been, if it’s anything like Lithuania) they’re significantly worse off economically than Poland.

    That inability to let go hurts in more ways than they realize.

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Saying that “Ukraine was part of Russia for a long time” is like saying that Ireland was part of England for a long time. Such a statement would not go down well among Irish audiences, like in a bar or something. One probably won’t come out of there in one piece.

It would be better to say that “large parts of Ukraine were under Russian control”. Because others were under Polish, Austrian, Hungarian, Czechoslovakian control.

It would be correct to say, though, that Ukraine was one of the republics of the USSR. But there were 15 of them and Russia was another republic.Ukraine was not a republic within Russia.

A good comparison would be Yugoslavia or the UK. Scotland is not part of England and Croatia was not part of Serbia.

The reason there is so much Russian language and culture in Ukraine is because their language had been forbidden for a long time and their writers, intellectuals and poets were tortured to death or simply shot.

So, what is a fascinating mixture to you is a result of a horrible colonial rule by the northern neighbor and then, by Stalin. This is why they are so sensitive about the language and other issues.

    Ukraine Living

    Does being a smartass make you feel like a big man?

    Good grief dude.


I’m curious as to where you see “Asian” culture in Ukraine. Are you referring to sushi bars? Or Crimean Tatar restaurants?

And how is Ukraine a bridge to Asia if none of its territories borders with Asia?


    Is this in reference to my comment?

    No, I am not feeling like a big dude and not being a smart-ass. I am originally from Ukraine and I am letting you know about the history of the place and what made it such a fascinating “blend” of cultures.

    It was not immigration as in the USA and other Anglo countries. It was bloody invasions and horrible oppression during which countless people died.

    That’s all.

      Ukraine Living

      Always insisting on correcting everything, that’s the lesson to be taken from Ukrainian culture when it comes to a free blog.


        If you don’t like being corrected when posting factually incorrect statements, then simply shut off comments.
        Someone mentioned that in Poland he/she had no problems speaking English. I’m sure it’s true, just like it would be the case in Ukraine. Try speaking Russian in Poland for extended period of time and you will see the reactions too. There is a reason Russkies aren’t exactly loved.

        Interesting blog overall

          Ukraine Living

          I certainly NEVER claimed it to be “factual”; work on reading comprehension, Max. You’re as dumb as the last guy.

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чому грубий і говорити росія? це просто показує низький клас і неповагу. Американцям це не подобається, коли ви говорите іншою мовою, крім англійської, так це те ж саме

Nelson Martinez

I am in Poland visiting for Christmas and it is my second time here. Perhaps I am a stupid person, but I have plans to visit Ukraine in bus from Poland and I am someone not for anyone to be suspicious of anything. I am an american citizen but in fact when speaking face to face with people my english language is not the best one because, indeed I am latin, I am from Puerto Rico, a very small island in the caribbean and a colony of the United States and the only language that I speak perfectly is Spanish. I think there is so much in the world to see. I am 55 years old and I think now is the right moment to see the world because I know that in a glimpse I will be 80 years old or even older and I will not have the needed energy to fulfill this dream of visiting places and getting to know other cultures. When I hear all the people above speaking and telling their stories i get scared, first to visit Ukraine and not being able to communicate with people, and secondly to make people suspicious about me for whatever reason. Furthermore, though in a sense I think I am not a normal person but I am divorced I would never think of going to a place, no matter if its Ukraine or Cuba, just to look for women or to have sex with them no matter how beautiful they are. I am not looking for prostitutes. It really makes me sick just to think that a woman is going to sleep with me, no matter if it is in the third or fourth date, just because of the money I have in my pocket or something else that I can give in exchange. Perhaps, besides having some advantages, this is one of the most unfortunate things of capitalism. The value of a human being is in his/her money or material possesions. When was it that people cease to enjoy sharing a good song, a decent and intelligent conversation, or simply friendship or long-lasting relations with other people, especially women.


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