Anyone who travels to Russia on business will quickly discover that the Russians are sociable and open. Nevertheless, negotiating with them usually takes a bit longer. But as soon as the transition is made from business partner to “friend”, it is entirely possible that the next contract will be signed in the Russian business partner’s dacha. An introduction to business etiquette for Russia.
When greeting one another, Russians shake hands and say “Zdravstvujte”, “Dobri djien” (good day) or “Privet” (Hello). This may be followed by the question, “Kak dela?” (How’s it going?). In the case of older or higher-ranking individuals, the form of address containing the first name and the father’s name is chosen. On official occasions, however, the form of address used is the title and the person’s last name.
TELEPHONING IN RUSSIA.
In Russia, one does not ordinarily answer the telephone by name. Whether at home or at work, one simply answers with “Allo” – “Hello”.
BUSINESS MEALS AND ROUNDS OF VODKA.
No, vodka is not part of every business meal in Russia. Often, there is no alcohol consumed at all at lunch. Even rounds of vodka drinking are less excessive than their reputation might suggest. Nevertheless, there are a few rules one should observe when dealing with vodka: drink vodka only, don’t mix. The vodka is emptied in one drink, not sipped. Drink lots of water throughout the course of the evening, and only drink after a toast has been spoken. When drinking or eating, do not immediately finish your meal or empty your glass. As soon as the glass is empty, it will be refilled, and the moment a plate is empty, another helping will be brought out.
The Russians attach great importance to a cultivated and stylish outward appearance. Well-kept clothing of high-quality reflects an individual’s social status. This is why it is always obligatory for a man to come to a meeting wearing a suit and tie, while the businesswoman usually wears a trouser suit. In Russia, a perfect outfit is mandatory.
CUSTOMARY FORMS OF ADDRESS.
In Russian, as in German, the distance between the informal and formal second-person pronouns is considerable. But there are several ways to reduce this distance through one’s choice of words. The form of address combining the formal second-person pronoun and the individual’s first name is very wide-spread (in German: Sie Natascha or Sie Oleg). In businesses, too, it is quite ordinary for co-workers to address one another by first name. It is also common to introduce oneself by first name only in official introductions. Do bear in mind that this by no means warrants use of the informal form of the second-person pronoun. The typical Russian form of address, however, combines the person’s first name and the father’s first name. This is particularly the case when speaking to people higher up in the hierarchy (e.g. when speaking to supervisors). Nevertheless, foreigners are not expected to have mastered this variation. That is why they will be forgiven if they address their business partner by first name only. But do be sure to use the formal form of the second-person pronoun.
APPROACH TO TIME.
In terms of the view of time in Russian culture, it should be pointed out that punctuality in Russia is assigned a rather subordinate role. Accordingly, fixed times for meetings are considered a point of orientation for all participants. That is why one can expect frequent delays and time overruns in Russia.