You know you’re a Ukrainian PCV when…

This original version was posted by a fellow volunteer, Kristen and can be seen on her blog here. She’s a good writer and posts often…feel free to give her a follow as well.

Hers got me started…these are a combination of mine, Kristen’s, and other Ukraine PCVs. This entire page is intended to provide some humorous observations of our daily lives here.

I also realize that some of these apply to Peace Corps Volunteers all over the world – hence why there is such a shared sense of comraderie among volunteers. If anything here doesn’t make sense or you would like a little bit of a back story/explanation, feel free to ask…I’m always happy to share.


  • you realize time is relative, schedules are null, and things happen when they happen…great for planners
  • 6 hour bus rides and 24 hour train rides don’t seem that bad.
  • the only cool thing on your cellphone is the game “snake”…and you regret not bringing your old iPhone
  • it bothers you to hear “The Ukraine”…it’s like saying “The America”
  • you welcome the upper side bunk on a train, just to avoid having the fat, bald, naked man that will sit down on your bed…or you use it as an opportunity to practice language skills
  • you’ve been dying to find a shirt that says “say me yes” shirts at the bazaar…I’m still not exactly sure what “yes” really implies since it is typically worn by teenage girls
  • when anything out of the ordinary happens you say you’ve been “ukraine’d” (this is more of an acceptance of “reality” statement than anything else)…like a bus never showing up, and no one bothered to tell you it wouldn’t
  • you find yourself craving a good bowl of borscht…it doesn’t taste like beets…get over it
  • you’ve eaten meat jello and raw pig fat (salo)…and you might actually enjoy one, or both
  • you actually have a favorite kind of raw pig fat..yup, raw, straight off the dead pig. Dip it in some salt, chase it with a clove of garlic, and you’ve got yourself a delicacy
  • you’ve come to love caviar, crab, and meat flavored croutons…and you eat them with beer…or on a train…or late night…or…
  • applying vodka to any ailment starts to seem logical and so does the remedy of a half shot of vodka with black pepper for a cold, or a shot of vodka and cigarette ashes for heartburn/indegestion
  • the second question strangers often ask is about your relationship status and when you respond that you are not married, it is followed up with the question “Why? Don’t you like Ukrainian men/women?”
  • you are starting to feel really good about yourself with the amount of marriage propositions you receive…I mean, let’s be honest
  • it’s become natural to throw your toilet paper away in the trash bin…despite what it may or may not have just been used for
  • you start using the phrase “the states” and “when i attended university…”
  • you are no longer shocked at how crowded the local transportation is, nor does it bother you when someone “accidentally” rubs up against you…well, it depends on whom
  • you get stuck in an overcrowded bus/train for 8 hours in 98 degree heat and no one is willing to open the windows for fear of catching a cold…and you learn that saying “I’m a doctor from America” sometimes works
  • the locals offer you a shot of samahone (Ukrainian moonshine), vodka, brandy, or cognac for friendship…and you now have a favorite kind of each
  • the women ask you if you are married and have kids, the men ask you if you like ukrainian girls, and both ask you how you enjoyed the winter
  • you regularly feel ashamed for your lack of exact change…I mean, when someone rolls their eyes at you every time you don’t, you start to develop a complex, no?
  • you visit other volunteers with no extra clothing except a hoodie (which will be your pillow)
  • you ask your pcv friends (when visiting for the first time) if there’s anything special you need to know about their toilet/bathtub/sink or any other plumbing appliance (and what to do with the toilet paper)
  • men wear fluorescent mesh and tiny speedos…and it’s normal
  • you have “train” clothes, slippers, and mug
  • you’ve come think showering daily as luxurious
  • you have come to appreciate a shower with a mounted showerhead
  • you have become a cultural ambassador for races, religions, and other groups that you do not belong to
  • you find your self trying to convince ukrainians that you can’t call it a sandwich if there’s only one piece of bread
  • carrying a water bottle around classifies you as a weirdo and drinking cold anything will of course make you sick
  • you have more recipes that involve mayonnaise than any other ingredient…and you start to just assume that mayonnaise is an active ingredient in every dish
  • if you see someone with dirty shoes you immediately start to judge their personality (as I am currently wiping mine off)
  • you pack a picnic when riding a train (hence train mug)
  • you have a system for classifying all of the natashas, sahsas, dimas, katyas and jenyas in your contact list.
  • you answer your phone with, “allo?”
  • you can open sunflower seed shells using your fingers, like a champ…and you have raced another volunteer or Ukrainian for supremecy
  • you feel safer when there is an 85-year-old woman around (I cannot tell you how many times I have personally said “It’s cool, there’s a baba right there, we’re good.”) because you have been yelled at by one and understand that they fear absolutely NOTHING in this world.
  • trash piles on fire don’t phase you…and you can often tell when the seasons have changed by their scent
  • you’ve learned that the word “preservative” is not meant to be used when talking about food…Google translate “презерватив” and you will fully understand why
  • you have made multiple language mistakes that may or may not have cause raucous laughter from those around you (see previous)
  • you drink tea like it’s your job and see nothing wrong with this
  • you know what “marshrutka surfing” is
  • you chase vodka with pickles/bread/tomatos/raw pig fat
  • you almost get run over because the sidewalk isn’t really a sidewalk…even when it is, in fact, a sidewalk
  • you have said something along the lines of: “How far are away are you? Oh, that’s less than 10 hours…that’s not bad at all!”
  • you have used a knife and knife sharpener to open a bottle of wine…and you’ve gotten efficient using this method
  • just about every question (regardless of who asks whom) can potentially be answered with “It depends…” and it is the actual truth
  • you can sunbathe standing up and know the appropriate poses…as demonstrated below (insert picture)
  • you say English words in a Russian accent hoping that they would understand…or you “Russify” words by adding “ski/yem/ovat,” etc., in the hope that it’s a cognate; then get really excited when it works or is close enough
  • Ukrainglish/Russlish (Ukrainian or Russian-English mix) is a real thing to you and you have your own version
  • Milk from a plastic bag is totally normal and you begin to find it convenient…granted you drink one per sitting
  • you actually look for eggs with a little brown matter on them because it means they are “fresh”…if you catch my drift
  • Papa Serhiy, Chief Safety and Security Office has replaced Chuck Norris…simply the sound of his voice on the phone strikes fear (though he’d rather just tell jokes)
  • you can have an entire conversation on the phone while only using the following words: “allo, da, kanyeshna, davai, paka.” (Hello, yes, of course, bye)
  • you work out with water jugs, like an inmate, or using random playground equipment…and now understand why this region of the world dominated the olympic gymnastics for years
  • you see a bus loaded way past capacity and say to your friends, “come on, at least 10 more people can fit on there”
  • you’re not afraid to pee…anywhere
  • you finally understand that yelling “девушка” (girl/miss) is really the most effective way to get something in a restaurant/cafe/beer tent…and it’s not the least bit inappropriate
  • you actually have a favorite LMFAO song and turn up the radio when it comes on…only to feel incredible shame once you realize what you’ve done
  • you feel self-conscious when you do not order something salty to eat with your beer (chips, peanuts, flavored croutons, dried fish, raw fish)
  • you have developed your own method for utilizing a squat toilet…and you regularly share/compare this with other volunteers
  • seeing a child under the age of seven riding public transportation by themselves no longer phases you…yet the fact their cell phone is nicer than yours still does
  • you have been in a meeting, had your phone ring, and ignored it causing everyone else in the room to almost have a heart attack
  • leopard print spandex being worn as pants doesn’t even garner a glance from you anymore…unless…

A special thanks to everyone who provided suggestions for this list


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