Top 5 Stereotypes about Ukraine, common in the West
The myth of Ukraine, as a country of Chernobyl, gangsters, prostitutes, villagers and hard-working migrant workers is still flourishing, and now this list is enriched with corruption. Few foreigners consider Ukrainians strong and independent. So, this article is about Top 5 Stereotypes about Ukraine.
Today our country is experiencing the peak of national identification, and compatriots proudly emphasize their belonging to the Ukrainian nation. However, just a few have an answer to “What does it mean to be Ukrainian?” or “What is being a nation?” According to generally accepted encyclopedic definitions, a nation is a society of people who acquire common nature through single destiny.
In addition to a common history, each nation also has its own DNA – that unique code that is hidden in the simplest and seemingly understandable – wards, tales and songs.
The nation code is “living matter”, “sewn” into the state and its people. This is mentality, associations, images, and of course stereotypes.
Stereotypes are direct identification with the state – and the deep, historical, true identity of its people. Therefore, in this article we study what the stereotypes about Ukraine and the Ukrainian nation are at the moment, what influence they have, how they appeared and why they still live.
They believe that the world started actively talking about Ukraine and Ukrainians after the 2013–2014 revolution. New stereotypes associated with our people came to life. We collected five old and new myths about Ukrainians as a nation, and discussed them with four experts – emigrants living in different countries. We asked them: “What stereotypes about Ukrainians have you encountered?
FIRTS STEREOTYPE – LARD
The first association when asked about Ukrainians is our love for lard — many foreigners think we won’t even have breakfast without it.
There are several ideas where this stereotype came from. The population of Ukraine was mostly rural; each family had not only a cow, but also pigs. However, the cow was the breadwinner (gave milk), and the pig was fattened to sell in the market. Wealthy people bought the most expensive meat, and the cheapest (including fat) was left to the villagers.
Second version states that during the times of the Tatar-Mongol raids the invaders took away everything except pork, which the Muslim Tatars simply did not eat. That is why fat and pork were practically the only way not to die of hunger.
This stereotype stuck to the nation, although many Ukrainians do not eat lard.
Opinion of Ukrainian Emigrants who left Ukraine:
What they hear about Ukraine abroad?
Bohdana Fedun, emigrant, France:
– For 70 years behind the iron curtain of the Soviet Union, excommunicated from the rest of the world, Ukraine remained a mystery. I could not even imagine that stereotypes about Ukraine have such deep roots until I have personally encountered this. I study in high school in Toulon, where mostly French and very few foreigners live. On the first day of arrival, I was bombarded with questions: “Wow, you are from Ukraine! And it is very cold there, they say?” The most common stereotype here is about a cold country. In addition, they think that concentration camps and the GULAG were located in Ukraine, and are still there. In addition, people here know about Chernobyl: “Ukraine? You have radiation everywhere!” The most common questions are if we eat melons and if we know what clean drinking water is. The French also say that there are many beautiful girls, tasty food and beautiful nature in Ukraine. I think the more Ukrainians travel the world and represent Ukraine, the less silly stereotypes there is.
Maria Polivoda, emigrant, Buffalo (New York), USA:
“For 25 years in Spain, Portugal and the United States, I came across such stereotypes about Ukrainians: they are always dissatisfied with everything, they believe that all foreigners are stupid, everyone is to blame for their problems, Soviet education is perfect, Ukrainian children are wiser than American ones. At the same time, most of these whiny representatives of our nation shall never return to their homeland; they prefer to work and indulge in material well-being in “stupid” America. However, there is more. Once, when I just moved to New York and walked around Manhattan, I stopped near African American who played the drum in a very unusual way and earned money. He asked where I was from (apparently, my clothes betrayed a non-American), and having heard “Ukraine”, he played the Christmas song “Carol of bells”! Americans generally consider this masterpiece their own, although it was composed by the Ukrainian Mykolai Leontovych.
Lara Putilina, emigrant, Rome, Italy:
– In Italy, they believe that Ukrainian women are either prostitutes or they only think about money. Italian men fear Ukrainian women – they are afraid that Ukrainians can only date them because of money and housing. For 4 years of emigration, I really met cunning emigrant female workers looking for rich old men. However, many Italians say that Ukrainians are truly hard-working nation.
SECOND STEREOTYPE – Vodka in every home
This tradition roots back to the times of the Cossacks, when the valiant and hot-tempered Ukrainian warriors enjoyed bright evenings before the battles, after the battles and in the interval between them.
Of course, we cannot say that this phenomenon in the families is gone. Men still like meeting to play chess or dominoes and have a couple or more shots of vodka. However, this phenomenon has long been not as widespread as before. Nevertheless, we should be honest too – this tradition still exists.
THIRD STEREOTYPE – Ukraine equals Russia
Until now, many foreigners consider Ukrainians Russi’s descents, and at worst, they do not even know in which part of the world they should look for a state where people like lard and vodka. Many believe that Ukraine is rebellious part of Russia that once decided to separate from the “mother”. There is even a perception that winters in Ukraine are fierce and snowy, people walk in fur hats with earflaps, and in the villages, you can meet a bear in the courtyard.
It is also believed that Ukrainian and Russian languages are very similar. This is a big mistake, since they have only about 60% in common.
For example, if you try to communicate with a native of Moscow in Ukrainian, most likely he simply will not understand you. Some words are similar, but we have a specific accent; the languages sound kindred only to Ukrainians, since we speak both from childhood and from generation to generation.
Oleg Tretyakov, emigrant, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil:
– 99% of Brazilians do not know where Ukraine is; the only thing they have ever heard is that it is fighting for its independence with the Russian Federation. There is other problem: for many Brazilians, all the Slavic nations from the former USSR are Russians. Maybe that’s why my friends from the Brazilian police and other official organizations believe that all Ukrainians are poor, they don’t want to learn foreign languages, don’t want to work and assimilate.
FOURTH STEREOTYPE – Motanka doll is the same as the nested doll
This stereotype is also connected with Russia. Foreigners mistakenly believe that the nested doll is no different from motanka doll, and it is originally Ukrainian. However, it is not true.
Nested doll is a toy first created in Moscow in the XIX century. It is a copy of the Japanese figurine of the Buddhist sage Fukurama, which opened, and inside it, there were five smaller copies.
For those who do not know and have never heard about Ukrainian dolls, motanka is a Ukrainian toy: it appeared on the territory of Ukraine in ancient times. The first evidence of this toy dates back 5,000 years ago.
Mothers and grandmothers not only made rag toys for children, but also made charms of them. In Ukrainian, the word “motanka” comes from the word “to wind up”, and has nothing to do with the Russian nesting doll.
Therefore, when you come to Kiev and walk along the Andreevsky Descent, where you will find the biggest number of souvenirs in Ukrainian capital, do not buy a nesting doll, buy motanka.
What else among the souvenirs and gifts is the symbol of Ukraine?
The country transmits itself to the world through its symbolic things, its gifts in particular; Ukraine is no exception.
Giving a present of nesting doll or a mace, we demonstrate our dependence on another country, because these symbols are not originally Ukrainian. The myth of Ukraine, as a country of Chernobyl, gangsters, prostitutes, villagers and hard-working migrant workers is still flourishing, and today the list has become wider with total corruption added. Few foreigners consider Ukrainians strong and independent.
Another thing is our friends, who know our land and us, and despite all the turmoil, they come here. They are ready to travel around Ukraine, since we have interesting history and inexpensive service. Popular gifts are nesting dolls, pysankas (foreigners still call any painted egg pysanka), embroidered clothes – although today this proud name is given to any shirt with embroidery. In addition, poppy flower is one of the popular images associated with our country. However, it is a flower of memory and grief. Long ago woman added poppy flowers into her wreath if a grief happened to her family. Now we have poppies at every corner – both in wreaths and on clothes.
Do not choose the path of mass tourism – do not buy Chinese souvenirs with inscriptions Kyiv or Ukraine. Buy handmade dishes or glass – it will not collect dust in the attic but will come in handy in everyday life.
Many foreigners value high quality handmade items, and besides, such things are expensive abroad. For example, in Ukraine, a large hand painted plate costs a thousand hryvnia – for Ukrainian it is a very high price; for someone this is almost the entire pension! However, for a foreigner it is only 30 euros!
Coffee cups of various masters and different techniques are also in great demand – foreigners drink a lot of coffee and appreciate our handmade sets. Even ovenware that can be used in everyday life and not for beauty only is a wonderful souvenir! Foreigners also appreciate our glass handicrafts: it is five times cheaper than the famous Murano, and the manufacturing technology is the same.
Embroidery is also a wonderful gift. If you are lookıng for a present for somebody, make sure you know the size exactly and that the person wıll really like it.
FIFTH STEREOTYPE – Ukrainian women are the most beautiful
Slavic roots, blue big eyes, oval face with pearl skin, pink lips, blond hair reaching the waist – isn’t it beautiful? It is hard to disagree with this stereotype.
Ukrainian women often win beauty contests; Western and Eastern men often marry Ukrainian beauties. In addition, our beauty benefits from the fact that we (unlike French or British women) not only have subtle features, but also take care of ourselves. Ukrainian women love to dress, use cosmetics, and braid their hair.
The habit of taking care about appearance roots back into history. Think about the red large beads on the necks of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers, wreaths of flowers in their hair, white embroidered shirts with bright patterns, and colorful scarves. Our women have always been bright and attractive. Therefore, this stereotype is true.
Share your associations and stereotypes about Ukraine in comments.
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