In many things "hack until it looks OK" is fine. Unicode is one of the exceptions. Get the concepts down first. Juerd did us all a great service with perlunitut and perlunifaq.
Here's a great cheat sheet (also from Juerd): http://juerd.nl/site.plp/perluniadvice.
While striving for Unicode enlightenment, meditate on this mantra: "Decode everything you receive, encode everything you send out. (If it's text data.)" It's not the totality of wisdom, but as its layers of meaning dawn, you will see it contains 90% of what you need to know. And it is a quote from ... what, did you guess Juerd? How'd you know?