Category Archives: Business Culture

Business Meeting Protocol and Etiquette in Russia


Image (CC) by Rufus Walabee – One night in Moscow

Key values in your Russian business meeting

Russia is a country of cultural contradictions. Not only is it a very big country, covering nine time zones, the upheavals of the 1990s have created a very pronounced generational gap. Generally, the older generations are marked by a tendency towards conservatism and have a group mentality. The younger generations are much more dynamic and progressive, with a more individualist approach.

There is a general sense of pessimism not only about the future but also about the present as well. Russia is a country that considers itself isolated from the rest of the world, surrounded by neighbours who want to take advantage of it. This has created a fortress mentality – outsiders are not trusted. This is in contrast to the extensive hospitality normally shown to visitors.

Russians are often very closed and formal in public, but open, warm and informal in private. In communication, Russians tend to be direct and do not avoid confrontation. They can be extremely emotional and yet reserved in the same meeting.

Russians generally consider themselves to be culturally rich in terms of art and literature. Dusha (soul) is an important consideration – this means that intellectual, abstract discussions are common. Knowledge of “high culture” is valued, and the ability to talk about works of art and literature is appreciated.

Russia is a meeting of Europe and Asia, and their cultural portrait reflects this.

Time, ‘before and after’ your business meeting


Image (CC) by Aleksander Markin – Russia State Transport Company Ilyushin Il-96-300PU RA-96016

Russians are traditionally very punctual, especially when meeting foreigners. This is beginning to change, especially among senior directors in new businesses who like to demonstrate their power by keeping visitors waiting. For a meeting of equals expect punctuality: meetings will start on time but will continue until all points are covered.

If you have meetings with local officials you will wait a long time, even if you have an appointment: processes are slow so it may not be a deliberate ploy. You should expect meetings to take up more of your time than planned.

Before a meeting you should re-confirm by phone, both with the person and with his/her secretary. Russians prefer direct contact to emails or letters – the postal service is famously unreliable, so make sure you speak in person. Russians do not generally adhere to formal agendas, as the most senior person will dictate the topics and length of discussions. It is worth clarifying who will be present in advance if possible and ensuring that your party contains people of equivalent status. This will increase the chances of you being able to influence the meeting.

When you are considered an “honoured guest” it is very common to combine meetings with food and drink. Russians can be very hospitable and are keen to demonstrate their generosity. They are aware of their reputation for heavy drinking and may use that to gain advantage.


Image (CC) by marsmettt tallahassee

“Banquets” can last late into the night – you should expect to stay late as well. It is worth noting that the next day will start at the usual time, regardless of when the banquet finished.

Hierarchy and status in a business meeting

Konstantin Zamkov - business meeting Russia

Ironically the ideologically egalitarian policies of communism have bred an extremely hierarchical structure in private and public organisations in Russia.

The boss is a very distant, powerful figure, and is surrounded by visible demonstrations of his/her position. Wealth and status are demonstrated openly and emphasise the difference in authority. Promotions are rewarded not just financially but with a bigger office, better car and other visible privileges. Junior team members are expected to respond immediately to any request by their boss, regardless of any other duties they may have to perform.

It is also expected that those in authority will be obvious in their exercise of power. Russian managers are comfortable criticising openly and making impulsive decisions. In the same way, rewards and positive feedback are given publicly. This can mean that the boss may use a meeting as an opportunity to address an individual’s performance. This is uncommon when outsiders are present, but not unheard of.

Decisions, discussions and disagreeing

As is expected in hierarchical societies, decisions are usually made at the most senior level. The boss is advised by heads of department, but will make the final decision alone, although s/he may not heed the advice given. Decision-making can therefore take a long time as each “boss” at each stage will decide whether or not to pass the recommendation up to the next level.

Individuals may be invited to contribute to decisions, but these are not discussions or debates. In meetings which involve negotiations, Russians will often withdraw from the meeting to consult, allowing the senior person to make the decision alone. Disagreement with a senior person is very rarely expressed in public.

It is not uncommon for the senior person to be quite confrontational in a meeting if s/he is not getting their own way. It is appropriate to ask for a break to reconsider your position before continuing the meeting.

Task vs. Relationship

Russians consider both relationship and task to be important. They traditionally have extensive networks and rely on mutual influence to bypass bureaucracy. They are more comfortable doing business with people they know well. However, business relationships are measured by the success of a task – the relationship may not survive a bad experience or a failure.

Loyalty is to a person rather than an organisation and you must re-establish a relationship each time your contact moves on. When a team leader is promoted, it is common for him/her to promote members of the old team as a reward for their support.

Among younger leaders and businesses the balance is tending towards a greater focus on task, and business relationships are increasingly transactional. When making proposals it may be beneficial to demonstrate the ways this will improve a person’s standing in their organisation and how they will benefit individually.

Key values

  • Emotional
  • Fatalistic
  • Pessimistic
  • Inward facing
  • Fortress mentality
  • Direct
  • Dusha (soul)

Time, “before and after”

  • Punctuality valued
  • New businesses and bureaucrats may keep you waiting longer
  • Business entertainment can be very long
  • Meetings continue to a decision

Hierarchy and status

  • Steep hierarchy
  • Visible demonstrations of status
  • Power is emphasised and used

 Structure and formality

  • Meetings are always formal
  • Structure of meetings is dependent on the host/senior person present
  • Communication is formal at meetings, even if less formal before and after
  • Use professional/academic titles and surname or name and patronymic

Decisions, discussions and disagreeing

  • Decisions made by boss alone
  • Discussions done in private not at meetings
  • Disagreeing with the senior person is done in private if at all

Task vs. relationship

  • Relationships and “blat’” (network) are crucial
  • Loyalty to a person rather than organisation
  • Task is still very important – Russians want actions

This blog post is written by Declan Mulkeen is Marketing Director at Communicaid a culture and business communication skills consultancy which offers cultural awareness training.

10 things that US businesses need to be aware of when developing business in Europe

Negotiations happen around the world. The basics of the process are the same. The parties each have something they want to accomplish, and work together to reach a deal that everyone agrees to. The general phases of a negotiation are the same, whether you are in the US or Europe. 

What are the key differences between America and Europe that you need to be aware of ? Here are some tips for international business negotiations.

Business culture

Image: Daniel Shapiro – World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa Marrakech, Morocco, 26 October 2010. Copyright World Economic Forum ( by Oussama Rhaleb/

1.  Using international English

English is the most widely spoken language for business transactions, and for most international negotiations, the standard is to use “international English.” This is just a simplified form of the language that is easier to understand. Avoid slang expressions, local idioms, and complex sentence structures. To avoid misunderstandings, it is also helpful to rephrase an important point a few different ways, to be sure everyone understands.

2.  Working with an interpreter

If your counterpart does not have a good command of English, they may choose to use an interpreter. When using an interpreter, be sure not to look at the interpreter when you speak, but look directly at the other party in the negotiation. If you speak to the interpreter instead, it can show a lack of respect.

3.  Breaking the ice

At the beginning of a negotiation, it is helpful to learn a bit about each other to break the ice and establish the start of a relationship. Famous local sights, sporting events, or art festivals are good topics for discussion. Any sort of shared experience can be very helpful. Always avoid subjects like politics and religion, and avoid making any negative or judgemental statements about their location or culture. Humour can be dangerous, since it sometimes does not translate well for different cultures.

the UK business culture

Source: The PM has hosted a meeting of business ambassadors in Downing Street with Trade and Investment Minister Lord Green to discuss how the government can boost Britain’s export market. Crown copyright.

4.  Addressing people appropriately

In some countries, such as The Netherlands and Germany, it is important to address people using their academic title. For instance, someone with a PhD should be addressed as Doctor in those countries. Americans are often far more casual and familiar, and the British are tending in that direction too. If a man and woman are being introduced, it is polite to let the woman initiate a handshake.

5.  Socializing along with business

Americans tend to keep business and social events separate. Negotiations take place in a meeting room, and socializing happens at a different time and place. British and Scandinavian negotiators follow the same approach. Some other cultures, however, especially the French, view negotiation and socializing as part of the same ceremonial process. If working in France, the discussions could continue over lunch at a nice restaurant, while sandwiches at the negotiation table would be frowned on.

6.  Attitudes toward time

People from the US, Britain, Scandinavia, Switzerland and Germany tend to favour strict scheduling. Meetings have fixed start and end times, and follow a set agenda. It is considered rude or disrespectful to arrive late. People from Southern European countries like Italy, Spain and Greece have a different view. They view the schedule as fluid, and they may arrive late for meetings. They may also carry on several conversations at a time. This can lead to friction and frustration unless you are aware of this cultural difference.

The PM has hosted a meeting of business ambassadors in Downing Street with Trade and Investment Minister Lord Green to discuss how the government can boost Britain’s export market. Crown copyright.

Source: PM at low carbon business reception: The PM addresses a Downing Street reception for businesses providing low carbon goods and services; Crown copyright

7.  Have patience

Americans assume that just because they’re bargaining in Spain or Italy the deal will be signed as soon as they get there. Travelling to a foreign country to negotiate doesn’t mean the contract is yours. Be patient and flexible if you want to succeed. There’s no reason to rush things, and enjoy your business trip as it may take weeks.

8.   Long-term relations

In some cultures, people like to negotiate long-term deals. They want to build connections for future endeavours, so you should be open to their propositions. Create relations, let opponents meet the person behind the company, and you have great chances of helping your business thrive.

9. Know some things about Europe before the meeting starts

If you’re travelling to Europe for business purposes, you have to know at least some basic things about this continent first. Find out more about the countries, main cities, and cultures, just to have the courage to break the ice and not embarrass yourself when an opponent ask you where’s France on the map.

10. Be respectful

Europeans are not like the American people. They’re more creative, more patient, and a lot calmer. Walk into a negotiation with a clear goal in mind. Be respectful with opponents, make concessions, and find a way to reach mutual ground. Even if you can’t reach an agreement and you’d like to walk away, do it respectfully.

By Davis Miller and!

Review Of Passport 2 Trade From UNIsorted

As founders of student advice website UNIsorted ( we highly recommend this website for students going or looking to student abroad.

Uni Sorted Manchester, UK
Uni Sorted Manchester, UK

We have both worked abroad and some things just can’t be found from Google or travel guides.

The students from Greater Manchester and other European Countries have collected useful information from 31 different European countries that help readers understand the work and study culture in that country. The information is available in English – the full version as well as German, French, Bulgarian, Czech, Finnish, Greek, Italian and Romanian.

The information offered is rare to find or not available elsewhere on the internet.

We particularly enjoy how precise the information is and really feel it would go a long way to helping a student settle into a new culture. Our only regret is that we wish this was around a few years ago when we worked abroad.

Sean Barber
Managing Director

Working together adjusting to change

Sue Lister
Sue Lister

What happens when you introduce change to a multinational company which has individuals from 16 different countries? Working together in an online environment and adjusting to change is a challenge. I’ve been looking back at the time I worked with European colleagues for a French company.

We managed an international web project from Europe and India and in doing so learnt a lot about the different cultures in each other other’s countries.

The company provided IT and business services to their clients who were large organisations in the public and private sectors. Day to day, the people they employed looked after clients’ computer systems and administered the processes that enabled business to be done. The head office – which we referred to as Group – was based in France – Paris.

Adjusting to change: From Independence to Centralisation

Sixteen of us made up the project team, led by the Group Digital Manager. We were each the web manager for our country, brought together by a project to rebuild the company’s website. Sixteen countries’ websites were to become one.

We all had managers in our own countries. I worked on the UK Marketing Team who were based in Hertfordshire. My office base was Manchester and like many of my UK colleagues I worked from home.

Working together: Meeting Customers’ and Prospects’ Needs

Country marketing teams worried that when the sites became one they’d lose visitors. Centrally, it was felt that cross-selling opportunities would be easier from a single site. This sparked some interesting debates amongst the 16 web managers and also amongst each country’s team.

Working together: New website, new ways of working

With the new website came change. Changes included centrally authorising content for publication on the new site. Decisions previously made by each country’s Marketing Manager were now made by the Group Digital Manager.

Most of the decision making discussions took place during teleconferences. Our weekly calls focused on sharing ideas and expertise as well as project control. It wasn’t possible for the whole project team to meet face to face so we’d become accustomed to dispersed ways of working.

There was a good mix of web skills throughout the countries and everyone was encouraged to express ideas and escalate issues. Everyone’s commitment to the project helped overcome any barriers that might have been caused by the sometimes impersonal nature of group telephone calls.

Adjusting to change: Punctuality and socialising

Eventually we got to meet some of our colleagues face to face at the Paris head office. Two differences stood out: punctuality and social breaks.

The meeting started 15 minutes late and no-one commented. As suggested by the French business etiquette guide 10 minutes late is acceptable. In the UK being just one minute late for a call or meeting could be frowned upon. This is where I feel that the UK business etiquette guide is a bit too generous suggesting 5 minutes late as being “OK” and I would recommend to start on time. There would be anger and restlessness at the wasted time.

12 noon arrived and a colleague left saying, “I’m off to a birthday lunch.” The social event took priority and that was OK.

I’m sure that, like me, you will find in a valuable source of information when faced with situations like those I’ve described here.

Sue Lister

Owner at Tresil Web Solutions Ltd

Don’t forget short term insurance when making your travel plans

Have you considered the option of short term vehicle insurance before your international trip? Car insurance is a legal requirement in European countries such as the UK. There are a number of providers which can help you with your insurance cover, ranging from large insurance comparisons websites to independent specialists such as Dayinsure.

Short term car insurance providers Dayinsure

Is short term car insurance for me?

With increasing numbers of people travelling between the UK and the rest of Europe, here’s a reminder of a few scenarios where temporary vehicle insurance which might be able to help you:

  • You have a UK licence or an EU licence and you want to take your UK-registered vehicle to Europe for a few days and then return back to the UK with it. For example, Dayinsure can provide comprehensive cover in the UK and in the EU, as long as your journey starts and finishes in the UK.
  • You have a UK or EU driving licence and want to visit family or friends in another part of the UK. In particular, if you are a student, you might not want to own a car and instead of hiring a car, there might be a cost benefit to borrowing a car and arranging short term insurance on it in your own name.
  • You have family/friends visiting you in the UK and you want them to be able to use your car for a few days. You could try speaking to your annual insurer to see if they are prepared to add a temporary additional driver to your policy – but it might well be quicker/simpler/cheaper to buy a separate short term policy for the visitor.
  • In the event of a claim, the No Claim Discount (NCD) on the annual policy is unaffected by incidents involving the short term policyholder.

How long does it take to buy short term car insurance?

Dependent on the insurance provider, short term insurance can be bought online in a couple of minutes, with the insurance certificate emailed to your inbox.

For example with Dayinsure, policies are added daily to the Motor Insurance Database (MID), and all cover is comprehensive and underwritten by Aviva, the UK’s largest insurer.

Am I eligible for short term insurance?

Generally cover is available from 1 day to 28 days, to give you maximum flexibility and ensure you only pay for the cover you need.

The minimum age is 21 and the maximum is 75 – unless you have a provisional UK licence, in which case you’re eligible for other policies for example a Dayinsure Learner policy from aged 17 and over, to get additional driving practice before you take your test.

Stay legal and learn here more about the motor insurance directives in Europe