Excerpted from the Russia Career Guide
Because of their difficult history, Russians tend to have a pessimistic outlook, although young people are less prone to this quality. Russians may say things such as “We will try to finish on time” or “Perhaps it will work” because they are aware conditions may change.
Traditional Russian cuisine has more variety than you might expect. Typical Russian dishes include Olivier or Stolichniy salad (a meat salad), Georgian lobio (spiced beans in sauce), blini topped with ikra (crepes with caviar), borshch (soup with beet roots), pelmeni (meat dumplings), pirozhki (filled pastries), smetana (sour cream) that accompanies many dishes, and, from Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, bakhlava dessert
Russians are physically active and enjoy activities as varied as cross-country skiing, ice hockey, ice skating, football (soccer), tennis, hiking, mountain climbing, volleyball and gymnastics. Many minority groups have favorite sports activities; e.g., sled racing is popular among the Yakuts of central Siberia, and archery is popular among the Buryats of eastern Siberia.
Punctuality is greatly appreciated, and obligatory in many companies. Some companies require employees to record their times of arrival and departure.
Russians in general are reserved, and loud speaking or laughter in public is frowned upon. They prefer to develop a relationship slowly, so it may take a while to establish rapport.
Russian (Russki) is the official language of the federation. It is an Eastern Slavic language written with the Cyrillic alphabet.
If You Want to Act Like a Local...
- Russians like to invite people to their homes and make great efforts to impress the guest. It is strongly recommended to bring small presents (sweets, for example), especially if it is a first visit.
- If offering flowers, they should be in an odd number. Avoid yellow flowers.
- One should remove his or her shoes when entering a Russian home. Hosts will usually offer a pair of slippers (tapochki).
- Russians, especially the older generation, will insist on giving away an object that has been favorably remarked upon. Refuse several times, but if you take the object, offer a gift later on in return.
The influence of Western business etiquette, business norms and values is strong in Russia, especially in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The business culture within a particular Russian company will depend upon the company’s history and its corporate policies and culture, including the vision of its shareholders and owners. Nevertheless, there are some companies, mainly those involved with the government, that could be described using past Soviet terms (bureaucratic and formal), and whose personnel have a conservative management style. In Russian companies, different departments and directors usually have separate spaces and rooms. An open-door policy is applicable mainly for Western companies. Knock and wait for an invitation to enter before opening a closed office door, and close the door when leaving.
Management is usually centralized and direct. Russian companies tend to be driven by one strong central figure making strategic decisions with little or no consultation with anyone other than a handful of close, trusted advisors. Consultations with subordinates could be perceived as a lack of professionalism on the part of the superior. The ‘big boss’ is expected to issue direct instructions for subordinates to follow.
Negotiations can involve a concrete proposal or just a further step in the process of cooperation. In negotiations, Russians often pay close attention to overall objectives and problems, and give less attention to details. Companies tend to have a short-term view of business activities, and it is imperative to demonstrate the short-term benefits of collaboration.
This is just a sample of what you'll find in over 100 pages of information in the Russia Guide.