Tips | Russia for Beginners

See on Scoop.itLife in Moscow From an Expat Perspective

This article appeared in Moscow Times a daily English-language newspaper featuring objective, reliable news on business, politics and culture in Moscow, in Russia and the former Soviet Union (CIS). Last Updated: 11/09/2012 

The commentaries in blue  are my own  (A.Egros)

1-Russians do not trust each other readily. If you want your staff to develop and work as autonomous teams, you need to create and maintain mutual trust.

2-Read one of the “great” Russian novels — whether you choose “Dead Souls”, “Crime and Punishment” or “Anna Karenina”, they will give you great insights into Russian culture.

I recommend The Master and Margarita” from Mikhail Bulgakov, a biting satire of Soviet life. Even today I can feel the atmosphere described in this book by looking at the old buildings with architecture like “art deco”

3-Get out of Moscow. The pace of life is very different and you will get a snapshot of the “real” Russia.

4-Russians are people-people and if you are to build your team you must take time to create relationships with your colleagues. It may seem a slow process but it will produce real long term benefits.

I can relate very much with this need to build relationships first before doing business as it is typical in most “latin” European and Asian countries compared to American culture where time is money and usually business deals are direct and straight forward

5-Never forget a close colleague’s birthday.

6-Use the Metro in Moscow or the other cities. It is cheap, quick and even with only simple Cyrillic, easy to use.

Even with basics of  Cyrillic alphabet , it is easy to read the names of the stations and the lines have specific colors and numbers. There is an iPhone/iPad app that is really terrific to help you calculate best routes and time it takes. It is called Metropolitan” Version: 2.3 By Aleksey Dodonov.

7-When speaking English, never assume that you have been understood. Russian do not like losing face and admitting in front of colleagues that they have not understood English would risk that happening. They are likely to just sit there and say nothing!

Avoiding losing face is not specific to Russians, this is true in most Asian countries.When speaking English always check that you have been understood by asking questions or rephrasing and speaking slowly.

8-Bear in mind that during the winter months there is very little sunlight. You and your colleagues are thus very susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and the clinical depression that goes with it.

Light therapy is a way to treat SAD by exposure to artificial light. I bought a lamp that mimic the natural light and with 30 minutes per day it is enough to prevent SAD.

9-Learn a bit of Russian — even if just the ability to read Cyrillic — it will make your life so much easier.

Again this is not specific to Russian language,  first as an expat it shows that you respect your host country by learning their language and second you enjoy so much more your life when you understand even only 30% of the conversation with basic “everyday” Russian

10-Ask your colleagues which restaurants and bars they go to — not only will you have a real Russian experience but you will probably save money too.

Ask also other expats for various cuisines, especially in Moscow. Most of the international women groups in Moscow have something related to discovering restaurants :Check with Moscou Accueil (French), AWO (American), IWC (International)

11-Remember money is not the only driver for Russians when they are job hunting — conditions of employment and the range of benefits offered can mean much more.

Many recent studies show  that this is a trend globally. Employees need recognition, trust and opportunities for personal and professional development

12-Do not be modest in talking about your education and qualifications.

13-Russians respect study and learning.

14-Drinking in Russia may be on a scale that you are not used to. Pace yourself and if you have any doubts then only sip during toasts.

15-A successful negotiation in Russia requires above all that the relationship between the parties be built first. You need to take time in the early stages to do this.

16-There is no bad weather in Russia — just bad clothes and shoes.

True, if you don’t like fur, goose down and synthetic clothes for -30C are fine too

17-Prepare yourself properly for the winter.

18-Russian employees may seem to make long and chatty phone calls. This is all part of building and maintaining the relationships that are so critical to business life in Russia.

Even during business meetings some people answer their mobile phones or text messages

19-Russia is a safe country if you use your common sense. Avoid railway stations at night, nightclubs with lots of black limos parked outside and groups of skinheads on the streets and you will be safe.

Do not find Moscow threatening, not more than Paris or New York  

20-Russians are problem avoiders rather than problem confronters — you need to develop a high degree of trust in your colleagues before they will come to you to tell you about something that has gone wrong.

21-The Russian view of time is similar to that in many Latin cultures — meetings will rarely start or end on time nor will people always arrive at work punctually.

However, foreigners are expected to arrive on time for business meeting or dinners

22-Be very careful about making comparisons with “home”. Russians know very well that the infrastructure in Russia is bad — although improving — and do not need foreigners to point this out t

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One thought on “Tips | Russia for Beginners

  1. expatsincebirth November 9, 2012 at 2:57 pm Reply

    This is a great post. I don’t like clichés, but your list is very diplomatic and gives precious hints also to people who doesn’t live in Russia, but has Russian friends. I would love to read something similar about other countries too.

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