Helping guests settle in
It goes without saying that fleeing your home to a different country to live with people you haven’t met before is extremely scary and anxiety-provoking.
We want to ensure that your guest(s) feel as settled and supported as possible in such an uncertain and frightening time.
On arrival avoid hugging and physical shows of affection. Whilst they may seem well intended and needed, they may too be awkward and invasive. Allow time for your guest(s) to adjust and you will find the right level.
Your guests are likely to want to help you and you should let them
Include them in daily chores such as putting out the bins, washing up, cleaning, preparing meals, etc.
They may wish to spend more time on their own in their room than you had expected. Be prepared for that.
Set ground rules by discussing how you operate as a household. If you have to go to bed early to get up for work for example, let them know so they understand.
Ask questions, carefully and little by little. You are not going to understand everything about them all in one day. They may have no idea what they want or what they like and don’t like, but some basic information can help, for example:
- Do they have any regular medicinal needs?
- Do they have any allergies?
- Are there any foods which they particularly like or do not like?
- Do they have any concerns or questions?
- Do they have any regular medicinal needs?
You may not be able to personally help with everything and that’s fine too. Find someone who can, or signpost them to support and information services available
Make sure they have the number for the local police, fire and ambulance services and can use it from their own phone.
Write down any other important telephone numbers for them, including your own, a work number, or trusted friends if they need help when you are not there.
After checking with them, you might want to think about introducing them to neighbours you can trust so that they have options of who they can contact if they need to.
Make sure they know how to operate the heating, lighting and power sockets. Do they know where the spare bulbs are? How to turn on and off appliances will not only keep them safe but any other occupants too. Do they need adapters for any devices they have?
Lay down some ground rules (we are all on a budget!), these may include when it’s okay and not okay to have loud music playing for example.
The house & the neighbourhood
You will want to provide them with a set of keys and ensure that they are able to lock and unlock the doors, and disable any alarm systems, should they need to exit and re-enter when you are not there.
Consider writing down the instructions for them. Also, if they are venturing out, make sure they understand where they can go and what they should do if they get lost. Signs and signposts, friends' houses, police stations, hospitals etc. Being able to recognise these easily will ensure that shelter is always available.
Use of the shower and bathroom should be available and private either by provision of their own facilities, or a locked door from the inside. If you are living in fairly close quarters then consider making some ground rules about making sure family members stay in a different part of the accommodation to ensure privacy when it is needed. Additionally, showing your guest where and how clothes washing can be done (washing and drying) with as much privacy as possible. Consider providing a clothes airer for drying clothes in their room for example.
Food & drink
Make sure there is room in the fridge for them to place their products. If you are thinking of preparing food for them, make sure you understand and enquire about their likes, dislikes and any allergens.
Potential Cultural Differences
As you get to know your guests, you may discover that you see things differently.
The observations below are drawn from the experiences of Ukrainians already living in the UK – but bear in mind that everyone’s experience will differ.
As always, the best approach is to talk with your guests about these differences and agree on a way forward.
- Communication - Speaking directly is valued by Ukrainians. If you’re not used to it, this can sound brusque or even rude to British ears, as can direct translations of polite phrases that omit ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Conversely, subtle changes of tone or language on your part are less likely to be noticed as your guests wrestle with the complexities of the English language! Keep it simple; talking about these differences may help your guests navigate conversations with strangers.
- Socialising - Making arrangements two months in advance is common here, but much less so in Ukraine. It could be useful to explain that this is normal and no indicator of how close friends are.
- Mental health - Asking for help is tricky in any situation, but many Ukrainians will pride themselves on their self-reliance and stoicism. It may be that your guests are struggling with their mental health but feel unable to show or tell you. Or they may take it upon themselves to be self-reliant in areas where you could easily help; don't be afraid to proactively suggest different ways in which you can make life easier.
- Parenting - When it comes to raising children, Ukrainians also value good behaviour inside the home, and academic and extracurricular achievement at school and elsewhere. The ways your guests encourage this may be more direct than you use yourself. They may be surprised by some schools’ lighter homework routines, and the generally fixed length of an English school day.
- Food and drink - It’s true, (most) Ukrainians love borshch! Tea is generally drunk with lemon and honey, sugar or even jam but rarely with milk. Bread, sour cream, garlic and onions are all kitchen staples alongside less familiar dishes. Traditionally in Ukraine, lunch tends to be the biggest meal of the day. Tunbridge Wells' Polish shops are likely to provide the most familiar brands for many guests (particularly for those who have spent time in Polish towns and cities prior to arrival).
- Around the house - Your guests may be used to a warmer house than you. They’re also likely to wear slippers rather than outdoor shoes around the house and change into indoor clothing too.
- Medicines - Many Ukrainians have a close attachment to their GP and routinely take a range of prescribed and over-the-counter medicines for minor ailments. Delays for GP appointments and generic medicines may be unfamiliar.
A Ukrainian refugees cultural sensitivity sheet has been produced which lists some base guidelines for hosts. The document can be downloaded in English, Ukrainian or Russian using the links below.