SOS Oekraïne

Points of attention for the reception of refugees

When a war is underway and we see the horrific consequences on television, many Dutch people feel called upon to receive refugees. That’s a very nice thought. To avoid disappointments and problems, one must know what one is getting into. So here are some points to note.

1. In advance

– Space and privacy
Only take in refugees if there is room for this. People must have their own room or space where they can retreat. So a couch is not enough. So think carefully about how many people you can accommodate. Also whether it concerns only adults or also small children and possibly animals.

– Communication
Most Ukrainians do not speak a foreign language. So make sure that you can translate via an app, for example, and/or have someone on hand to translate in an emergency.

– Duration of stay
Nobody knows when the refugees can go back. So keep in mind that the stay is for a longer period of time. Even if you want to go on holiday later or short weekends away when the weather is nice.

– Children
If you want to take care of a family with children, remember that these children have to go to school or need other (medical) care and attention. Much of this will have to be arranged by you in the first instance because for the people it is a strange environment and they know nothing here.

– Care
The refugees need care in various areas. See to what extent you can form a group of family, friends and neighbors to share the care.

– Cultural differences
Despite the fact that Ukraine is relatively close to the Netherlands, there are also some differences.

> City and countryside
There is a big difference between the countryside and the city in Ukraine, a big difference with here. The countryside in Ukraine are often smaller villages with small houses without shops or supermarkets. They have a piece of land where they grow all kinds of things for their own use, from potatoes to vegetables and fruit. Just like our ancestors did 60 years ago, they soak a lot and store it for the winter. Often they have some chickens for the eggs and meat. In the countryside people often have their own wells for water. This is different in the cities where the pipes are old and not clean and people therefore only drink bottled water. Supermarkets in the cities often have a wide range of water in terms of brand and volume, 5 liter bottles are normal.

> Closed
Ukrainians are quite closed and don’t talk that easily. Even within their own family people are very reluctant to tell things. This can clash with the open culture as we know it in the Netherlands. Sometimes people don’t want to talk about questions that are normal for us, for example about family or work. The young people who grew up after the Soviet era are easier in this than the older ones.

Ukrainian culture is quite traditional when it comes to LGBTQ. The male/female role is also quite traditional, whereby it should be noted that many women are used to working and also taking care of the family.


2. Upon entry

– After arrival
People are often tired because they have been on the road for days and have had little rest. They had little privacy in a shelter. In addition, they can be anxious, angry and disappointed. So give them space to withdraw and let them recover, be tolerant.
Don’t ask too many questions about their family, some people don’t want to share that (yet). Sometimes that is just too difficult because they still have family in Ukraine. At first you are a stranger to them.
Many people have been on the road for a long time and have sat or lain in trains, refugee camps or on the floors of stations. Offer them a hot shower as soon as possible and to wash their clothes so they are fresh again.

– Internet access
Give your guests access to the Internet as quickly as possible. They can then reconnect with their family and that is important because it gives them peace of mind.

– Living allowance
A host family does not receive a living allowance. However, your guest will receive a fee for this and can contribute to the costs. This is not mandatory but can be done voluntarily. Make arrangements about this immediately. More about this can be found
here. (Text is in Dutch, will be translated to English soon)

– List
Give your guests a short list with your address details and your telephone number. In case there is something, it is useful for the police and emergency services. Also include some other numbers on the list that people can call in case you are not available.

– Water
In Ukraine, tap water is often not good/safe and people often drink bottled water. This mainly happens in the big cities where the water pipes are often seriously outdated and not well maintained. The refugees will therefore initially be concerned about water from the tap in the Netherlands. Try to make it clear that this is not necessary.

– Emergencies and doctor
In Ukraine there is no general practitioner as in the Netherlands. For medical treatment in Ukraine, people go directly to a doctor in a hospital. Explain to the refugees that in the Netherlands people first go to their GP and what exactly they do.
Also tell your guests that they can only call the 112 number in life-threatening situations!!

– Agreements
Make good agreements after arrival about all kinds of practical matters such as tidying up, keeping clean and times for eating, showering, switching off the light and heating. The fact that we in the Netherlands set the heating back to 15 degrees at night is strange to them, in Ukraine many cannot or cannot properly regulate their heating themselves, for example by means of block heating. Energy rates are also lower there. Especially with the increased energy prices, it is important that the Ukrainians understand our “frugality”. This also applies to the use of electricity, such as not leaving lights on unnecessarily.

If Ukrainians live in your house, also think about agreements about:
> when your night’s sleep starts.
This seems insignificant, but unemployed Ukrainians may go out and come back late at night. That can disturb your sleep.
> times for cooking and eating
This is important for the use of cooking and eating utensils, but also if you are going to bake in the evening, which can cause noise in the kitchen and possible baking smells. The latter can still be solved in the summer by opening a door, but that becomes more difficult in the winter.
> use of shared items
Consider, for example, the division of space in the fridge and freezer, but also agreements about keeping things that are used together clean.

– Basic information in Ukrainian
Some things are hard to explain, especially if the language is a problem. That is why SOS Ukraine has translated some basic matters into Ukrainian: Ukrainian click here ( English click here )
Do you have additions or see inaccuracies, please let us know (Page still in Dutch, will be translated to English soon)

3. During the stay

– Prevent misunderstandings and irritations
Make everything negotiable, but watch out for Dutch directness, choose your words carefully. Keep in mind that translations may be slightly different from what you mean.

– Heating and showering
In Ukraine, the energy supply is often arranged differently, such as with heating. These people do not know that the cost of energy in the Netherlands is high. So try to explain to them not to shower with hot water for too long. Also explain to them that in the Netherlands we turn down the heating at night and make sure they get extra blankets.

– Other holidays
Ukraine is predominantly Orthodox and therefore public holidays do not fall on the same days as with us. For example, Easter in the Netherlands is on April 17, 2022, while in Ukraine it is on April 24, 2022.
Christmas is with us in the Netherlands on December 25 and 26, while Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on January 7 and 8.

– Meals
In Ukraine, many people eat a hot meal at noon and only bread in the evening, as happened a lot in the Netherlands 50 years ago. A hot meal can sometimes consist of just a soup, called borscht, in which a lot of vegetables and potatoes have been processed. So a different soup than as we often know it.

– Health
The refugees come from a war zone and suddenly find themselves in another world that is foreign to them: a different language, a different culture. Therefore, pay close attention to stress and overwork and seek professional help if necessary.

– Distract attention
It helps the refugees if they can think about something else for a while. So ask them to help with small things such as cooking, small jobs in the garden, etc. It is often nice to be able to give something back. It also helps out for a while. It doesn’t have to be far, everything is new to the refugees.

– Air raid alarm
The Dutch are used to the air raid alarm every first Monday of the month at noon. Refugees do not and come from a war zone where it is perceived as a threat of danger. Therefore warn your guests in good time!
This video explains it in Ukrainian, show it to your guests:

Ukrainian explanation starts at 0:26 seconds