Ukrainian culture and mentality are truly special. I’ve lived all over the world and, while a few countries stand apart as very memorable (e.g., Brazil), there was always something that drew me to Eastern Europe, and specifically Ukraine.
Something about the beautiful cities, the rough winters, and the super stoic people.
Now, of course, it can be something deep in my psyche. After all, I grew up here. My relatives are all hardcore Eastern Europeans.
And, so for the longest time, I spent time thinking about what exactly it was that drew me to this part of the world. Why is that, that the longer I live here, the better and stronger I become—both physically, emotionally and mentally?
Why is it that the longer I live here, the calmer and relaxed I become with myself, other people and life in general?
Why is it that every time I visit my family in New York, I can’t wait to catch a flight back after just a couple of weeks?
I spent the summer this year living in 2nd-tier city of Dnipro, Ukraine. It was my first time there, and I finally took an invitation from a good friend who wanted to show me around.
Dnipro is what I call a “hard” Eastern European city. In this respect, it’s a bit rough around the edges.
While people are relatively friendly, it’s a far cry from Kiev where people are mostly courteous and at least greet each other; in Dnipro that doesn’t happen very often.
It was during my time living in Dnipro that I better understood my attraction to this region as a whole.
The first time this happened was when I was walking alone one of the semi-main streets. I walked along this street regularly to buy groceries and work at a cool coffee shop. In front of me was walking rather big and well-built guy. He looked to be rather important.
In front of him, there were walking several women, there were also several people walking behind me.
About 15 mins into my walk, the guy in front of me approached one of my favorite restaurants in the city. It was an Italian restaurant that I used as my first-date spot and enjoyed wine with countless women.
For some reason, the owner of the Italian restaurant decided to block off the entire part of the sidewalk facing the restaurant. They didn’t seem to be fixing anything, they just blocked it off.
As a result, everyone had to take a detour and walk along the road in order to keep walking to the destination.
What’s interesting about this is that not a single person made a fuss about it. Everyone just kept busily walking to the destination as though absolutely nothing had happened.
I found that rather interesting.
My first thought was to imagine what would happen if something like occurred in a big American city like San Francisco or New York.
Imagine the reactions of the people walking, say, along some street in Manhattan when some restaurant decided to block it off—without permits or anything.
People would be upset. They would feel this is unjust. They would alert the media. They would alert the city department. They would want the restaurant to be punished. They would want something to be done.
Not in Ukraine.
People kept walking because they didn’t care and because, most importantly, they had somewhere else to be.
A few weeks later, the city decided to raze down the sidewalks on both sides of the same street in order to build new ones.
The result: people had no choice but to walk along the road, sharing the road with other cars and hoping they wouldn’t get by passing cars.
I must admit that was definitely poorly planned and executed from the city’s side. No Western city in their right mind would simply raze down the sidewalks and begin construction without at least creating a safe passageway for the city’s inhabitants.
But this isn’t Copenhagen or Oslo; this is Eastern Europe. And, in this region of the world, people do what must be done without being too concerned about the “proper” way of doing it.
This reminds me what happened when I was in Sofia, Bulgaria a few years ago. I was having a late dinner with my Airbnb host when we noticed a German girl sitting alone at one of the tables in front.
She couldn’t understand the menu so my friend volunteered to help her out and translate.
She eventually joined our table, and one of the first things she asked was why there were so many stray dogs roaming around Sofia. She wanted to know why aren’t there various shelters that would take in the dogs and offer them for adoption.
“Because this is Bulgaria and we have much greater problems than helping stray dogs,” instantly answered my Bulgarian host.
Most importantly though, this came from a German girl; Bulgarians don’t really care about stray dogs. None of them (except for maybe a few hipsters who are studying in Western schools) are making a fuss and demanding a revolution because dogs aren’t being treated better or because a city decided to raze down the asphalt on a busy street.
This is Eastern European mentality.
And I absolutely love it.
People don’t concern themselves with petty matters. People don’t get offended easily. People don’t get triggered. People only care about things that directly affect them or their loved ones.
This mindset influences everything – from how people deal with all kinds of issues, to how they deal with each other, including the people they know and don’t know.
There’s one rule that I learned while living here: Eastern Europeans would typically never start shit with someone they don’t already know.
Of course, exceptions do apply and people have been known to be beaten up in the middle of the night, but those are mostly exceptions to the rule. You’re much more likely to get in a fight with a random person on an F train in Brooklyn than in some Soviet-looking neighborhood in Kiev or Moscow.
It’s breathtakingly refreshing that people just keep to themselves and worry about their own problems than trying to change the world through Western-sponsored revolutions that nobody needs.
In fact, that’s one enormous benefit of living in a foreign country: the country where you used to live gradually becomes foreign. As a result of living in Ukraine for about 3-4 years, seeing all of these feminists, white knights, and other righteous assholes loaded to the brim with entitlement behave the way they do seem puzzling and confusing.
Returning to America and seeing people make a fuss over something mundane that has even less to do with their actual livelihood defies any kind of common sense and purpose.
It’s almost like every person is fighting something else for some confusing belief and everyone else is caught in the crossfire.
When one of my articles went viral a few days ago (it happens often), a barrage of people left me angry comments both on the article and my Facebook page.
At the peak, there were over 350 people viewing the content at the same time.
Understandably, almost all of the comments were from women upset over something I had written (when I’ve never written anything remotely sexist in my life).
Naturally, most of these visitors hailed from Western countries such as the USA, Canada, UK, and Scandinavia.
Can you guess how many angry women were from Moldova, Ukraine, Russia or Belarus?
I know and understand these women. They’re too busy worrying about things that concern them personally: work, finding a great husband and starting a suitable family—not what some random guy wrote on the Internet.
When I lived in the USA, I was used to people leaving angry comments on some of the things I’ve written.
But, now that I’ve fully disconnected myself from the Western culture, seeing people leave such comments is a complete joke. And the joke is on them because it’s not their own beliefs that are responsible for their behavior; it’s someone else’s beliefs that hijacked what they truly believe in and directed them against people like me.
They have no idea what kind of fools they’re making of themselves.
The whole thing lasted about two days and the entire army of angry people has now vanished (as predicted), probably having moved to a new target.
Now, you may be thinking that the fact that I like Eastern European culture means that’s just my opinion and that every culture comes with its pros and cons.
And, while, that’s certainly a valid point, there are plenty of things that are broken here in Eastern Europe, but the fact that people don’t get caught up in random ideologies—at least normal, everyday people—I would argue is actually a pretty awesome thing.
Why should another man attack me for my political beliefs (or lack of them)?
Why should a woman attack me for something that I’ve written even though nothing I’ve ever written has ever been even remotely sexist?
This is why I like Eastern Europe so much. Talking to people is so refreshing because what they express are, for the most part, their own beliefs—not a mouthpiece for another greater agenda that’s working hard on dividing people instead of uniting them.
And this is why I find it so refreshing watching people walk straight to the destination ahead instead of being distracted with the things happening around them. The rest of the world can learn quite a bit from the Ukrainian culture and mentality.