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Business Etiquette in Russia

Image and video hosting by TinyPicTop Tips for Doing Business in Russia 

The language and culture of a nation are inextricable. Culture influences language and language, in turn, influences culture. This happens in ways both obvious and almost imperceptible. TJC Global understands that being fluent in a language also means being fluent in the subtleties and intricacies of the culture and business etiquette associated with it. To ensure that no embarrassing misunderstandings occur in a professional context, all our translators and interpreters are experts in the business culture and etiquette associated with the languages they work with.

An understanding of Russian mentality, culture and etiquette is key to business success in Russia. The Russian Federation is the largest country in the world with an area of 6,592,800 sq miles, yet is only the ninth most populous. As of 2016, it was home to around 144.3 million people. 

Russia is a country of vast natural resources and has a rich cultural identity. It provides an excellent environment for successful and enjoyable business operations. Read on to find out our top tips for doing business in Russia.

About Russian

The Russian language is based on the Cyrillic alphabet and is considered to be one of the most difficult languages in the world. Although many Russian businessmen speak English, it is strongly advisable to get an interpreter to help you to get around easily in the country or prepare various business documents.

It is usually advisable to learn a couple of simple Russian phrases to put your new business colleagues at ease. This shows that you are genuinely interested in their country and appreciate their culture and language.

Important phrases include:

Доброе утро (Dobraye ootro) - Good morning

Добрый день (Dobriy den') - Good afternoon

Добрый вечер (Dobriy vyecher) - Good evening

Здравствуйте (Zdrastvooyte) - Hello

Привет! (Preevyet) - Hi!

Рад тебя видеть (Rat teebya veedet') - Nice to see you!

Как поживаешь? (Kak pazhivayesh?) - How are you?

Спасибо, прекрасно! (Spaseeba preekrasna!) - Fine, thanks!

Спасибо (Spaseeba) - Thank you

Большое спасибо (Bal'shoye spaseeba) - Thank you very much.

Пожалуйста (Pazhalooysta) - You're welcome

Извините (Eezveeneete) - Sorry!

Простите (Prasteete) - Excuse me

да (da) – yes

нет (nyet) – no

За здоровье! (za zda-ró-vye) - To your health! / Cheers

Ваше здоровье! (vashee zda-ró-vye) - Your health! / Cheers

Click here for more information about our Russian Language Services 

Meeting and Greeting People

The standard greeting in Russia is a very firm handshake between men (and less firm between women) with the appropriate greeting for the time of day – ‘dobraye utra’ (good morning), ‘dobryy den’ (good afternoon) or ‘dobryy vecher’ (good evening). Friends usually kiss each other on the cheek three times, or pat each other on the back and hug. Do not forget to take off your gloves when you shake hands, as it is considered rude not to.

Russians have three names: first name (the person’s given name), middle name (or patronymic name, which is a version of father’s first name ending with ‘vich/ovich’ for men and ‘a/ova’ for women), and last name (the person’s surname). When you address your Russian business partner, you can call your counterpart by either “gaspodin” (a courtesy title similar to “Mr.”) or “gaspazhah” (similar to “Mrs.” or “Miss”) plus his/her surname. You can introduce yourself using only your surname. If the business goes well however, it is very likely that you will be using only first names when communicating with your Russian business partners.

If you are doing business in Russia, it is important to have a business card, stating your position in the company, your title, degree and qualifications. It is essential to have all this information translated into Russian on one side of the card             

At first sight Russians come across as very reserved and moody people, but in reality they have big hearts, though it takes some time for them to open up completely. So if you really want to make good friends with Russians, be patient and it will pay off. Russian friends have a life-time guarantee!

Business Etiquette

Most of the important business decisions are done at dinners, therefore if your business partner invites you for a dinner, consider it as an excellent business opportunity and make sure you attend. Usually such dinners are accompanied by lots of alcohol.

If you are invited to a home dinner, do not forget to take a small gift. It can be a bottle of wine or champagne, flowers (if the woman is going to be welcoming you in the house) or a box of nice chocolates. Dress in clothes that you would wear to office, as it shows respect to the hosts. If you are invited to a restaurant for a business dinner, wear a dark suit with good shoes. In Russia a businessman’s wardrobe demonstrates the individual’s image as a professional. The more expensive your shoes, the more successful you are as a businessmen.

When you enter a house, do not forget to take off your shoes. Be open to having a drink and offering a toast as refusing to do so is a serious breach of etiquette. You can toast to the health of the host/hostess and their family, a successful year, a successful business, etc. Russians are highly literate and cultural and good topics of table conversation include current economical and political situations, matters of war and peace, literature and theatre. At the end of the evening, offering to help the hostess to clear up is considered to be polite, although it will most probably be turned down.


Business Negotiations

Successful business in Russia is usually based on mutual liking and emotions, therefore do not expect Russians to take quick decisions. Patience is an extremely important virtue among Russians; punctuality is not. You are however expected to be on time for the business meetings even though your partner might be late. Do not try to impress Russians with flashy Power Point presentations. Your pitch should be simple and straightforward demonstrating your knowledge, professionalism and expertise.

Negotiations can be very long and tiring as Russians view compromise as a sign of weakness. Russians are very emotional therefore do not be surprised by temper tantrums, theatrical threats and walkouts during such meetings. It is all part of the business game!  Usually all Russian business meetings are accompanied by the production of a huge amount of paperwork. In general, Russians have very little faith in unsigned documents.

Don’t forget to shake hands firmly when leaving your Russian partners and to make direct eye contact.

Beliefs and Superstitions

  • Shaking hands or kissing over the threshold of the doorstep is considered bad luck.
  • If taking flowers as a gift, only take an odd number. Never bring yellow flowers.
  • If you leave something behind in Russia it means you're coming back.
  • Don’t take gifts for a baby that is not yet born.
  • If you want to do successful business in Russia, try to follow this old Russian proverb: ‘Don’t hurry to reply, but hurry to listen’.

Looking for translation or interpreting assistance ? 

TJC Global provides specialist interpreting and translation services in a wide array of specialist fields. Whatever your requirement, we can find the right linguist to assist you. If your industry or project-type is not listed here, please contact us directly with your enquiry.

Our language specialists utilise their knowledge of subject-specific terminology to deliver precise, unambiguous translations whatever the context - enabling you to communicate effectively with the rest of the world. We are also able to adapt to almost any type of project.

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