Russian business etiquette
If you have ever been to China or Japan, your interpreter probably had given you a great deal of advice. How to hand a business card, what business souvenirs to choose not to insult anyone, how to hold your hands during the conversation and so on. People from China and Japan also have a hard time trying to follow the business etiquette in Europe and USA. And while Russian business etiquette is not even remotely so challenging, there are still things you should know about.
Just as we usually make up our minds based on our first impressions, the success of business negotiations depends greatly on the impression you make with your behavior. Knowing Russian business etiquette is just as important for your successful work with Russian partners as your language knowledge.
Even though it sounds unbelievable, a lot of Russian businessmen are superstitious. And more over – a lot of etiquette rules derive from superstitions. This affects all aspects – the handshaking, giving gifts, having business lunch and so on. In fact you may even have to take this into consideration for planning date and time of your business meetings in Russia – some people believe certain periods of the day are more suitable for signing important documents and making decisions.
Gifts for your Business Partners
Suppose you are choosing a souvenir of the following consideration set:
- a swiss knife;
- a pair of orchids,
- a piece of art;
- an antique clock.
The etiquette for doing business in Russia says that in fact only one of these options is acceptable – a piece of art. Russian people tend to extrapolate their superstitions on the business, even if they have a Harvard MBA degree. The knives and any other sharp objects can not be given, because they are believed to lead to a conflict. Any clock given as a gift presages parting, and an even number of flowers is only taken to the funeral in Russia. So the piece of art it is.
E-mail and Social Networking
Before you are on an offline meeting, you will write a great deal of business e-mails and messenger texts to your potential partner.
Every letter and chat begins with greetings. This will depend a lot on your current relationship status. If informal “Привет” (hello) is fine for messenger and viber, if you already have friendly relations with your business partner, it is still better to start an e-mail with a more formal “Добрый день” (good afternoon). It doesn’t actually matter during which period of the day you are sending a letter – good afternoon is universally fine.
While “kind regards” is pretty universal for closing an english language letter, the Russian language has more options for different situations. “Искренне Ваш,” (sincerely yours), “С надеждой на взаимовыгодное сотрудничество,” (hoping for a mutually beneficial cooperation), “Надеемся на скорый ответ,” (hoping for a quick reply) – all of these letter closures are possible. “С уважением,” – which is similar to “respectfully yours” – is considered the best universal option for closing a business letter.
Another thing to have in mind for your e-mail letters is the size of the files you attach. Russian businessmen are often travelling and using the mobile internet to check their e-mail. It is still quite slow and expensive to use in some regions, so if you need to attach a file that has a size of more than 2MB, it would be much more polite to write about it in the letter.
A businessman is expected to wear formal and smart clothes. In Europe and USA people don’t pay it too much attention, especially as far as the small business is concerned. But Russian businessmen still follow the paradigm that a status of a successful businessman should be seen in his clothes, his watch and his car. So if you want to make a good impression on your potential partner in Russia, it would be a great idea to suit up.
Business Lunch and Alcohol
It is a common stereotype that Russians drink vodka at every occasion. When building a business relationship with a company from Russia you will sooner or later face the necessity to have a business lunch.
Drinking in Russia is not as obligatory as Hollywood movies show. But chances are high you will face the necessity to drink a “ryumka” (small glass for shots) of vodka here or there. If you are not sure how your organism reacts to alcohol, make sure all the important papers are signed before you start drinking. If you don’t want to drink too much, but are still afraid to offend your partner, never empty your glass.
As for the dress-code, the same smart and official look will still be appropriate. Of course, if you are invited on a hunting or fishing trip with a wildfowl served during the business lunch, you can choose a more casual style.
These are just a few of the peculiarities where etiquette for business in Russia would make your knowledge of language sufficient to succeed. The business Russian teachers of our online school have a broad experience in business negotiations thus all these little though substantial pieces of knowledge are included into our courses.