The Most Popular Stereotypes about Ukraine

Woman in a traditional Ukrainian shirt

In recent years Ukraine has been gaining more and more attention in the international media. Moreover, the introduction of numerous low-cost airlines spiked the rise of tourism to Ukraine. The stereotypes about the country, however, still stay quite strong. Here are 8 most common stereotypes about Ukraine as seen by a Ukrainian native.

Ukrainian women are the most beautiful in the world

Girl dressed in a traditional Ukrainian shirtSure enough, any list of Ukrainian stereotypes wouldn't be complete without mentioning Ukrainian women. The beauty, fashion sense and charm are noted in nearly every Youtube vlog about Ukraine regardless of the initial topic. In case the video doesn't talk about Ukrainian women, someone in the comments will surely do the job.

The objective side of the stereotype is that many Ukrainian women embrace traditionally feminine fashion like high heels and makeup. As states the famous notion, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. After all, women are much more than just their appearance.

All Ukrainian women follow traditional gender roles

Woman chopping vegetablesThis stereotype is strongly connected with number one on our list. According to it, Ukrainian women are the 1950s American lifestyle dream - meek stay-at-home moms and housewives, whose only aspiration in life is marrying a rich man. Naturally, opinions about family and life goals differ from person to person. It's always better to talk to a person than rely on stereotypes.

The image of a poor Ukrainian girl waiting for a foreign prince to save her from the harsh reality is also enforced by numerous dating websites and marriage agencies that make up a whole niche business in Ukraine. The profiles on these sites usually represent Ukrainians as "decent ladies looking for a husband to build a strong family." Needless to say, many of these are simply scams.

All Ukrainians love borscht, salo and vodka

Borscht and saloOne of the strong cultural stereotypes is that Ukrainians feed off exclusively from borscht and salo, the country's famous pork lard. Sure enough, it's not entirely true. While borscht indeed is a popular soup in many Ukrainian families, salo isn't as popular nowadays, especially in large cities. A major false stereotype concerning cuisine is that all Ukrainians love vodka and drink like no tomorrow. Wine culture is strong in Ukraine and many locals know both domestic and foreign picks.

Cuisine also differs from region to region. For instance, in the Carpathians borscht is far from the most popular. People mostly eat dishes like bograch or banosh instead. In Odesa, seafood and fish dishes like forshmak are more popular than salo. That's why the image of Ukrainians feasting on borscht and salo alone is about as accurate as French people only eating baguettes and escargot.

Nobody speaks English in Ukraine

Letter saying thank youThere's no denying that most Ukrainians still have trouble with getting by when a foreigner approaches them on the street. Most people aren't used to be addressed in English by a native and get shy about their communication skills. Some, on the contrary, try to explain themselves with all it takes, including the language of gestures.

The general rule of thumb about addressing Ukrainians in English is seeking someone young-looking. Teenagers and young adults mostly can get by and carry a conversation. Many of them often watch foreign movies and TV series in original or have friends from other countries on social networks. So, saying that nobody speaks English in Ukraine isn't exactly true. The country is slowly but surely getting forward.

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Ukraine is a part of Russia

Map of UkraineOne of the stereotypes about Ukraine, namely the country being a part of Russia, is thankfully receding in the latest years. The notion itself is dragged by generations and most likely was conceived during the Cold War when Ukraine was viewed as a part of the Soviet Union. Due to the recent events concerning the war in the East of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, both Ukrainians and the international community are finally erasing the myth.

Another fact that spikes the stereotype is that many Ukrainians speak Russian, especially in central and Eastern Ukraine. However, language has nothing to do with modern borders. Throughout its history, the territory of Ukraine has been divided numerous times and people lived under the reign of empires from Austria to Russia. Migration, mixing of cultures and laws prohibiting Ukrainian language and press left their impact on the number of languages spoken in Ukraine. For example, many dwellers of Chernivtsi speak Romanian, while Hungarian is common in the Transcarpathians. The present linguistic diversity isn't a valid counter-argument to the integrity of the country.

Everything in Ukraine is cheap

Person holding moneyAnother notion that often appears on traveling vlogs on Youtube is that everything from accommodation and food to entertainment and taxi is extremely cheap in Ukraine. Indeed, compared to most West European countries and the United States, the prices in Ukraine are generally much lower. Many venues in the capital already recognized this trend and decided to turn it into a schtick, introducing numerous 1-euro food spots.

It's necessary to understand, though, that while the prices seem outrageously low for tourists, they are still quite high for locals. In 2018, IMF ranked Ukraine the poorest country in Europe, with the gross average monthly wage less than USD 400. That's why the cheapness of life in Ukraine is relative depending on the point of view.

Ukrainians are extremely hospitable

Bread as a symbol of hospitalityHospitality is definitely the king of all stereotypes about Ukrainian mentality. This notion definitely has much to do with the reality. Since the ancient times, guests were treated with utmost respect in Ukraine. The hosts always made sure their house is clean, there's plenty of food on the table and that the guest enjoys their company. Even an uninvited guest was treated with the same respect.

The custom was handed down from generation to generation and survived to this day. So it's not uncommon for a Ukrainian family to prepare enough dishes for an army battalion, bring out the best homemade liquors and clean the whole house when a foreigner is visiting them. Of course, there are people who still deceive foreigners and use various scams, so it’s always better not to be naïve. Any country has both bad and good people.

Chornobyl is an apocalypse zone

Abandoned doll in ChernobylFinally, a less common yet still pretty strong notion among Ukrainian stereotypes is that Chornobyl is unapproachable due to radiation and full of mutated animals waiting for a feast on humans. This stereotype was largely spurred by the 2012 movie Chernobyl Diaries, which shows a group of young tourists that hired a guide to have an extreme tourist experience in Pripyat.

Many of the stereotypes revolving around Chornobyl have been busted. For instance, you won't get a radiation poisoning in Chornobyl - provided you follow the tour guide's instructions. During the whole day spent in Chernobyl tour, you will get as much radioactive emission as during 1 hour of an airplane flight, which is 3600 times less than emission of computed tomography. You can read more about whether it is safe to visit Chornobyl in our guide.

The list, of course, goes on. Every country has a couple of stereotypes that are especially annoying to its natives. If you treat new people as individuals, not a bunch of stereotypes, the world will open up quick.

Photo sources:,, All images belong to their rightful authors.

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