What people know about Ukraine
- Here begins Ukrainian chernozem (fertile soil), a layer of black and obese soil fifty feet thick, and often more, it is never fertilized
Honoré de Balzac, Napoleonic era French writer
- Ukrainian women are the most beautiful in the world
Pierre Richard, French actor
- God gave Ukraine such good soil so that it could feed the whole of Europe
Lech Walesa, Cold War activist turned politician in neighbouring Poland
I meet a lot of people who know something about Ukraine, from a distance.
Many people have heard about Ukraine in the news in the last couple of years. They may have watched Ukraine stage the the Euro football championships in 2012, the Eurovision song contest in Kiev in 2004 or 2017, and seen reports about the Orange Revolution of 2004 and the Revolution of Dignity of 2014.
Some men (it always seems to be men) tell me about the legendary beauty of Ukrainian women, while the economists and historians I meet in my university role know Ukraine as the bread basket of the Europe.
Sports fans may have seen the Klichko brothers fight or Shevchenko score goals on the football pitch. One or two food-lovers may mention borsch or Chicken Kiev or salo (yes, it’s pig fat, to save you a visit to Wikipedia).
While some people have heard cultural figures talk lyrically about Ukraine (see box), I’ve met others who got their initial information about my country from the Simpsons.
What people really should know about Ukraine
But the truth up close is far more complex and fascinating. Now, by helping to prepare CultureConnector’s new cultural profile of Ukraine I’ve been able to dive into some big topics which delight, amuse, frustrate and amaze people from other cultures as they start to work with Ukrainians.
Believe me, there are some things you really should know as you begin a collaboration with my countryfolk. I see evidence of this regularly, working with teams, experts, executives, families and students to bridge the cultural divide.
Some of the themes which come through strongly in the CultureConnector profile are
- the need for social connection in the workplace
- the challenge of uncovering hidden business problems
- the particular approach to project planning
There are a couple more themes that I want to share here, based on many years of research and practice in this field, and far-distant from the view you get on the Simpsons.
Living large in a big country
Ukraine is big. It’s the largest county entirely within Europe, bigger than France, Spain or Germany and only slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Texas, at 603,628 square kilometres.
Industries tend to be big too. Ukraine has 33% of the world’s best rich dark soil, and agriculture is still a vital economic sector.
Ukraine has the biggest manganese ore deposits in the world (2.3 billion tons or 11 percent of the planet’s reserves), a key raw material in steel-making.
Ukraine is the world’s third largest exporter of honey, with a total of around seventy thousand tons – an incredible amount of honey!
Creativity that is off the scale
It’s not only nature that is big in Ukraine. Human ambition also happens on a giant scale.
Kiev is home to the world’s biggest plane, the Antonov An-225 Mriya. Its 88-metre wingspan is the largest of any aircraft and it weighs 640 tons.
The world’s longest musical instrument is the Trembita, which also originated from Ukraine. It is a very long pipe (up to 4 meters) played by the Hutsul people, an ethnicity from Ukraine’s Carpathian Mountains.
The world’s deepest metro station is 105.5 meters beneath Ukraine’s capital city, and you might celebrate this fact by filling a glass of champagne – the world’s biggest champagne glass was made in Ukraine.
With the right motivation there are no limits to the creativity of Ukrainians and their desire to be the best. Many of my foreign clients have achieved great success in unlocking this creativity from their Ukrainian teams. Some clients first approached me because they were not realising the full potential of their projects in Ukraine. How can you release the potential of a Ukrainian team? You can now get started by exploring CultureConnector’s profile of Ukraine and get some of the keys to unlocking that Ukrainian creative potential.
Outside of business hours
With good leadership, Ukrainians work long and hard, but they typically work to live rather than live to work. They expect to connect with their colleagues in a human-to-human way, and perhaps become friends. Social events with co-workers and personal events outside of the workplace are important in working life too.
It’s important to show your interest in Ukrainian life, society and culture. There’s plenty of it. For example,
- Civilisation inside the borders of modern Ukraine dates back to 4800 B.C.E. and the Trypillian and Scythian cultures.
- Ukraine claims the geographical centre of Europe: the small town of Rakhiv in western Ukraine.
- UNESCO has certified several World Heritage sites in Ukraine, including the primeval beech forests of the Carpathians, Kiev’s 11th century Saint-Sophia Cathedral and the ancient city of Chersonesus.
- The Black Sea water level is more or less free of tides, one of the reason why the Black and Azov Seas have been so popular with holidaymakers.
Visiting Ukraine for business, your Ukrainian hosts will be happy to see that you are in the country for pleasure too.
Europe’s IT department.
Ukrainian society is highly educated, with literacy rates in the top ten in the world. The Ostroh Academy is one of the oldest universities anywhere. And today Ukraine has one of the largest populations of IT professionals in the world.
Software development and other IT services form a big and booming sector in Ukraine. Ukrainians are joining the projects of teams and organisations in Europe and worldwide on an outsourcing model, and Ukrainian companies are being bought by tech giants such as Google and Snapchat.
The worldwide video game hit Cossacks, the startup behind the $100m investor-backed Grammarly and a co-founder of PayPal are all Ukrainian.
Ukrainians are very goal-oriented and persistent in achieving what they really want.
Joy in the Complaints Department
OMG! There are so many things to mention! Being a proud Ukrainian I can continue writing about this country as long as you can keep scrolling. Ukraine has a lot to offer to each of you!
You will be pleasantly surprised. Most of all by the people. Here in Ukraine you will not see fake smiles. If someone smiles at you it will be a warm, honest smile sent from the bottom of their heart. The question “How are you?’’ is not a meaningless formality in Ukraine but a genuine interest in your successes and in your causes for complaint. In fact, the question is often an excuse to find a common ground for complaints. A good session of shared and exchanged complaining could lead to making real friends.
So if there is something you have always wanted to complain about – Ukraine is the place!
About 77 % of Ukrainians have never been abroad and 36% have never left their region! They are waiting for you to arrive on business or pleasure. So as a foreigner, it’s time to take the keys to this culture and prepare to be sincerely received, listened to, appreciated and …fed of course!
Aircraft photo by barteq24
Ukraine on the screen
It’s not just the Simpsons…
Sex and the City features Ukrainian Magda, who as Miranda’s housekeeper tries to impose a proper, traditional way of life. Magda buys Miranda her rolling pin to make cakes and replaces Miranda’s vibrator with a statuette of the Virgin Mary for the bedside table.
House. In the final season of this popular TV series about a bad-tempered hospital doctor, Gregory House hangs a portrait of Taras Shevchenko (the legendary Ukrainian artist) and he is married to a smart, friendly and creative Ukrainian character Dominica Petrova, just to help her get a Green Card to stay in the United States.
2012 (movie). One of the main roles in the Hollywood blockbuster 2012 of was played by Ukrainian aircraft AN-225 “Mriya”, which, according to the plot, is owned by billionaire Karpov. In the film, the Americans were shocked by the size of the plane.