by Shawna McAlearney

Business Mistakes: 6 Cultural Faux Pas You Should Never Make in Russia

Apr 16, 20092 mins
IT LeadershipOutsourcing

Awareness of cultural missteps could save your business deal--a lack of cultural awareness can also ensure that you not only look a fool, but fail to seal the deal.

You’ve been on an all night flight to Russia to close an important business deal, and the first thing your host does is offer you a shot of vodka. Even though your stomach turns at the thought of an alcoholic liquid breakfast, you accept. Did you choose wisely?

Everyone’s had moments where they put their foot in their mouth, but, if they’re lucky, a business deal didn’t hinge on it.

In our current global market deals are struck with partners in other countries every day—and sometimes an awareness of potential cultural issues can help you get to the point where you sign on the dotted line. However, a lack of cultural awareness can also ensure that you not only look a fool, but fail to seal the deal.

Below is a list of six common faux pas that you shouldn’t make when in Russia as submitted by international business people.

  1. Don’t turn down a glass of vodka when it’s offered by your host.
  2. Don’t perceive traditional Russian hospitality as an attempt to bribe you.
  3. Don’t shout at people—it’s a sign of weakness.
  4. Don’t interpret lack of smiles in general crowd as an unwelcoming attitude. (In fact, a smile in Russia is much more personal, says Alexander Nepomniachtchi, director of Luxoft Delivery Organization, and you will see a lot of smiles when you get closer to people.)
  5. Take your shoes off when entering someone’s home.
  6. Don’t put your feet up on the table in front of someone. (Isn’t that a major gaffe in any country?)

Obviously, this isn’t an exhaustive list. Tell us about the cultural mistake you made—or observed—in the comments section below. Don’t you wish someone had shared their experiences with you before you became the laughingstock of the water cooler brigade?