Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Why do Ukrainians still prefer to buy their food and clothes on the street?

Most Ukrainians shop at the markets which have thrived since the early 1990s. But as the economy grows, will they disappear? Locals doubt it. There is an expression in Ukraine, "buy from babushkas", a synonym for homemade and organic. This is one of the main reasons people come here for food. Recently Ukrainian shops and supermarkets have started selling imported vegetables and people haven't warmed to the idea. There are potatoes from Egypt, beetroot, apples and carrots from Poland and even blackberries from Mexico. Most of the vendors who buy and sell here have known their customers for years. Sometimes sellers don't even need to ask buyers what they want. Some people who sell at the market do it to boost their 700 hryvnia ($88) per month pension. For most young people who live in the countryside, growing and selling food is the only way to earn a living. Going to market on Sunday is like a special ceremony, it is an opportunity to meet friends, hear news and catch up on gossip, which is exactly what many Ukrainians are doing. Ukrainian markets operate all week long - with the exception of Mondays, Easter and Christmas - but the busiest market days are usually Saturday and Sunday. Many foreign tourists were amazed to see a man trying to fit a wriggling piglet into a sack. Many believe that markets in Ukraine might disappear in just 5 years because small entrepreneurs can't compete with big retailers. But many hope that markets in Ukraine will develop into something more civilised and comfortable for the customers, instead of disappearing completely.