Doing Business In Ukraine

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Business Etiquette, Languages & Culture

Points to be aware of:

Many English speakers refer to the country as "the Ukraine" and do so in good faith. However, Ukrainians see this as an indication of being part of a larger nation (USSR or Russia in the past and as a neighbour). Please bear this in mind as it will help avoid embarrassment, either for the visitor or their Ukrainian host. Although both Ukraine and Russia share common history, they are not identical and have been often pursuing quite different paths since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

 

Language

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Ukrainian is the national language in the whole of the country, although Russian is widespread and is a major language in Eastern and Southern cities as well as in Crimea.

Knowledge of English varies and generally depends on a generation and industry. Younger people tend to have a level of English suitable for communication in comparison to the older generation, who would not normally speak English or would have some knowledge of German. German is a popular foreign language in Ukraine due to close business ties with Germany. Contacts in heavy industries or agriculture would not usually speak English. Contrary to these, IT or creative sectors would normally have a decent command of English.

With rare exception, city signs are not duplicated into English so learning the Cyrillic alphabet is recommended. Learning a few words in Ukrainian is advisable, especially in the countryside, where English is not widespread.

For initial correspondence we recommend writing in Ukrainian or in Russian to ensure a higher response rate, because sending thank you letters or acknowledging nil interest is not common, please do not be discouraged but pursue your enquiry. To ensure the best results for meetings, hiring an interpreter is recommended. UKTI are happy to provide a list of interpreters on request.

 

Meetings and Presentations

Personal contacts are extremely important and if after initial correspondence, you feel that your partner is interested, we highly recommend a visit to the market. Any important issues should be discussed face-to-face. On the other hand, general introductory meetings are not welcome and you should be ready to present your specific points even during the first appointment.

Appointments should be confirmed shortly before a meeting day and are usually difficult to arrange in advance. Smart dress code and punctuality are advisable to show respect, which is a standard business practice like elsewhere. Hand shaking is more important than in the West and there are some associated customs such as avoiding shaking hands across a threshold. If you wish to present flowers, make sure they make an odd number.

 

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Negotiations

Ukrainians are hospitable and business meetings/negotiations can be quite extended. There is also a chance that natural hospitality overshadows the overall business purpose. Nevertheless, cautiousness is usual and people normally treat even basic data as confidential, such as number of staff, turnover etc. This information is difficult to get on the phone but can be obtained at a meeting when a link is established. When meeting with various officials, from municipalities to ministries, they may want to conclude a Memo of Understanding. Such MoUs are common in Ukraine and although they do not produce legal obligations such as commercial contracts, they are still regarded as an important part of the partnership process.

 

What are the challenges?

Ukraine was rated 144 (out of 176 countries and territories) on Transparency International's 2012 Corruption Perceptions index (down from 152 in 2011). Bribery is illegal. It is an offence for UK nationals and bodies incorporated under UK law, to bribe anywhere in the world. Visit the Business Anti-Corruption portal which provides advice and guidance about corruption in Ukraine.

 

Source - UKTI

 

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