Tattoos: Ukraine vs. USA

If you know me, you know that I have a few tattoos I dearly love. I am also planning on a few more and don’t really set myself up with limits as to how many. I love having art on my body - I love having pieces that are meaningful and those that are just for fun. Tattoos are the way of expression and the more grown up you get - the less ways of that expression you get. For me personally - it is crucial to keep it alive.

Growing up in a small-town Ukraine tattoos were always a taboo so now, when I go back, I always need to sort of prepare people for the fact that I have ink on my body. You would think ‘my body - my choice’, but then I would know that you clearly did not grow up in a small town where your neighbors are waiting for your visit each year so that they can have something to gossip about. And trust me: I gave them plenty in the last couple of years. From becoming a flight attendant to getting yet another tattoo: I guess I am glad to be of service to our elderly.

Circling back to tattoos. First time I ever saw a large quantity of people who clearly did not all go to prison in order to get one (a constant misconception of the small-town folk) was at the Wet’n’Wild in Florida and I was 16. Whether it because we had to stand in line for what felt like hours or because that was what I needed to see at that moment - I will never know. What I do know is that normal people like you and me are totally ok with getting inked. And not all of them have been to prison otherwise my host family wouldn’t have brought me to this water park. Or so I hope.

I started thinking about my first tattoo back then. I couldn’t get it in the States, ‘cause I wasn’t 18 yet and I was a bit nervous about the quality of tattoo artists back home. In college I was already determined to get a tattoo sooner rather than later (so glad I didn’t. I thought about getting the most generic first-page-on-Google stuff I would have regretted later on). By the time I moved to Kyiv I was already researching tattoo artists.

I don’t know why I never got one in Kyiv. One of my tattoos will be done by a Ukrainian artist, I promise. The capital of Ukraine is getting less and less prejudiced about body art by the minute and a lot of my local friends have multiple tattoos. I am so happy to see that, ‘cause with each inked arm, leg, shoulder, or ankle people are getting more and more open to the fact that humans are all different. And different does not mean wrong.

I will probably never forget the first time I got a tattoo. It was a small thing - my wedding ring - but I was so nervous! It took what felt like 15 minutes (nothing compared to my longest one so far: an hour and 40 minutes). It was such a rush! Of course, I was getting something on my body that proclaimed my eternal love to my husband but it was also the thrill of stepping outside those invisible lines we sometimes put ourselves in. And, needless to say, after that I was hooked.

The common questions Ukrainians will ask me about my tattoos are: How bad did it hurt? How long did it take?
The common questions Americans will ask me about my tattoos are: What does this one mean? Who was the artist?

One of the things that I find very ironic is how socially acceptable it is for American people to have a bunch of tattoos but then if you want to work in a ‘professional’ environment you have to cover most of them up. I understand that I don’t speak for most of businesses but in general: yeah, you have to cover things up. I had to cover everything up when I was flying, including my wedding ring tattoo.

On the other hand, a country like Ukraine - where ink is just now starting to become acceptable is totally cool with you having your art out and about (again, for the most part).

My roommates were getting married a few years ago and I was lucky enough to be invited and present at the ceremony, The lady who was marrying them was tall, with a very slick updo, and wore this sky-blue colored dress, looking like World Peace herself. At some point during the ceremony she had to turn around and we saw that the dress was backless (gorg!). We also saw a giant tattoo of a snake that ran along her back! We all chuckled, just because of her literal business in the front - party in the back, but man-oh-man it was amazing.

All that to say: some countries are less accepting of some things. Ten years ago having a tattoo in Ukraine meant you most likely served some time. Now you can set people off to a happy live together without giving your tattoo a second thought. As long as your tattoo doesn’t offend anyone - why would you want to hide it? In the US I thought the year of 2016 was the year of being offended - maybe it is time to move forward?

Here are some inspo artists for ya!


^ Female artists are ROCKING Kyiv’s tattoo scene, by the way. #GirlPower


Go get inked if you want to. Or don’t. We live in a free country.

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