Do's and Don'ts in Russia

Russian Etiquette Tips

Flying to Moscow? Russia is a very proud country, rich in history and culture. As a visitor, you should practice the utmost respect not only to be polite, but you'll also blend in with the locals much better that way. Below are some Russian etiquette tips to help you out on your trip!

1. Dress Attire

  1. DO dress conservatively for business occasions. Men should wear dark suits and women should wear suits and skirts that come below the knee. Nothing flashy and no bright colors! Shoes should be formal and well polished.
  2. DO wear skirts as opposed to pants if you're a woman.
  3. DO cover your head with a scarf before entering a Russian Orthodox Church, if you're a woman.

2. Table Manners

  1. DON'T begin eating before the host tells you to start.
  2. DON'T put your elbows on the table, but do keep your hands visible on the table and not in your lap.
  3. DO use bread to soak up sauce or gravy.
  4. DO leave a little bit of food on your plate to indicate when you are full.
  5. DON'T turn down an offer of vodka or other alcoholic beverages. It's considered rude.
  6. DO take bites of food in between sipping vodka. To not do so is bad form.
  7. DON'T leave the table until invited to. The guest of honor is usually the first to get up.

3. Tipping

  1. DO tip about 10% at a restaurant if the service was good.

4. Gift giving and Accepting Gifts

  1. DON'T give yellow flowers.
  2. DON'T give a baby gift before a baby is born; it's bad luck.
  3. DO expect a Russian to try to protest if you give them a gift. Explain that it's just a little something and offer it again until they accept.
  4. DO give gifts such as wine, dessert, or flowers.
  5. DON'T give even numbers of flowers. Even numbers are for funerals.

5. Body Gestures

  1. DON'T smile unless you mean it. In Russia, smiling a lot can be seen as insincere.
  2. DON'T show the bottoms of your feet. It's impolite.
  3. DON'T stand around with your hands in your pockets.
  4. DON'T point with your finger. Instead, point with your entire hand.

6. Greetings

  1. DO shake hands upon meeting.
  2. DON'T shake hands or greet someone over a threshold. Go into the room first, and then exchange handshakes.
  3. DO know the less formal greetings in Russia for close friends. Women kiss each other’s cheeks three times, starting with the left cheek. Men hug and pat each other’s backs.

7. Visitors Etiquette

  1. DON'T arrive more than 15 minutes late.
  2. DO take your shoes off upon entering.
  3. DO dress well.
  4. DO help your host with preparation and clean-up.
  5. DO bring a dessert or alcoholic beverage.

8. Business Meeting

  1. DO be on time. However, don't expect your Russian associates to be on time. Remain patient no matter how late they are.
  2. DO make appointments as far in advance as possible. Avoid making appointments the first week of May, because there are some public holidays that fall on that week.
  3. DO engage in some get-to-know-you chit chat before getting down to business.
  4. DO expect meetings to be sidetracked and interrupted.
  5. DON'T be impatient. Meetings and negotiations can be slow.
  6. DO have your business card translated into Russian on one side. Include any advance degrees on it and present it with the Russian side facing up.

9. Socializing and Conversation

  1. DON'T talk about politics or the U.S.S.R.
  2. DON'T speak too loudly in public.
  3. DO discuss topics such as peace and Russia's economy.

Don't let the long list of etiquette overwhelm you. You'll catch on in no time. Just try to remember as much Russian etiquette as possible, mind your manners, and have a great trip to Russia!

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