Doing business in Russia? Ever been to a business meeting with a person from a different country and felt totally misunderstood?
It’s because each country has its own well-defined national culture. That’s why doing business in Russia is totally different than doing business in the U.K., for example.
Russia is a country with huge potential for doing business, but Winston Churchill’s description of the country as a „riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” is still extremely relevant for outsiders trying to get in.
All countries have a list of do’s and don’ts that might seem strange to a foreigner, especially the Eastern European ones, and Russia is no exception.
Knowing some of the country’s taboos will not only benefit your business, but will also save you a lot of embarrassment. So here’s a list of things you should avoid doing:
1. Don’t wear your coat inside office buildings or public places.
Wearing a coat inside is considered extremely rude in Russia. Even if the heat is not working, it’s best to take your overcoat off. There’s usually a coatroom available and you should definitely use it.
2. Don’t keep your hands in your pocket.
By instinct, people tend to to hide their hands when they’re nervous. However, this is a big no-no when doing business in Russia. Keeping your hands out in the open will tell your business partner that you’re a confident person and that you have nothing to hide.
3. Don’t sit with your legs apart
As you probably noticed by now, posture is very important when doing business in Russia.
Spreading your legs or sitting with one ankle resting upon the knee is considered bad manners. Regardless of how well you think the meeting is going, don’t get too comfortable!
4. Don’t shake hands with your gloves on
Shaking hands is one of the things you’ll be doing a lot, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. Again, it doesn’t matter if it’s absolutely freezing outside, your gloves need to come off when shaking someone’s hand in Russia.
Russians are very superstitious, so make sure you never shake hands across a threshold because it’s considered bad luck.
5. Don’t ask where the toilet is
Asking people, especially those of the opposite sex, where to find the bathroom is considered extremely rude. If you really, really need to know, ask one of the employees of the location you’re at.
6. Don’t go Dutch
Unlike most Western countries, splitting the bill at the end of a business lunch is considered to be very rude. Don’t argue if your business partner offers to take care of the check.
7. Don’t whistle in public
You’ve just closed a deal that’s going to bring you a lot of money. That’s great news! Still, you should restrain yourself from whistling in the street.
What Else Can Help You when Doing Business in Russia?
Gaining some insight into the Russian mentality is important, but you also need to get your words right when doing business in a foreign country. Using the wrong words does not only drastically reduce your chances of closing a deal, but can also offend the person you’re in fact trying to impress.
If you’re not confident that translation services are right for your business, then don’t forget that plenty of industries use them on a regular basis.