What You Need to Know to Do Business Successfully in Russia

What You Need to Know to Do Business Successfully in Russia

The Russian Federation has over 150 million people, and covers an area of greater than 6,592,800 square miles. No wonder that Russia is a country of cultural contradictions. Now add to this a very noticeable generational gap, which is reflected in the business world.

Learn Russian Business Etiquette; here’s what you need to know to do business successfully in Russia.

Global trade and multinational businesses continue to grow and expand, and modern transportation and mobile technologies bring together people from all around the world. International business etiquette, cross-cultural intelligence and cultural savoir-vivre paired with multi-lingual communication form an essential skill set if you aspire to be successful doing business with international companies.

During international travel and while dealing with business assignments overseas, the profound knowledge of and the honest respect for cultural differences as well as flawless intercultural communication will make you stand out among other companies and help you achieve even your most ambitious business goals.

In Russia, generally, the older generations are marked by a tendency towards conservatism and have a group approach to life. The younger generations are much more dynamic and progressive, with a more individualist approach.

Even knowing just that one fact already puts you on the forward foot. Here’s another 14 useful tips for Russian Cultural Intelligence.


1. In business settings – other than in private meetings – women dress conservatively and avoid colourful and eye-catching dresses.

2. It is considered as rude to stand with your hands in your pockets as it is to chew gum.


3. Men should always take off any head coverings and women should always cover their heads while visiting a Russian Orthodox Church.

4. Foreigners are usually expected to appear on time to business meetings. If your Russian counterpart is late, he might be just testing your patience. Don’t expect an apology and be patient, if your business appointments begin one or even two hours late.

5. Patience is one of the most important and esteemed virtues among Russians. If you are rather impatient, you might want to practice a little prior to your business trip!

6. At social events, it is acceptable for foreigners to arrive 15 to 30 minutes late.

7. Take off your gloves while shaking hands with someone – it is considered impolite not to. This rule applies equally to men and women. Handshakes must be firm.

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8. Older Russians may still see compromise as a sign of weakness. Once you find that out about your Russian business counterpart, you will be able to adapt your business strategy and communication accordingly.

9. Negotiations with Russians often involve lively debate and opinions are encouraged.

10. ‘Final Offers’ may not necessarily mean the end of the negotiations, and if you show trust and patience, in the end the outcome will be more beneficial and attractive for you.

A little Russian goes a long way when it comes to goodwill.

11. There is a Russian term for influential connections – it implies that it is useful to have some kind of a local ally who can introduce you to the “cultural niceties” of the Russian business machinery.

12. Russians tend to approach business meetings seriously, and too many smiles may ruin their perception of you and make them wonder whether you have serious intentions. So better to have your attentive and quietly serious game face on, and leave your favorite joke icebreakers on the plane.

13. It is always a good idea to have your business cards translated so that one side shows your contact details in Russian/Cyrillic script, and the other in English preferably. Make sure you have a sufficient amount on you at all times as it is likely that you will meet many influential people, especially during business networking events.


14. Watch how you sit, as showing the soles of your shoes is considered impolite. Your shoes should never come in contact with any type of seat (like on a subway or bus).

So if you are visiting Russia, as they say in Russian, Удачи (good luck)!

P.S. If you visit St. Petersburg on business, you’d be mad not to add on an extra couple of days to your trip to see this beautiful city that was the former capital!


Sue Brett

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