Lviv is a large city in the western part of Ukraine and this large city has an identity crisis. They are desperately trying to be like the rest of Western Europe and distance themselves from the rest of stereotypical Ukraine and Russia.
Being a traveler there, I dont foresee that happening anytime in the near or distant future. However, these differences that limit them and hold them back from being in the EU or comparable to Western Europe is what makes them unique. I learned to appreciate this uniqueness with much interest.
At the time I was traveling in Lviv, 50% of the roads were torn up and were in the process of being re-leveled. The international soccer games were to be hosted there, so they wanted level streets and sidewalks for the anticipated car and pedestrian traffic.
The streets no doubt needed them. I quickly learned that you had to constantly look down, unless you wanted the embarrassment of tripping and falling. The cobblestone streets and sidewalks were a walking hazard.
The city falls completely dark after sunset because there are no street lights. It was strange to walk around in the heart of a city and have no ambient light. The only light came from cars or shop windows, which isnt much. Due to this darkness, most people walk in the streets, because they were more level than the sidewalk and tripping was less likely.
I couch-surfed there with an early 20s computer programmer. He graciously gave my brother and I his king size bed, while he took a cot in his kitchen.
When I arrived I was pretty tired and just wanted to shower, relax, and go to bed. It was about 10 pm on a Thursday and he said he had friends coming over to drink and party, in-spite of their work in the morning. I had to quickly change my mood to sociable.
His two friends arrived and with his roommate that made six of us. We quickly drank the beer my brother and I brought for our host. I hate to stereotype, but the bottle of vodka quickly appeared. I didnt have a choice on a shot(s).
Then the bottle of vodka quickly disappeared. The conversation was flowing with the aid of liquor, despite the bad English our four new Ukranian friends had. In fact, that made it more fun and entertaining.
My brother and I asked all the typical questions we always ask in each country we travel to. We talked about daily life, politics, drinking games, etc. They had their fare share of questions about America also.
There are two things I learned that night in Lviv that I was shocked by. The first was that bribes occur on a daily basis in Ukraine. The second is that Ukrainian men can be lucky and unlucky at the same time.
You can bribe to get out of anything in Ukraine. They told us that if you are failing in school you can bribe your teacher to pass the grade or class.
In fact, some teachers will purposely fail you in order to get a bribe. You can also bribe the police to get out of a speeding ticket or being drunk in public. So naturally we had to ask,
“What if you murder someone?” They said if you had enough money and knew the right people, you could get out of it. It would be a lot of money though. We were amazed. I think that little nugget will keep them out the EU for awhile.
The second shocking fact we discovered later that night when the party moved over to the club.
Ukranian men are extremely lucky!
wait for it.
They have the highest number of beautiful women in all of Europe. Thats right I said it. No lie.
Im not saying they are the most beautiful, because Ive seen more beautiful women elsewhere, but they have the most good looking women. Ukraines average is higher than any other country Ive been to. The ratio of women to men was 3 to 1 and all three of those women are good looking.
The club was so strange to my brother and I. Its always men competing for women, but in Ukraine the universe is backwards. We were in the Twilight Zone. Needless to say there is no need for a wingman, there is no cockblocking, there are no fights, there is no such thing as a sausage fest. It was an amazing and bizarre courting dance that I had the enjoyment of watching. Ugly men can date way out of their league.
Sadly there is another side to this coin the unlucky side. Ukraine has the highest case number of AIDS in all of Europe. So, Ukrainian men are the luckiest and unluckiest men in the world.
Those are my cultural learnings from Ukraine.