Help a sister out?

23 Nov

OK JustAdventurers, particularly those of you who live(d) in UKRAINE, I need your help. A friend will spend 5-6 weeks in The Motherland starting in JANUARY (gah!). She’s undertaking a truly righteous adventure in a large eastern city that I cannot reveal.

To help her succeed and come home as happy and sane as possible: What does she need to do, not do, bring, avoid, etc?

I provided the following list of tips based on what I remember from a decade ago, but my brain is old and broken, so please chime in with COMMENTS about what else she needs to know besides this:

  • I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for you to have VERY WARM clothes and super sturdy/waterproof Arctic-level boots. Much walking. Much cold. No fun at all.
  • Must take off shoes when entering a home;
  • Do not demonstrate your feet in public or in someone else’s home (i.e., put them on the furniture or stretch them in the aisles on public transport);
  • Do NOT shake hands over the transom of a door;
  • Always bring a hostess gift and if it’s flowers, make sure you bring an ODD number (3, 5, 9, etc);
  • Be prepared to eat/drink EVERYTHING that is offered to you (at least try it);
  • Be prepared to deliver a “toast” at most meals;
  • If a man offers to carry your bags, open doors, etc. just let him — do not try to be “independent” as a woman;
  • Do not expect any personal privacy;
  • Do not compliment a child under age 3 with any of the following terms: “pretty,” “smart,” “strong,” or “good” (doing so will “curse” them to become the opposite);
  • When standing in line at the store, you must stand VERY CLOSE to the person in front of you, otherwise expect to have someone cut in front of you — and when they *do* cut in front of you, do NOT react, except to move closer to them so that you don’t make the same mistake (leaving space) that you did the first time (it’s your own fault for leaving space);
  • Try not to smile at all, to anyone, for any reason, while walking on the streets or while on public transportation (I put this one in bold because it is THE hardest one for an American to learn/do, and yet it’s also the most important);
  • ALWAYS wear a hat whenever you are outside;
  • Always carry tissue/TP and small coins with you so that you can buy entry into the (few-and-far-between and NEVER well stocked/cleaned) public restrooms;
  • Practice your “squatty-potty” skills (public restrooms very rarely have toilet seats; they’re mainly just holes in the ground) and, btw, if you want to find one the proper phase is “G’day toy-let?”
  • If you are there on Jan 7, be advised that this is pretty much THE MOST IMPORTANT holiday in the entire country — let me know if that’s the case…

What am I forgetting?

For those of you who live in Ukraine now, are these tips from a decade ago still valid?

What else does she need to know?

Ready? Go!

(and thanks!!)


8 Responses to “Help a sister out?”

  1. Art November 23, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    i would add: ” be cautious of helpful strangers, even if they are police”. not very humanitarian, but i remember that my kinsmen look at foreigners as prey. its a good thing to have a trustworthy local on speedial for help with interactions with authorities etc.

    • justadventures November 23, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

      thanks, ‘tyom!

    • G$ November 23, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

      Agree. Carry a copy of your passport (aka do-kyu-ment) and don’t ever hand the real thing over to anyone. Carry kleenex with you (public toilets may not have good tp). Don’t sit at the corner of a table if you’re single. Wear a coat that at least covers your booty…people will incessantly tell you that you’re ovaries will freeze. Take hand/foot warmers if you’re not used to the cold. Don’t talk in public transportation. There is no rule of courtesy…don’t be afraid to elbow your way through a babushka. Be prepared to give thoughtful answers to “how do you like our city?”

      • justadventures November 23, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

        Oooh! Forgot about the whole “frozen ovaries” thing! Excellent additions, G$!. I will also further amend the list to include “don’t sit on cement walls or steps.”

  2. BB November 23, 2013 at 10:02 pm #

    Don’t even think about opening a window if your train compartment/bus or taxi’s heater is working overtime. But do keep a small lightweight down blanket in your travel bag in case the heater’s not working at all! And don’t open a bottle of vodka unless you want to help finish it!

    • justadventures November 23, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

      You know it took me more than a year to learn the whole “keep a small blanket/shawl in your bag” thing! Thanks for reminding me of this important lesson, which I will be sure to share onward. I will also emphasize the deadly terrors (and angry yelling) that result from allowing a “draft” to invade anyone’s life. Shudder. Good work, B!

  3. Andrey November 27, 2013 at 8:03 am #

    Your comments left a smile on my face, as the American view on the Ukrainian reality but they all are absolutely valid!
    January is also know as “drunken month”, due to the big amount of public holidays: New Year, Christmas, Old New Year…etyc, so your friend should be ready to practise her alcohol and digestion skills whenever visiting any of the Ukrainian homes 🙂


  1. Ukrainian Thanksgiving | JustAdventures - November 28, 2013

    […] up this week. She’s in Kiev now. She sends her thanks to all who provided helpful comments on her special blog. We’ll report back on her hopefully successful adventure once she returns to the U.S. In the […]

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