You live in a bilingual society. You are as likely to have Russian as a native language as you are to have Ukrainian. Usually, though, you consider both to be your native language.
More people in the world have heard of your country in connection with the Chernobyl nuclear accident than anything else.
If you're young, you're probably familiar with popular culture figures and pop groups such as Ruslana, Les Podervyansky, Tartak, Vopli Vidoplyasova, Okean Elzy, Skryabin, Green Gray. If you live in Kiev, you've probably seen some of them in bars around town, too. You've probably heard Les Podervyansky's obscene plays and find them quite funny, but you've not seen the pictures he paints.
If you're older, you are probably better familiar with the likes of Sofia Rotaru, Mykola Gnatyuk, Nazariy Yaremchuck and (oh-my-god) Verka Serdyuchka.
You are very familiar with the entire Soviet cultural heritage-- movies, cartoons, books-- and still love them nostalgically. You take particular pride in the excellent cartoons made by the KievNauchFilm studio, such as “Captain Vrungel”, “The Treasure Island”, and “The Cossacks” cartoon series.
You know what KVN means. If you graduated from a higher education institution, it is likely that you played in a KVN team yourself or had friends that did.
You are still culturally very connected to Russia. Most of the trashy pop and witless comedians you know originate from Russia. Okay, some of those comedians aren't that bad after all, particularly Mikhail Zhvanetsky who is in fact Ukrainian.
The Italian connection
If you're male, you're very likely to be a football fan. (The word ‘soccer’ doesn’t mean anything to you... who would call football ‘soccer’ anyway?) You support Shakhtar Donetsk if you’re from the Donetsk region, and Dynamo Kiev if you’re from any other part of the country.
You also follow Italian football because Andriy Shevchenko plays in Milan. You think Shevchenko is the most famous Ukrainian in the world, and you’re probably right. (Incidentally, your national poet from the 19th century had the same surname.)
You are generally familiar with basketball and volleyball and maybe even played them at school. Baseball, cricket and American football are strange sports played by those strange foreigners.
Another sport that exists for you is boxing, at least since the Klitchko brothers hit the big time.
You expect to have one full month of holiday every year. You rarely use it, though. For holiday, you normally go to the Crimea and complain about how awful the service is, how high the prices are, and how full of Russians it is. If you’re richer, you go to Turkey, Egypt or Greece.
You live in a country where there are three Orthodox Churches and two Catholic Churches. You’re not sure about the real differences between them. You go to whichever church happens to be closer to your home once a year for Easter. That is unless you are a Crimean Tatar, in which case you’re Muslim.
You’re not really sure if God exists, but wear a crucifix just in case. Most likely, you regard Protestants with suspicion, unless you are one.
But what if McD's served pork fat?
Food is very important to you. You spend a fair share of your income on food. Of course you eat at a table, sitting on chairs or benches.
You don’t consider insects, lizards, dogs, cats, monkeys, horses, frogs, snails or snakes to be food.
You like pork fat. Salted, smoked, peppered or spiced. No, you seriously like pork fat. You know that the Russians make fun of you because of this, but you still like pork fat.
You live in a country where pork is more expensive than veal.
You think that fast food like McDonald’s isn’t all that cheap (and you’ve never seen a Burger King or a KFC). You prefer local fast-food chains-- they’re much better because they serve ‘normal’ (i.e. Ukrainian) food instead of burgers.
In most cases you eat at home. Your wife/sister/mother is probably a good cook. Not as good as your granny, though.
You are convinced that Russians can’t cook.
Yoghurt is still a fairly exotic food; it’s widely available but not everybody buys it. Sour cream is a lot more popular and usually comes in plastic bowls.
You can take pride in being probably the only country in the world that has a word for vodka other than ‘vodka’-- you call it horilka. Naturally, Ukrainian horilka is the best vodka in the world.
You don’t have much taste for wine, but consume a fair amount of beer, particularly if you’re a student. The only beer worth drinking is Ukrainian. Okay, some German types are drinkable, but they’re quite expensive.
How do you confuse a Moldavian?
You don’t know how many political parties are active in your country, nor do you care. Unless you’re an aging Communist or a hard-line nationalist, you vote for leaders, not parties, and you choose them on a ‘lesser evil’ basis.
You feel strangely different from Russians when at home or in Russia, and strangely similar to them when in any other country.
Even if you speak Russian all your life, you still have a Ukrainian accent. You easily spot Russians by their ugly accent, too.
You use the word ‘black’ (chorny) to describe people from the Caucasus. You use the word ‘Negro’ to describe people with black skin, although you don’t get to see too many of these, only some foreign students.
You think Russians are thieves and drunkards, Jews greedy, Poles snobbish, Byelorussians inferior, and you tell jokes about Moldavians. At the same time, you have acquaintances, friends, or even relatives from these nationalities.
You have no trust in the court system whatsoever. You’re sure courts and judges are bought and sold just like anything else.
You probably studied some English at school or university, but saying anything more elaborate than “My name is Vova” is most likely beyond you.
You think that 13% income tax is too high, so you don’t pay any tax at all if you can get away with it.
State school is free but paid private schools are better.
In theory, you can still go to university for free. In practice, that’s less and less likely.
You use the day.month.year format: 24.08.1991. (You must know what happened on that date)
You measure things in metres, grams, and litres. Temperatures are measured in Celsius degrees. Pounds, feet, gallons and Fahrenheit degrees mean absolutely nothing to you.
The decimal point is the comma.
Marrying for hryvnia
You expect to marry for love, but you’re used to seeing people marrying for money. You get married in the civil registrar’s office. A church marriage isn’t legally valid. It isn’t necessary to marry in church, but most people still do it, on the same day as their legal marriage.
If a man has sex with another man, he’s a homosexual. As long as he keeps it private, he’ll be fine.
Once introduced to someone your age or younger, you can usually call them by their first name. You normally address people over your age and your superiors by their first name and patronymic.
You’re most likely not a farmer, but chances are high that your parents or grandparents were born in the countryside and you still have relatives there, whom you occasionally visit.
If you’re a young woman from a big city, you have most likely sunbathed topless at least once.
On television and in cinemas, foreign films are dubbed. That clearly doesn’t apply to Russian films and TV shows, which are subtitled (which isn’t really necessary).
You haven’t seen a Ukrainian movie in a very long time. If you have, then you haven’t seen a decent Ukrainian movie in a very long time.
You can’t seriously expect to be able to transact business, or deal with officials, without paying bribes. Having friends in the right places or drinking with the right people would help enormously.
If a politician has been cheating on his wife, that’s got nothing to do with his ability to govern.
If you live in the city, just about any big store will take your credit card, although few people bother to get one.
Open-air markets are about as popular for shopping as supermarkets and malls. This applies not only to food, but also to clothes, books, home appliances and a lot of other stuff.
If you buy a CD, there is about 90% probability that it’s a pirated one. Some licensed CDs that are reasonably priced have finally appeared, though.
A company can fire just about anybody it wants. Trade unions existed in Soviet times, but you don’t hear much about them any more.
Can I get the whole Whitweek off?
Labour Day is May 1st. You remember a time when it was called The Day of Solidarity of All Working People. May 2nd is a holiday, too, as well as May 9th, as a consequence of which many businesses are shut for the first ten days of May altogether.
You have several new holidays-- Easter, Whitsunday, Constitution Day and Independence Day-- and you are not sure exactly when they are.
You’re not going to die of cholera or other Third World diseases. But unless you can afford expensive private medical insurance, you don’t want to get ill, because that would mean spending long hours in hospital corridors waiting for a physician who will not appear until next month.
You don’t expect your military to fight wars or get involved in politics. What you do expect the military to do, though, is to get their act together: look after their ammunition warehouses properly and stop practices such as shooting down civilian airplanes, aiming missiles at residential buildings and dropping fighter planes into the crowd at air shows.
You don’t really care very much about what family someone comes from, unless you’re Jewish.
Opera and ballet are rather elite entertainments. It’s likely you don’t see that many plays, either.
Christmases are in the winter of course. There is the Catholic Christmas on 25th December and the Orthodox one on 7th January, with New Year’s Eve in between. Many people celebrate all three. As a result, many businesses are shut for the whole period. You’ll have a Christmas tree and exchange gifts.
You don’t really understand the concept of “social security” because there isn’t any worth mentioning.
You’re not allowed to drink and drive. Not even a sip of beer.
Taxi cabs are operated by locals who know the streets reasonably well and will complain about the city being overrun by village folk. To get a taxi ride, you don’t need to look for a particular type of car-- whatever your sex, stand on the curb with a hand raised, and every other car will stop offering you a lift (often cheaper than official taxis).
It’s not polite to show up at someone’s place unannounced, but still acceptable among some people. If you do get unexpected guests, you’re likely to find a bottle of horilka in your fridge to serve them a couple of shots.
You have to obtain a passport once you’re over 16 year of age. You have to get a separate one if you want to travel abroad.
You studied Russian history and some Ukrainian history. The history of the rest of the world is pretty obscure. Your Ukrainian history was presented to you as a story of a long battle for unification with Russia. Now you’re told it was the other way round.
You still argue with Russians over the heritage of Kievan Rus. They claim it’s theirs or shared, whilst you claim it’s exclusively yours.
If the Russians want to piss you off, they call you Polonised Russians, whilst you know that Russians are not even a Slavic nation at all, they are savage Finns from the northern forests.
Your country has been conquered by wave after wave of invaders throughout its history. Tatars, Lithuanians, Poles, Hungarians, Austrians, Swedes, Turks, Russians, Germans-- they’ve all been here.
All your neighbours (with the potential exception of Byelorussians) think they’re entitled to some or even all of your territory. At the same time, you may think that some of Russia, some of Poland and all of Byelorussia should be annexed to Ukraine.
You can take rightful pride in your Cossack past and the heroic struggles against the Turks and Tatars. Plundering Moldavia on a regular basis was far less heroic and therefore less known.
Your history is one of uprisings, during which you allied with one conqueror against another as a matter of course. As a result, most of your neighbours believe that you betrayed them at one time or another.
You’re still not sure whether Ivan Mazepa was a traitor or the greatest Ukrainian patriot of all time. Same story with Bogdan Khmelnitsky.
Russia still tries to pretend it’s your best friend. Its most friendly act of all was wiping out a quarter of Ukraine’s population in the 1930s in artificial famine.
World War II was a total disaster-- Ukrainians fought on both sides and are still divided over it. The country was reduced to ruins and a civil guerrilla war lasted far into the 1950s. The positive outcome, however, was unification of all Ukrainians within the same state, for the first time in history.
You can be proud that your nation contributed greatly to the creation of the Soviet Union, one of the two greatest powers of the 20th century. You can also be proud that your nation (and possibly you personally) contributed greatly to the dismantling of the Soviet Union.
Generations of your ancestors fought for independence and were always defeated. Your generation did not really fight for independence yet won it.
The fruits of capitalism
You have a wide variety of choices for almost anything you want to buy-- if you can afford it, of course.
You own a telephone, a TV and a VCR. Those who have cars are considered better-off.
You’ve most likely got a mobile phone, but you haven’t had it for very long. All mobile communication providers are private.
You don’t have a dirt floor. Your house is under-heated in the winter, and you’re used to it. Air conditioners only exist in offices and big shops.
You don’t want to retire because the pension is so scanty you can’t live off it.
You think real estate prices are far beyond the reach of normal people, especially in Kiev, so you have to rent your accommodation unless you inherited or privatised it.
The bathroom is the room where the bathtub is. The washing machine is often in there too, but the toilet may be in a separate room.
Steel mills, chemical plants and other big factories in your country are now privately owned by the people you call ‘oligarchs’. Sometimes, oligarchs fight each other over some big piece of property, but you don’t really care, unless you’re a journalist, a politician or a politically-obsessed pensioner. In the latter case you believe all businessmen are crooks and must be jailed or shot.
You think the government at all levels in your country is corrupt and you’re pretty much right.
Dangerous parts of town, like the crosswalks
You generally expect that the phones will work, but you’re not surprised if they don’t. Getting a new phone for your apartment could be long and tedious.
Unless you’re a lucky car owner, trains are the only practically affordable means of long-distance travel. Trains are normally old, slow, dirty and generally ugly. You only fly within the country if somebody else is paying.
Trains, land telephones, municipal services and city transport are state-run. And that is why telephones don’t always work, the electricity goes out, the house is under-heated, trolleys (although cheap) can barely move, and trains are a mess. There are, however, some private phone providers and transport companies.
Show business in your country is not so much a means of making money as a means of wasting it. The pop scene is full of stupid long-legged scantily-clad daughters, wives and mistresses of rich people, who pay for their videos and releases that nobody else cares about.
You drive on the right-hand side of the road. If you’re in Kiev, you also drive on sidewalks, lawns, and wherever else you car will go. You stop at red lights if there are people around. The time lapse between the appearance of yellow light and the honk of the car behind you is about 0.01 sec.
If you’re a pedestrian, you fear greatly for your life, but would still cross the street anywhere you please, whether the light is green or not.
You consider the Volkswagen Beetle to be an expensive little car for snobs. The people’s car in your country is called the Tavria. City centres, however, are full of Hummers, BMWs and Mercedes.
The police are normally armed with truncheons and pistols only. Some task-force units have submachine guns, though.
Women are expected to be stunningly beautiful, and they surely are. Once you’ve married one, though, she will eventually grow plumper.
The biggest meal of the day is usually at lunchtime, although it’s becoming harder and harder to follow this habit.
If you put your wealth on display, you definitely want to avoid some parts of the city at night. Or you may even get in trouble in the centre, for that matter.
You feel that your kind of people aren’t being listened to enough in Kiev, even if you are in Kiev.