When Ukrainians invite you to be their guest, be ready for them to offer you a meal and drinks. And most likely there will be a lot of food and drinks.
We recommend that you let your host know in advance if you don’t drink alcohol or don’t eat meat, gluten, or lactose.
But if you do drink (or are in the company of people who drink), be ready to toast and listen to other people’s toasts. Let’s talk about Toasting Culture in Ukraine.
When dinner hasn’t officially started, but people are ready to gather together, this is when the “warm-up” toast or на розігрі́в (na rozihriv) takes place.
The first toast
За зу́стріч (za zustrich) / за знайо́мство (za znaiomstvo)
For a meeting/ for getting to know each other
The first toast is always devoted to the reason a company gathers together. It might belong to a host who invited everyone, someone’s birthday, wedding day, etc.
The second toast
There is a saying that there is no long break between the first and the second shot.
The second one might be за дру́жбу (za druzhbu) for friendship. Here might be just a quick toast or a long one explaining why the company is so important.
Instead of “cheers”, Ukrainians say бу́дьмо (bud’mo) – literally “will be”. It is an old Cossack way to toast.
The third toast
The third toast is always за любо́в/коха́ння (za luibov/kohania) to love or за жіно́к (za zhinok) to women.
Men usually stand up and say some good wishes to women.
The fourth toast
As a reward to the previous toast, the fourth one is за чоловікі́в (za cholovikiv) to men.
Women say this one and usually is about men’s strength, care, and reliability.
The fifth toast
The next toast might be за роди́ну (zarodynu)to family or за Украї́ну (zaUkrainu)to Ukraine.
Family and the native land are essential parts of life for Ukrainians, which is why it is a good idea to impress your local friends with your compliments on Ukrainian hospitality, landscape beauty, or delicious food.
The sixth toast
With the beginning of the War in Donbas in eastern Ukraine, a new tradition took place.
People toast to Ukrainian warriors who made the ultimate sacrifice protecting their land. Ukrainians drink it standing up and saying Сла́ва Украї́ні! (Slava Ukraini!) Геро́ям Сла́ва! (Heroiam Slava!) Glory to Ukraine! Glory to Heroes!
The seventh toast
Here the guests take the initiative and show their creativity. So let’s drink for world peace, the end of the pandemic, the strengthening of Ukrainian hryvnia…what else is important?
The eighth toast
It is time to thank your host for hospitality and your friends for a great company. By this time, speeches might become more extended, deeper, and more emotional.
The ninth toast
Sometimes saying goodbye takes a long time, so there is a tradition to have three last shots.
На посошо́к (na pososhok) on a walking stick – in old times, this shot was given to guests using a cane, and if a person couldn’t drink it, they would have to stay in a host house for a night.
The tenth toast
На коня́ (na konia) – on a horse. Before sitting on a horse, a guest should have drunk another shot to be sure they can have a ride.
Don’t repeat the same before driving a car (or riding a horse)!
The eleventh toast
На стреме́на (na stremena) – to get into the stirrups.
If a guest could get into the stirrups, it was considered acceptable to leave a house and go home.
How do you like this drinking culture? Have you ever taken part in a Ukrainian dinner party? Share your experience in the comments.