12 Customs and Etiquette in Russian Business

Russia Business Etiquette
The best remote meeting etiquette tip is to follow the same rules you would in an in-person discussion: dress professionally, be on time, don’t interrupt, and be prepared to contribute.

1. Be on Time – But Prepare to Wait

Ensure you book any face to face business dealings a few days in advance, and be sure to arrive to any meetings with Russian companies on time or slightly early – ten to fifteen minutes in advance is usually a good bet.

However, be prepared to be kept waiting or for meetings even to be cancelled at short notice. Business meetings can often overrun, causing a delay, or you may even be kept waiting as a powerplay by your Russian counterparts. This is especially true for state officials or buerocrats.

2. Smart and Conservative

Business attire is very similar to what you will find in a lot of Europe, though leaning towards the conservative side.

For men, business suits are the way forward. These can be in various dark colors, including grey, blue, or black.

For businesswomen, suits with skirts are the correct attire. Make sure your skirt comes down to knee length.

3. Saying Hello

The traditional business greeting in Russia is to shake hands. When two men are meeting, expect the handshake to be firm, potentially even slightly uncomfortably so. Make sure to maintain direct eye contact; to look away could be seen as a sign of weakness.

4. Extended Business Meetings

Business meetings will likely run longer than expected. In fact, this is true of almost everything in Russian business culture.

Some social talk at the beginning of the meeting is common business practice. It is also likely that some of this small talk will bleed into the conversation as well. People in this country are very family oriented, so discussing children is a safe topic that is likely to ingratiate you with your business partners.

It is expected to have presentations prepared in advance for meetings. Be thorough and include data and supporting facts. Though many people will speak English, the official language is Russian, so have any written materials available in both languages.

After the meeting, it is common to sign a copy of the minutes. It is also a good idea to follow up the next day to confirm the outcome of the meeting.

5. Business Cards

There is no formal process to exchanging business cards in the country. However, there are some useful tips to follow:

  • Have any information written in both English and Russian.
  • Include your qualifications (degrees, titles, ect) on the card.
  • Hand the card Russian side up to show respect and to acknowledge that you are a visitor in their country.

6. A Strict Hierarchy

Businesspeople here rely on a strong and strict hierarchical structure. There will likely be set seating plans and speaking orders, do not go against these.

Conformity is considered a virtue. Be sure not to single out a Russian counterpart from the group or try to encourage someone to go against the crowd.

7. Fast and Slow Negotiations

Russia has somewhat of a duality when it comes to the speed of business negotiations. Meetings and discussions will tend to overrun and drag on; however, some things go much faster than in other countries. For example, contracts will tend to be signed on the day they are proposed.

Russian negotiations tend to be very direct. People will say what they want and what they think. However, they can also be inflexible when compared to other countries participating in international business. It is best to suggest ideas slowly rather than trying to rush through change.

8. Socialising over Drinks

Business drinks
Business drinks to socialise and build rapport

Business lunches are not as common in Russia as in some countries; however, it is fairly standard to socialise over some drinks to get to know your business partners better. This is a good way to develop your business relationships and even to start making more personal relationships.

9. Gender Equality in Business

Russian business is less equal for women than it is in many other major European nations. The gender pay gap was scored at 23.7% in 2021, meaning women earned, on average, a quarter less than their male counterparts.

However, UN Women notes that some movements towards equality have been made in the Russian Federation. The main places Russia needs to improve is in violence towards women and female representation in government.

10. Gifts are welcomed

Presenting a small gift is a good way to win over a business partner in Russia. Presents should emphasise the status of your company and build a connection with your Russian counterpart; gifts emblazoned with your company’s logo are a good option.

11. Building Relationship is the Key

Similar to business etiquette in Brazil, Camaraderie is an incredibly important part of Russian business manners. You should always act as if you are building a relationship with the individual, not the company.

The culture can feel like a closed book to outsiders. Many times, the only way in is to be offered a favor by an individual. The best way to raise your chances of this happening is to focus on building strong personal relationships with potential business partners.

Early on in the relationship, try granting a favor to your Russian counterpart. This will ingratiate yourself with them, and show that you are keen to develop the bond further.

The country that struggles with corruption. The Corruption Perceptions Index gave Russia a score of just 28 out of 100, ranking it 137 out of 180 countries.

12. Direct Communication

Verbal communication is known for its directness. They can come across as blunt to foreigners, freely offering critique of others. Try not be offended or take it as harshness.

Despite this, Russians enjoy humor. Their humor tends to be sarcastic and dry. Swearing is common in casual communication.

Body language tends to be reserved with strangers. It might take a while for your counterparts, especially men, to soften towards you.

What is the work culture like in Russia?

A standard work week in Russia must not exceed 40 hours. Overtime laws are strict, with 50 hours, including overtime, the maximum a worker can endure.

Labor laws grant Russians 28 days of annual leave in addition to public holidays.

Russian Business Culture: Dos and Don’ts

Do’s ✅Don’ts ❌
Talk about family.Bring up politics. Topics like the Ukraine war are unlikely to be received well when discussed by outsiders.
Offer and complete favors for your business partners.Show the soles of your shoes. (Its a cultural faux pas in Russia)
Offer critique but ensure you have a suggestion for improvement.Rush negotiations and contracts.
Be respectful of Russian culture.Bring up country history; discussion of the Soviet Union will not be received kindly.

Jack Fairey

Jack is a writer based in west London, England. He is a keen traveler, and has a particular interest in the fascinating differences in etiquette across the world. When not writing, he can be found dreaming up his next trip to far off places.

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