Russian Communication Styles

English language levels vary enormously in Russia. Many younger entrepreneurs (especially in the cosmopolitan centres like Moscow and St Petersburg) have a fluent command of, not only English, but often several other European languages.

Yet in other more provincial centres it is not unusual to meet business people who have little or no foreign language skills. Always check in advance whether interpretation is needed. If in any doubt about the comprehension levels encountered in meeting situations, be sure to check and recheck by asking relevant open questions at regular intervals.

(Outside Moscow and St Petersburg most signs are written exclusively in the Cyrillic script and knowledge of this will go a long way on a trip to the more remote areas of Russia.)

As with many other cultures (Mediterranean and Middle Eastern for example) much more emphasis is placed upon the spoken rather than the written word. People believe things when they have heard them from someone with whom they have a trusting relationship. Therefore, it is often much more efficient to hold face-to-face meetings at which issues can be fully explained, rather than sending information in a written format only.

There tends to be very little visual or verbal feedback during meetings in Russia. People listen silently and with little obvious body language being displayed. This does not, however, mean that the listener is disinterested or does not understand – it is merely a cultural characteristic which Russians share with, amongst others, the Finns and the Japanese. Russians will tend to wait and think before responding to a point made to them – do not be impatient. Allow the Russians the time and space needed to take part fully in the conversation (and remember that they are probably struggling with foreign language as well.)

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Russia

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Russia is the world’s largest energy exporter which should mean that its economy is strong and that its people prosper. However, a combination of oil price volatility and the impact of economic sanctions put in place in response to perceived Russian military aggression have resulted in years of recession. This has left the country’s potential unfulfilled, as well as an infrastructure crying out for massive levels of investment

Russia does undoubtedly have massive potential. It has boundless natural resources, with a highly educated population who are aspirational and consumerist in nature. If Russia can regain its position as a mainstream player on the global political stage, then it is poised for a very bright future.

So, should you be thinking about doing business in Russia? That’s a difficult one to answer but our advice would be that there is a huge potential up-side in Russia but that before venturing into such a complex market it is essential to do considerable research and due diligence. This advice is sound for any new market but it is doubly applicable when doing business in Russia.
One area of business in Russia that needs research is around the cultural norms you will encounter within the Russian business community. They do things differently in Russia and you need to know what to expect. Who you know is vitally important in Russia but how you interact with key contacts is just as important. Don’t spend months cultivating the right people only to alienate them by doing the wrong thing or communicating in an inappropriate manner.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Russian business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips