Ethnic groups: 79.8 percent Russians, 3.8 percent Tatars, 2.0 percent Ukrainians, 1.2 percent Bashkirs, 1.1 percent Chuvashes, 12.1 percent others
Language: Russian, although 27 languages are spoken officially across the country’s various regions
National holidays: new Year’s Day (Jan 1), Christmas (Jan 7), Defenders of the Motherland Day (Feb 23), International Women’s Day (Mar 8), Spring and Labour Day (May 1), Victory in Europe Day (May 9), Russia Day (Jun 12), National Unity Day (Nov 4), Constitution Day (Dec 12)
Business hours: Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm
Although some people in Russia may speak fluent English (along with several other languages) the level at which it is spoken varies across the country so you may very well require an interpreter. There is more emphasis on the spoken word than the written word so communication will be easier during meetings rather than in writing. There may often be very little feedback in meetings as people tend to sit still and listen.
Patience is valued in Russia. Russian managers will often keep their counterparts waiting for meetings, etc in order to test their patience. It may take some time to receive responses to questions, even when asking face-to-face.
Many Russians are anti-state and because of this, law and tax evasion is commonplace. As such, contracts do not mean the same as they would in the UK – they may only be seen as valid if supported by a strong personal relationship with other signatories.
Russian legislation is extremely complex as the law constantly evolves. Some areas are lacking in legislation and where laws do exist, they are often not enforced. However, Russian companies are increasingly taking issues to court.
Organisations tend to be very centralised and run by one manager, who will usually consult with others very little. They will usually issue direct instructions. Middle managers tend to have very little real power unless they are close to senior managers. If you are not dealing with the correct people, you may waste a lot of time in reaching decisions.
There are very few women in senior management roles in Russia. Foreign women will be treated well but may be viewed as inferior to male colleagues.
Meetings are usually held to give out information rather than debate any issues. Formal meetings are usually structured and serious with very little place for humour. Visitors are expected to be on time to all business meetings – however, as mentioned, Russian bosses may be late as a test of patience. When trying to deal with any issues that arise, some managers may refuse to back down as they view compromise as a weakness.
Teams tend to work best when team members have close relationships as Russians are often suspicious of strangers. There should be a team leader, who is expected to be in charge and give clear and detailed instructions.
Always dress as well as your salary allows. Men should opt for dark suits and ties and women should dress conservatively. Do not wear very expensive jewellery or watches. If you are wearing gloves, remove them before shaking hands as Russians consider it rude not to.