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tips to connect with Ukrainians

Did you know that there are over 281 million international migrants around the world today? This number is at an all-time high. If the migrants were a country, they would be the fourth largest country in the world. Canada has adopted a welcoming approach to immigration, with over 8.3 million people granted permanent residency as immigrants.

As followers of Jesus, we are instructed to love those from other cultures, as evidenced throughout Scripture (Deut. 10:19). This is especially important as we also experience living between two cultures (Phil. 3:20) and understand that we are not truly at home in this world. Also, we look forward to the day when we will be united with people from every culture in the presence of God (Rev. 7:9).

Our communities have a significant number of immigrants, but it's often effortless to overlook those who have different appearances or speak a different language than us. The gospel urges us to acknowledge immigrants as individuals created in God's image and for whom Christ died. Listening to immigrants' stories dismantles biases and fosters compassion and strengthens faith. Sharing homes and meals with immigrants is a powerful way to welcome them and to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

More than 170,000 Ukrainians have come to Canada since the Russian invasion of their country. Did you know Canada has the largest diaspora of Ukrainians outside of Ukraine and Russia, with over 1.4 million people of Ukrainian descent living here? If you have a neighbour, a co-worker or a classmate from Ukraine and you wonder how to connect with them, here are some helpful Ukrainian cultural tips:

Hospitality: Ukrainians are known for their hospitality and welcoming nature. If you are invited into someone's home, expect to be treated like family and be offered plenty of food and drink. It's polite to compliment your host on their hospitality and the food they serve.

Superstitions: Ukrainians have a strong belief in customs and superstitions that might pose a challenge for foreigners to comprehend. For example, it's considered bad luck to whistle indoors, and it's believed that an itchy palm means you will receive money soon.

Time management: Ukrainians tend to be more relaxed about time and punctuality than in some other cultures, so don't be surprised if people arrive late to social gatherings. However, showing up on time for business meetings and appointments is still important.

Nonverbal communications: When communicating with Ukrainians, it's important to pay attention to their nonverbal cues. Ukrainians tend to use more facial expressions, gestures, and eye contact and may stand closer when speaking compared to other cultures. By being aware of these differences in communication, you can better understand and connect with Ukrainian speakers.

Family values: Family is very important in Ukrainian culture, and many families are large and close-knit. It's important to respect elders and prioritize family time and obligations.

Music and dance: Ukraine has a rich music and dance tradition, so try to attend a traditional Ukrainian music or dance performance if you can. Ukrainians also love to sing and play music at social gatherings, so don't be surprised if you're invited to join in.

Greetings: Ukrainians usually greet each other with a handshake, a hug or a kiss on the cheek, depending on the level of familiarity. When greeting someone, it's customary to use their first name followed by their patronymic and last name.

Small talk: In Ukrainian culture, engaging in small talk is considered a polite way to demonstrate an interest in the other person. Conversations revolving around topics such as weather, family, and work are generally deemed safe and appropriate.

For other cultural tips, please visit

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