This is lifted from a Ukrainian hosting Facebook page with permission of it’s author – Iryna Dashko. It’s advice for hosts in differences in our living habits. It’s a UK perspective but that’s pretty similar to Canada.
Hi, this information maybe help for all host who look after our guests from Ukraine. As there are so many families matching I thought hosts might appreciate a few ideas on how they can ensure their guests feel welcome. These are just little things, of course your guests will have more pressing needs, they will need your help in many crucial areas, but if you’d like a few tips on little things you can get or do see below:
Eastern Europeans have a close relationship with tea (as do Brits!) but we take it a bit differently. A common choice is black tea with lemon and sugar or honey. Another one is black tea with confiture/jam. Tea with milk is not very popular.We love bread! Not necessarily toast bread but loaf bread – sourdough, wholemeal etc. And when there’s bread being consumed so is butter, preferably the ‘normal’ one, not the easy spread one.Sour cream is a necessity in the kitchen! We add it to soup. Mealtimes tend to be a bit different – we start with breakfast, sometimes followed by a second breakfast (more of a snack) and then the biggest meal of the day comes at lunchtime. This is often a two or three course meal: soup followed by a main and maybe dessert. Supper, eaten in the evening, is again a smaller meal (more akin to a sandwich at lunchtime). It might be a good idea to keep that in mind at the start.
Eastern European houses tend to be very, very warm in winter. Many people live in blocks of flats and those are often heated by the council, so heating is blasting. It is a surprise to most Eastern Europeans when they visit their British friends how cold the houses are. I am not suggesting you go bankrupt on gas bills, but maybe consider providing your guests with an extra blanket or water bottle while they adapt to their new home. Slippers are very important and worn in most houses. Again, I am not suggesting you start wearing them in your own home, but it is very likely that your guests will either bring slippers with them or wish to quickly purchase a pair. Some people insist on changing into ‘loungewear’ as soon as they come into the house. Many were told by the older generation that wearing ‘out of the house’ clothes inside brings in dust and dirt from the street and will insist on wearing two different outfits throughout the day, depending on whether they are in or out.
Children in Eastern Europe are definitely dressed warmer than in the UK (it’s colder there plus there is a deep ingrained belief that a child will catch a cold if underdressed). Don’t be surprised if your guests insist that a small child must wear a hat well into spring if not a year round (to protect them from the cold or the sun). Children are given homework every day so it will be a pleasant surprise for your guests to find out that that’s no longer the case. They also go to school for different number of hours per day (depending on their age they tend to be in school for anywhere between 4-9h a day). It might take them some getting used to to the regularity of English schools.
It is much more common in Eastern Europe to visit a doctor with mild symptoms. It is also much more common to be prescribed antibiotics and to take a range of different medicines and over-the-counter medicines. While there are home-remedies that are passed down the generations (vodka in tea anyone? Or milk with honey) it will come as a shock to your guests that they will be told to take paracetamol and to rest rather than be prescribed something specific.
Eastern Europeans tend to be more blunt than British people. In a direct translation saying ‘Can you pass the salt?’ is very polite and typically a ‘please’ wouldn’t be necessary. Much of manners is expressed through phrasing something as a question rather than by using specific phrases. It is a small thing but worth to keep in mind that your guests will not be accustomed to saying please and thank you with every request. They might also not understand subtle hints such as ‘would you mind doing x’ – for them that will be a question, demanding a yes or no response. It might be worth using simpler phrases such as ‘please do x’ while you are finding a common tongue with your guest.Working hours tend to be different. It is normal to start work at 7 and finish around 15. While your guests probably won’t be looking for jobs immediately it might be a good idea to specify to them what are your working hours, so they know when to expect you home or when you might be in meetings.In most towns there will be a Polish shop that will stock items that your guests will be familiar with. In big cities there is also a Polish section in supermarkets. Your guests might feel much more comfortable shopping there at the start, while they learn about British equivalents.