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Russian business culture and etiquette

Russia has a business culture and etiquette that differs significantly from much of what people are used to in the west. Much of it remains from a historical past where collectivism was the only way of living. Even by today's standards, Russia remains a country where co-operation and teamwork are standard practice in businesses, and where fierce competition is not common, even among rival companies.

Even though a hierarchical structure is common, most employers seem to promote a democratic work environment, where everybody has a voice. Russians don't have a clear understanding of personal space, both physically and socially. Things like hugging after a meeting or asking about personal matters such as family are considered acceptable during business dealings. Praising somebody in public, however, is considered shady, as if you're trying to gain a favor. It is perfectly acceptable, however, to bring a gift to your first meeting. Anything from chocolates to a local souvenir (especially if you're from a different country) to an item that displays the company logo.

When it comes to sealing a deal, Russians prefer to put things in writing and will insist on having everything signed by hand. There's little faith in electronic agreements, mainly because internet communications can often be unreliable.

Time runs at a different speed in Russia. It's not uncommon for people to tell you they will meet in 17.5 minutes or that a meeting is scheduled for 10:07am. Once you arrive, however, expect to be around for a while – Meetings often involve drinking vodka, eating sweets, and talking about everyday life. When in doubt, remember that Russians prefer a personal approach over a methodical stance.


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