After more than one year inside Ukraine I thought I’d try and answer this grammatically incorrect question once and for all. Or, more specifically, I wanted to identify what makes Ukraine special, different or unusual. With a view to doing this I started the task a few weeks ago by keeping a record of the things I noticed, the things that I liked, the things that annoyed me and the many many things that make Ukraine Ukrainian.
The plan was to take these notes and write them up into three lists: 1) the things I like, 2) the things I find interesting and 3) the things I don’t like. However; its just not possible. So many of the things I noted would fit in all three categories and as I’m someone who’s fascinated by the obscure – I’m interested in the things I don’t like and I like things if they’re interesting.
So I decided to lump them all together and dish them up in one long list. You’ll have to try and decide for yourself which ones I like and which ones I dislkie. It shouldn’t be too difficult.
Ukraine as a list, according to Ian Bearder
- The following words and phrases: Top management, VIP, Reliable Partner, Sushi, Information Partnership and Face Control.
- People (usually girls) who believe they’re too special to use public transport. In fact, if you believe you’re too special to use public transport I’m 99% sure the opposite is true. You’re probably a twat.
- All of my Ukrainian friends and colleagues. Ukraine wouldn’t be anything without them.
Communal toilet washing facilities
Soup with every meal
Ёжик в тумане
Decorative concrete fences
Train picnics with your fellow passengers (and usually with ham and fruit)
Emotional goodbyes and lots of waiving on the train platform
Devushka (women) …hey devushka!
Devushkas posing for pictures…
A) with their leg on a tree
B) with their face next to a flower
Arguing against Ukraine’s hypocritical and pointlessly nationalistic language policy
Babushkas (Grandmas: usually tough-as-nails and always with a headscarf. Ukraine wouldn’t function without them)
Marshrutkas (small yellow minibuses) I love them.
Passing money to a complete stranger on a Marshrutka, waiting for them to relay the money forward and then recieving your change …without moving from your seat.
1980s mullet haircuts being worn like they are still cool
The ‘celebrity’ business person
Vertical power structures
Eta Normalno? (is it normal? is it?)
Black Jackets, leather flat-caps, pointy black shoes and fur coats
“How you like Ukraine?”
“How long are you in Ukraine?” (meaning “How long HAVE you been in Ukraine?”)
Middle-aged, serious looking men singing passionate love songs at the Karaoke
Street Karaoke with single people singing alone, to themselves, in public
The fact that almost all girls I know attend dancing classes or Yoga
Leopard skin patterned coats, shirts, bras, socks, trousers, boots, knickers, dresses, skirts, suits, swimsuits, handkerchiefs, bed sheets, wallpaper… (etc etc)
Blue metro ‘zjatoni’ (tokens)
UAH (especially the 100 Hrivna because Schevchenko has a weird shaped head)
The Circus (its like time-travel)
24 hour flower shops (EVERYWHERE!)
Black Range Rovers
Black Range Rovers driving all over the pavement
Black Range Rovers that park all over the pavement
The kind of people who drive (or want to drive) Black Range Rovers that park all over the pavement
President (Tsar) Yanukovych and his bone-head Oligarch buddies
Queue jumping (this is the second favourite national sport. Smoking is the first favourite)
Sushi …sushi, sushi, sushi (f-ing sushi)
Poshli (lets go…)
‘ring ring!’ ‘ring ring! “Allo!? …ah, Maaaama!”
Reserved Signs (which don’t mean it’s reserved)
High levels of narcissism
Low levels of modesty
Very high levels of curiosity, generosity and drama
“I think I have a very Slavonic face. Don’t you think so?”
Women with very high voices and men with very low voices
So, do I like it? – yes, a lot. Do I like Ukrainians? Most of them – yes, a lot. Can I recommend life in Ukraine to anyone who’s thinking about it? Yes, absolutely. Just remember to be patient and try not to judge things by your own standards. It’s almost impossible, but try.
Ultimately, if Russia can be described as ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’, then I think Ukraine should be ‘a poem soaked in nostalgia, squashed into Vereniki and sung at full volume from a street karaoke machine’!