With a population of 150 million and a land mass that spans nine time zones, Russia is packed with plenty of business opportunities. If you happen to be heading to Russia to conduct business, make sure to take along your Russian business visa – and a good sense of the country’s business etiquette.
As pointed out by BusinessCulture.org, Russia is a place full of contradictions. The country as a whole can be slow to trust, although Russians can be very kind and welcoming to strangers. You’re also likely to encounter a generation gap, with a more conservative group mentality in the older generation and a more liberal, individualistic nature in the younger ones.
Conservative attire remains the name of the game for business situations of any generation, with men donning well-tailored suits and impeccable dress shoes. Women frequently wear skirts instead of pants while steering clear of flashy or gaudy attire.
Standing with your hands in your pockets is considered rude, as is showing the bottom of your shoes. For this reason, be careful when you cross your legs, and never put your feet up on seats. If someone offers you a drink or toast, it’s in your best interests to oblige.
Even though many Russians speak English, it’s polite to have a double-sided business card with one side in Russian and the other in English to offer when you meet people. Handshakes are acceptable upon greeting someone, as long as you remember to take off your gloves beforehand to avoid being rude.
Russia has a steep and clear hierarchy, and you’ll probably have no doubt about who has the power and authority in any given situation. Stick with professional titles and surnames when greeting people and refrain from speaking loudly in public.
Patience is an extremely important virtue for Russians, although punctuality is not. While you’ll want to be on time for any meetings, your Russian counterparts may be up to two hours late. The tactic could be used to test your patience, and you’ll fail the test if you exhibit any annoyance or attitude about the situation.
Business etiquette in Russia dictates that meetings are always formal, as is communication throughout the meeting. The meeting’s host is in charge of the meeting’s structure, and meetings typically continue until all points are covered and the desired resolution reached.
Business meeting may be combined with food and drink, and it’s not unusual for banquet-type meetings to last well into the late hours.
Russians’ penchant for patience is often displayed during negotiations. The so-called “final offer” they provide may not be the final offer at all, just another way to test your ability to wait. In the eyes of some Russians, compromising is a sign of weakness, and they will refuse to back down during negotiations
Flared tempers are not uncommon during meetings or negotiations if things aren’t going in someone’s desired direction. Walkouts and obvious displays of anger are not uncommon, either. It’s OK to ask for a short break if you need time to collect your thoughts (and emotions).
The head boss is the one who will make the final decision, and any discussions should be held in private instead of in a meeting in front of other people.
Gifts are appropriate if you’re invited to a private home for dinner, with good choices including flowers, wine, or dessert. Gifts can also be given to locals who are helping you do business, as Russians are very wary of doing business with outsiders unless they have a local connection.
Business etiquette in Russia includes a few key points you’ll want to keep in mind as you greet new acquaintances, attend meetings, and negotiate deals. Doing so will give you the edge you need to make the most of the opportunities you may encounter. If you have any questions about doing business in Russia or getting a Russian business visa, contact Swift – we’re happy to help!