What do you need to know, working or socialising with Russians? Are there any western habits that would seem strange or unattractive to Russians, and the other way round? Should you shake hands with Russian women in a business meeting? How formal or friendly should you be? These are the kind of questions that a Russian culture awareness course or a one-off presentation will be answering.
Who needs cultural awareness training?
Culture awareness courses or single presentations are usually booked by companies whose employees have regular contacts with Russian colleagues, partners or customers, in Russia or the UK. They are designed as a short and entertaining introduction to the Russian "modus operandi", habits, way of life and way of thinking. They help someone completely unfamiliar with anything Russian to feel more comfortable dealing with Russians, travelling and doing business in Russian speaking countries.
Here are a just a few points that can be mentioned in a Russian culture awareness course.
Russia is a diverse multicultural country
Not everyone in Russia or from Russia is actually Russian. It's a vast country - a federation of many republics, some of which have their own national languages and traditions. There are a lot of ethnic groups and more than 100 languages spoken in the Russian Federation. So we can make generalisations but any particular people from Russia may have their own set of cultural peculiarities.
When Russians smile
Russians may seem gloomy and too serious at the first encounter but appearances are often deceptive. A polite formal smile is not the done thing, but once you have got to know someone better, smiles come out, and you will see the emotional side.
Russians know how to be true friends, our concept of friendship includes sharing, helping, looking after each other. After all, we come from a place with a cold climate and many social upheavals where helping each other is very important. So having Russian friends would have a lot of benefits - help, support, being fed and treated to nice foods, home made psychoanalysis and collective problem solving. But it may have some down sides: invasion into your private space, with the best possible intentions, being one of them.
Doing business with Russians
The principle "Nothing personal - just business" does not work in Russia. It is personal, and a good personal relationship with your business partners or clients can get you a long way. Also, Russians do not separate life and work, setting the boundaries between them, as much as Anglo-Saxons. So you can call someone you are working with at 10 pm and discuss business matters or make appointments. Russians do not like planning their lives long in advance (partly because of superstition), so making last minute appointments and agreements is the norm. When you work with people in Russia, being punctual and smartly dressed is seen as a sign of respect for the people you are dealing with.
Russians are a superstitious lot, even in this day and age, even in the business environment. It's not so much about black cats and walking under ladders, but about whom you meet and what you see around you when you start on your way to an important meeting or event. Shaking hands over a threshold is to be avoided, as well as whistling in someone's house or office. What happens if you do? Well, that would be telling...
In fact, Russians have superstitions for every life situation. Most people would not show you any serious adherence to them but deep down would feel uncomfortable when certain taboos are broken.
But interestingly, the number 13 is not a big deal for Russians - we are less scared of it than in the west. The lucky numbers are 3 and 7. So driving to a business meeting, some people look around for lucky car registration numbers around them - 777 is the best combination for good luck!
We are happy to tell you more!
These and many more interesting facts will be included in the culture awareness course of your choice: business oriented, social or specifically dedicated to one aspect of Russian life (holidays, superstitions, family life, etc)
So let us know what you need to know about Russians, and we will be happy to help.