Cultural Clues, Do’s & Taboos: Communication Guidelines for RUSSIA

Posted on January 11, 2015 by

The Latest! Cultural Clues, Do’s & Taboos – A Series of Cultural Tips for Countries from A to Z: RUSSIARussia2

The article ‘Cultural Clues, Do’s & Taboos for Russia is a brief snapshot of conversation guidelines for Russia, tips for communicating in Russia, and strategies for doing business with Russia to help with understanding the culture in Russia. It’s important to keep in mind that as we homogenize as a ‘global culture’, cultural tendencies change and evolve as well. Awareness is the first step!

Emmy Award Winner, Gayle Cotton, is the author of this article and of the bestselling book, SAY Anything to Anyone, Anywhere! 5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communication’, available on Amazon as a Book, eBook, or Audio Book. She is President of Circles Of Excellence for Corporate Education, and a distinguished Professional Keynote Speaker. Contact Gayle to be a conference speaker for your events! She is a cross cultural expert that will entertain and inspire audiences of all sizes with her fresh, unique, and humorous approach to cross-cultural communication and social business etiquette. Gayle travels worldwide from business bases in Texas and Switzerland.

Addresses in Russia are written in the following order: (1) country (2) city (3) street address and (4) the last name of the individual.

Handshaking is common and is typically a firm grip with several quick pumps between two men. Between men and women, or two women, the handshake is usually softer. It’s appropriate for men to wait until a woman extends her hand before reaching for it. Between women, the older woman extends her hand first.

Russians are a very demonstrative people, and public physical contact is common. Hugs, backslapping, kisses on the cheeks, and other expressive gestures are common among friends and relatives when greeting.

When a Russian touches another person during a greeting or conversation, it is usually a sign of confidence and rapport.

Generally speaking, Russians are more comfortable with third-party introductions, so it’s best to wait a moment before introducing yourself to a new group. If, after a few minutes, no introduction is made you may then take the initiative.

Eye contact during the introduction is very important and should be maintained as long as the individual is addressing you.

Visitors should speak in a calm moderate tone of voice since speaking or laughing loudly in public is frowned upon.

Personal questions are best avoided, although you may be subject to these inquiries. Answer these questions as best as you are willing to since your Russian companions may press you for details.

There is tremendous affection for children in Russia. If you are a parent, showing photographs of your children can be an effective way of building rapport.

In conversation, it is helpful to discuss your aspirations and hopes for the future. Sometimes, Russians are far more interested in the personal side of your character than your business agenda.

Allow plenty of time for each appointment. Not only may appointments start late, they may last longer than originally planned.

The Russian business culture has a deeply entrenched hierarchy. Superiors have authority over their subordinates, and are ultimately responsible for the final decision.

It’s essential that you deal with the key decision-makers, rather than the go-betweens who are often sent to meet with new visitors. It’s wise to plan ahead and make the right contacts well in advance of your trip.

When decision-makers are present, meetings can be a time for all participants to exchange information and ideas.

Ensure that you have a contact outside of the negotiations who is an expert in Russian law, which is constantly subject to change in both interpretation and application.

The first meeting is usually more of a formality, a time for the Russians to assess the credibility of you and your company. The best strategy is to appear very firm and dignified, while maintaining an air of warmth and approachability.

It’s essential that your business team display a “united front” when negotiating with the Russians. A good way to start is by ensuring that all members of your team understand and agree on precisely what they want to achieve from the deal.

While strong empirical evidence and other factual data are important in any presentation, making a trustworthy impression is an important priority with Russians.

Extend compliments with caution, since they may cause Russians to feel a sense of misplaced obligation. Praising and rewarding anyone in public may be viewed with suspicion.

Your Russian counterparts may insist that they understand something while this may not actually be the case. They also sometimes have a tendency to say things they think you want to hear.

The Russian word “nyekulturny” is a popular term used to refer to anything considered uncultured, bad mannered, or otherwise socially unacceptable. The taboos below are a few examples of some behaviors regarded as “nyekulturny.”

5 Key Conversation or Gesture Tips

  • The rapid, progressive changes taking place in Russia
  • Culture, theatre, movies, music, and literature
  • Travel, history, and architecture
  • There is always an interest in current events as long as you remain open to various perspectives
  • The food and drink that is unmistakably a part of Russian entertainment

5 Key Conversation or Gesture Taboos

  • Wearing your coat inside office buildings or public places. Coatrooms are usually available and should be used.
  • Standing with your hands in your pockets
  • Sitting with the legs apart, or with one ankle resting upon the knee
  • Comparing Russia to other developing countries, or comparing Moscow and Saint Petersburg
  • Beckoning someone with the forefinger. Instead, turn your hand so that the palm faces down and make a scratching motion. Many common gestures used in the West, such as the “OK” sign, are considered rude in Russia.

Bon Voyage!

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To learn more about the Do’s & Taboos for Russia, doing business in Russia, and the communication and business styles of Asia/Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East – order my bestselling book SAY Anything to Anyone, Anywhere! 5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communication’ available on Amazon as a Book, eBook, or Audio Book 

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