SPECKS AND LOGS IN THE EYE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I find most interesting about EURO-2012 is foreigners and their impressions of Ukraine. The impressions I find even more valuable, because they serve as a mirror in which I can see myself and my own country. Here are some moments picked up from the media which have seemed exotic to the football fans and tourists.

  • 1.A lot of expensive cars in a comparatively poor country. Car owners prefer to ride their own cars through the city even when it’s quicker to get by metro.

 

MY NOTE: Many successful young people consider it not prestigious to travel by public transport or shuttle-buses, also called “marshrutkas.”

  • 2.There’s more freedom for street musicians in Kyiv than in Amsterdam. In Holland they have to take a special test arranged by the municipal council if they want to practice their art “on the asphalt.”

MY NOTE: Of course, the information is not official, but it’s commonly known that in downtown Kyiv every beggar and/or street artist must pay to the protection racketeer, which means that there’s not too much freedom for street performers, in the long run.

  • 3.Every other woman in Ukraine looks like a model (and she dresses accordingly).

MY NOTE: What else is new? The Dutch have taken Holland!

  • 4.Coffee and beer taste better than in Europe. However, in Ukraine prices for these drinks may vary considerably from place to place. The same beer at one shop could be ten times as expensive as in another. See the note to item 6.
  • 5.Hotel prices are exorbitant: you pay 300 Euros for one night at a three-star hotel. See the note to item 6.
  • 6.In restaurants food portions are rather small in size comparing to what the foreigners are used to in their own countries.

MY NOTE TO ITEMS  4, 5  AND 6: People in Ukraine are only coming to know what the limits to their greediness are.

  • 7.Waiters and shop assistants don’t try being friendly. They accept their work as a burden.

 

MY NOTE: The transition from the laziness of the Soviet times to hard work under capitalism may take more than one generation to start smiling and loving what you do.

 

  • 8.People smile rarely. To some European guests it seemed a little strange, since a new generation has grown in Ukraine in the last 20 years: at least THEY could smile more often. See MY NOTE to item 7.
  • 9.The Ukrainians are generally friendly, sincere and open to foreigners. On the negative side, the Swedish fans cannot forget the “walk of shame” when after the defeat they were leaving the stadium (under the protection of the police) to the chant of the Ukrainian fans: “Ukraine, Ukraine! Swedes, go home!”

 

 

MY NOTE: Not all of the football fans are gentlemen. Incidentally, the quickest way  for a complainant to find out the “gentleman-ness” of his counterparts  would be to ask them if they had handkerchiefs in their pockets.

 

  • 11.Streets could be cleaner. Churches and cathedrals are something the Ukrainians can be proud of. However, there’s little information about places of interest and tourist routes through the city and across Ukraine. A lot of buildings look unimpressive: they are box-like and whole districts appear rather monotonous.

 

MY NOTE: The tourist industry in Ukraine, and in Kyiv in particular, is not developed. While talking with me about Kyiv as a tourist attraction, a British student said once, “You just keep walking all the time.” According to the journalists’ poll, 7 out of 10 foreign fans said they wouldn’t like to come to Ukraine again.

 

  • 12.Many food-shops and services work late into night (in Berlin everything is closed after 6 p.m.).

 

MY NOTE: It partially explains the absence of smiling salespersons.

 

  • 13.Too many police in the streets.

 

MY NOTE: On the other hand, the foreigners may feel safer. One of the football fans wore a T-shirt with the words: “Now I fear nothing – I’ve been to Donetsk.”

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