Before going to Ukraine, it would be nice to find out something about its customs and norms of everyday etiquette. In particular, you need to know how it is customary to greet other people (say “Hi” or «Hello») and what words and gestures are appropriate in different situations. Remember: the right greeting is the half a future friendship.
Ukrainian ways to say hello
Ukrainians use different greetings, which differ from each other by stylistic color, popularity degree and spheres of use:
“Zdrastuy!” or plural “Zdrastuyte!” (pronunciation is with an emphasis on the first syllable, spelling in Cyrillic are “Здрастуй!” and “Здрастуйте!”). These words are stylistically neutral, relevant in any situations and with a different character of the relationship between talkers. The translation of these words is just the same – Hello.
“Vitayu!” (the emphasis is on the second syllable, writing in Cyrillic – Вітаю!) or “Moye shanuvannya!” (pronounce with emphasizes on the second and third syllables accordingly, Cyrillic — Моє шанування). These are formal greetings with a touch of sonority, they are appropriate in an official setting. “Vitayu!” can be translated as “Greetings!” and “Moye shanuvannya” means “My respects”.
“Pryvit!” (say it with an emphasis on the second syllable, spelling is Привіт). This verbal greeting is informal, it is appropriate to say it, if the relations between the speakers are friendly. This greeting can be translated as “Hi” or “Hello”. By the way, if you want to surprise your Ukrainian boyfriend or girlfriend, you can say: “Pryvit, krasen’!” or “Pryvit, krasunya!”, which can be translated “Hello, handsome” or “Hello, beautiful” accordingly.
“Zdorov” (the emphasis is on the second syllable, writing in Cyrillic — Здоров). It is also an informal way to say hello. However, in modern speech, this greeting is accepted only among men. And, of course, it shouldn’t be addressed to girls or women, because it will sound rude. This word is also translated as “Hello” or “Hi”, but the wishes of health are initially present in this greeting. Ukrainian word “zdorov‘ya” means “health”.
After informal greetings, the usual question is “Yak pozhyvayete?” or “Yak sya mayete?”, both variants mean “How are you?”.
Handshake and kissing
In Ukraine, whether people are close relatives or not, a handshake is customary between men when they greet each other. In a formal setting, a handshake between a man and a woman during the greeting is possible too. If a woman reaches out to the man for a handshake, the man can shake or kiss her hand.
Remember that refusal to shake an outstretched hand can be perceived as offence in Ukraine.
The common way to say “hello” or «hi» traditionally was the handshake and the words “Dobroho ranku”, “Dobryj den’” or “Dobryy vechir” (depending on the time of day), which means «Good morning», «Good afternoon» «Good evening» accordingly. But of course, Ukrainian greeting culture had some regional differences and characteristics. For example:
- in Halychyna, people greeted each other by the words: “Day, Bozhe, shchastya!” which can be translated “May God give you happiness!”. And in response, they got: “Day, Bozhe, zdorov’ya!”, which is “May God give you health!”.
- in Polissya, it was customary to say one another “Slava Bohu”, the meaning is «Glory to God».
- in the southern regions of Podillya, the verbal formula of greetings was: “Dobryden”, that is “Good day” or “Pomahaybih”, it is a sort of “Help us, God”.
- in Northern Bukovina, men usually said “Dobroho zdorov’ya”, which can be translated “Wish you good health”, women — “Dobryden”, that is “Good day”.
- in the center and east of Ukraine, the greeting forms “Zdorov buv” or “Zdoroven’ki buly” were born, which can be translated “Stay healthy” and the plural of “Stay healthy”.
Over time, some forms of greetings have disappeared. But other forms appear and it is normal, because language is not “dead”, it should evolve.