Today we’re going to use a reader on my niche site, Ukraine Living, as an example of a bad business mindset. He decided to start talking tough in the comments section, I responded in kind, and well—as of now I don’t think he likes me much.
Let’s dig deeper though and see how his poor business mindset can teach you how to be more successful.
(The box within the box is what MT wrote—describing how, when he was in Lviv, people didn’t want to speak Russian with him.
As a result, Ukraine itself is divided. Places like Lviv are very proud of the Ukrainian culture, and will refuse to speak Russian with you:
I went up to him and greeted him in Russian. Andrei studied me carefully before finally responding in Ukrainian.
This was the first time in my life that I heard the Ukrainian language.
I shrugged and told him that I don’t speak Ukrainian and didn’t understand what he said.
And that’s where the problems began.
“I’m Ukrainian and don’t want to speak the language of the enemy,” Andrei condescendingly answered in English.
“Just remember that you’re in Ukraine — not Russia — so don’t speak Russian here,” he seemed satisfied with my answers but still needed to reinforce his point.
This went hand-in-hand with what I experienced at times in Ukraine. I saw people who did not want to speak Russian to me or my friends—albeit our Russian was broken. They were offended we didn’t learn Ukrainian instead.
In addition, Ukraine Living has some other posts about if you want to expat to Ukraine. I’ve vehemently been against learning any Ukrainian, and it’s because I have a business mindset orientated towards success.
(It’s also worth noting that my Ukrainian girlfriend does not speak any Ukrainian with her family or friends. Only Russian.)
WHAT’S THIS MEAN?
Simply put, would you rather learn a language that is growing around the world, and utilized in many countries and in international business…
…learn a language that, while it is the official language of a country, isn’t even spoken routinely in the capital city?
It’s simple. I’d much rather learn the language that gets me access to more countries, girls, and business opportunities. If I’d dedicated my spare time to learning Ukrainian opposed Russian, it wouldn’t do me much good in any part of my life—either now, or in the future.
On the original post, right on cue, the commenter came in to add his thoughts:
That’s the most common stereotype. In Lviv, many Ukrainians do speak Russian and OK to speak it with foreigners, while a number of Ukrainians in Eastern and South parts of Ukraine speak more Ukrainian than Russian. I am from Kyiv and use only Ukrainian in Ukraine.
Moreover, for some people, it’s offensive and disrespectful when foreigners come to Ukraine learning and using only Russian. Ukrainian is the only official langue and Ukrainian want others to learn it, not Russian.
THIS IS A POOR BUSINESS MINDSET
In some ways, I feel bad for the guy.
I understand what it’s like to have national pride somewhat ripped away from you. I’ve felt borderline “ashamed” of being American at many points in the last couple of years. His national country’s language is fading out, and he wants to protect it.
I more or less told him that (his original parts are underlined):
“Moreover, for some people, it’s offensive and disrespectful when foreigners come to Ukraine learning and using only Russian. Ukrainian is the only official langue and Ukrainian want others to learn it, not Russian.”
People such as you, I assume. Judging by the rest of your post.
Well, if that offends you, I really have nothing to say other, other than—too bad.
No people from the West should invest the time in learning such a difficult language such as Ukrainian when the payoffs pale in comparison to Russian. I honestly kind of find your entire comment offensive. While I expect my life to be difficult because I don’t speak either language fluently, it’s that pompous kind of attitude that will ultimately be the downfall of Ukraine’s tourism. Simply astounding arrogance.
“I am from Kyiv and use only Ukrainian in Ukraine.”
You’re missing out on a lot of opportunities then.
Now, before you jump down my throat—yes, I went after him hard. Ukraine Living is a new site that’s rapidly shooting up the ranks. It got linked to by some Ukrainian forums (and this language issue tends to be sensitive for them).
I am indeed trying to stoke the fires a bit and get people to actively comment and participate on the site.
When I travel, I understand if people get annoyed when I don’t speak their language. I used to hate it when people would come up and start speaking Spanish to me in California. At the same time, there’s not much I can do when I travel or when I’m home.
But this is a different case because just about every Ukrainian person speaks fluent Russian.
It’s a poor business mindset to turn your nose up at the Westerners who can’t speak Ukrainian (but CAN speak Russian!). It’s throwing away tons of potential opportunities. People that have as good as grasp of English as this commenter did have plenty more opportunities in work, relationships, and life than people who don’t speak a lick of English.
To top it off, Ukraine as a whole is a country that needs economic stimulation from a touristic standpoint. Jumping down the throats of tourists who can speak some Russian but not Ukrainian is just silly.
To illustrate my point further, let’s use the city of Barcelona as an example. While most people think of it as a Spanish city and naturally assume Spanish is spoken, Catalan is actually the second official language.
On top of that, Catalan is actually used more often in official work such as offices and schools.
Catalan is more similar to French than it is Spanish. From what I know, it is not a matter of substituting a few words and being able to understand each other. However, much like Ukraine, most of the population in Barcelona is fluent in both of the languages.
Back to my point: if the people of Barcelona refused to speak Spanish to people and only spoke in Catalan, their economy would suffer. Greatly. Sure, more people in Barcelona speak English than they do in Ukraine, but this illustrates my point even further.
Can you imagine if you took the time to learn Spanish, then went to Barcelona and people shunned you? How would that make you feel?
It’d be natural (and smart) to learn the language that 400 million speak (Spanish) versus 4 million (Catalan). That’s 100 times the amount of people you can communicate with.
For perspective, roughly 250 million people speak Russian in the world and 40 million speak Ukrainian.
If the people of Barcelona took that sort of screw you business mindset towards all of their tourists, Barcelona would become a ghost town.
Stubbornness is ignorance.
It also keeps your eyes shut to the opportunities of business and life.
Don’t ever make that mistake.
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