In response to your request for information regarding business practices and social custom in Russia, I have compiled this memo to help train and give our employees an idea of what to expect and how they should conduct themselves while traveling to Russia next week. Although the list of business practices and social customs that differ between the United States and Russia is very long, I have selected a group of topics that are most important.
Upon first greeting, you will always shake their hand (shake with right hand and put your left hand on forearm to show respect for guests and elders) and introduce yourself. You always call the other person by their full name (first name, patronymic, and last name). Until you establish a personal relationship with the person, you will keep your distance (similar to the U.S.) and avoid any touching besides the handshake. Also, you never sit first, but always wait for the person to offer you a seat (Greg Morrissette, personal interview, April 15, 2014).
Russia’s business components deal strictly on relationships. “When it comes to business once the relationship is established, everything revolves around it (Oleg Petrenko, personal interview, April 24, 2014).” In Russia, the phrase “it’s not what you know, but who you know” is taken very seriously. “90% of business in Russia is done face-to-face. You build your business on personal relationships (Gesteland, 1999, p. 187).” Russia seems to be relationship-focused; however, they differ from most other relationship-focused cultures in respect to: verbal communication. “For example, where Asians (relationship focused) would be indirect, with high-context communication, Russians will be very direct, with low-context communication (Gesteland, 1999, p. 188).”
Formality is the key in beginning any business relationship in Russia. Being underdressed, or standing with your hands in your pockets is a sign of disrespect. You are expected to follow formal rules when addressing and talking to other people. However, once the relationship is built, it becomes much more informal. Casual language, including cussing, becomes a norm between you and business partners.
In Russia, procedures to conduct business are quite different. There are things you need to pay close attention to, and also things you need to avoid while doing business in Russia. Here are a few topics:
• Dress code: Dress formally, business casual (polo and slacks) being the lowest dress code for the front line employees, people with a higher position would wear a suit/tie or dress. Jeans, shorts, and flip flops are not appropriate in most situations.
• Exchanging cards: Be prepared to hand out business cards, but don’t expect one in return.
• Topics of conversation: “Steer clear of topics, such as politics, religion, and war (Gesteland, 1999, p. 190)
• Drinking: Just about every business transaction in Russia is done with alcohol. “Limit how...