Ukraine Business Etiquette

Ласкаво просимо в Україну (‘‘Welcome to Ukraine” in Ukrainian)

Ukraine, a relatively large European nation, rests between Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova. It is one of the most-bordered countries in the world. Ukraine, which was formerly a part of the Soviet Republic, is now a sovereign nation separate from Russia with its own political system and culture. Ukrainians are an East Slavic people whose language belongs to the Indo-European family. Other East Slavs include Russians and Belarusians.

There are several famous athletes that hail from the mighty Ukraine, including the boxing Klitschko brothers (Wladimir and Vitali), figure skater Oksana Baiul, and professional dancers Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Karina Smirnoff (both of Dancing With The Stars fame).

Besides the exportation of athletes, Ukraine has in recent years been flourishing in the arenas of information technology and energy supplies.

Before you hop on a plane and fly on over to Ukraine, let’s first learn about the dos and don’ts of Ukrainian business etiquette.

The Lowdown

  • The capital of Ukraine is Kiev (sometimes spelled "Kyiv"),  which is also its largest city.
  • The official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian, but there are actually 18 recognized regional languages, including Russian, Romanian, and Yiddish. Many Ukrainians are bilingual and speak either Russian or English as a second language.
  • About 75-80% of the population identifies ethnically as Ukrainian, and the remaining percentage is mostly composed of Russians.
  • There is no uniform religion in Ukraine; there is a presence of atheism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
  • Ukraine is a unitary semi-presidential constitutional republic (they have a President and a Prime Minister).
  • The correct way to refer to the country is "Ukraine," not "The Ukraine."
  • Fun fact: Ukraine is the biggest country in Europe by land area (not counting Russia, which is sometimes considered to be in Asia). It is over 230,000 square miles in area! For more interesting facts on Ukraine, you can visit this informative travel blog

Dressing Sharp

  • Conservative dress is expected in Ukraine for both men and women. Dark colored suits with white shirts are the standard.
  • Women can wear either a pantsuit, a suit with a skirt, or a conservative dress.
  • If you travel to another site, such as a restaurant or night club, it’s acceptable to dress up in flashier clothing. However, keep it clean and professional in your day to day business dealings!

Make or Break Meetings

  • Ukrainians are typically warm and generous people. The proper greeting is a firm handshake and good eye contact.
  • Ukrainians have a specific format for naming their children. The last name is the surname, but the middle name will usually be a derivative of their father’s name (depending on if they are female or male). Make sure you know and can adequately pronounce the names of all parties before arriving, as in formal situations, all three parts of the name – first, middle, and last – may be used.
  • Use titles when addressing your Ukrainian contact. If they do not have a particular title, use “Pan” (Mr.) or “Pani” (Mrs.).
  • Although many Ukrainians, as previously stated, are bilingual, check their fluency before arriving and arrange for a translator if necessary.
  • Ukrainians hold advanced degrees in high regard. If you have one, it is a good idea to put it on your business card. It will certainly impress!

Dining Decorum

  • For casual situations, dining etiquette will be casual. For formal occasions, it will be more formal.
  • Before the meal, the host may give the toast “ze vashe zdorovya” (“to your health”).  This is often times toasted with vodka.
  • Just like in Russia, drinking is very common in Ukraine. If you want to build a good rapport with your Ukrainian party, drinking is sort of a “must do.”
  • The eldest person at the table will be the first served. Wait until you are invited to start eating to do so.
  • Table manners are Continental. If you are confused on what to do, watch your neighbor.
  • You must try at least a small portion of everything offered. A refusal is considered offensive. Ukrainians may also push second helpings on you.

Giving and Getting Gifts

  • Gift giving is not a normal part of the Ukrainian business world, but if you are invited to the home of a Ukrainian, it’s polite to bring a token of appreciation.
  • Normally, gifts are exchanged by family members on birthdays, Christmas, and name days.
  • Gifts should be modest and inexpensive. Like the old expression says – “It’s the thought that counts.”
  • Acceptable gifts include:  cake, candy, flowers, or liquor. Pretty standard, from what we’ve seen from other Business Etiquette blurbs!
  • Gifts are normally not opened upon receipt. 

Down to Business

  • Communication in Ukraine is at once direct and tactful. They do not want to waste time, nor do they want to appear blunt or insensitive.
  • Ukrainians prefer to do business with people they know and trust, so it is pertinent that a business relationship be built before negotiations are closed.
  • Agendas are not strictly followed in meetings. Allow extra time for discussion of facts and other items.
  • Business negotiations can be quite bureaucratic, as there is a lot of government interference in business dealings. As much as it may frustrate you, it also causes Ukrainian business people frustration - so be patient!

Now that you're well prepared for your next jet-setting business trip to Ukraine, don't forget to stay tuned for our next Business Etiquette blurb!

до побачення  (‘‘Goodbye” in Ukrainian)

Ukraine flag.png