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Russian Business Etiquette

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It seems people, and even corporations, sometimes feed into and perpetrate stereotypes about their own country. Last week, this cute little invitation from a prestigious Russian law firm arrived at my desk. It's an offer to attend their fancy reception at the annual gathering for trademark attorneys throughout the globe. This year, the conference is held in beautiful San Diego. I like this invitation a lot, it made me smile on a crappy work day. However, I'm confused. Is the person with the fuzzy boots a man or woman? The image is very androgynous. :) In some ways, the invitation feeds into many stereotypes about Russia - remote village, fences and frozen looking Siberians. But everything is neat, tidy and cozy!

You will recall that last year, one of the attorneys from this Russian law firm visited me in Washington, DC and I made a major language faux pas when I greeted her with "Привет,
Очень приятно." I wrote a post about it here. What is proper Russian business etiquette? Are meetings and business relations typically formal? In the U.S., even in my work as a lawyer, we often engage in casual greetings in meetings. The atmosphere is relaxed, not serious in tone or appearance. I almost never wear a business suit, instead dressing in black pants and nice tops and sweaters. On Fridays, most lawyers wear jeans to the office. I remember in all my business dealings that the Japanese are the most formal, and perhaps Russia falls somewhere in between. Please give me advice for dealing with these Russian lawyers! Btw, here's what we will do at the reception...

"Taste famous Russian dishes with Russian vodka and to enjoy live performance of the virtuoso Russian folk ensemble." I wonder what Russian "dishes" they will serve? I hope there are no kholodets! :)) And I will not touch one ounce of "Russian vodka!'
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I rarely deal with Russian businesses or government agencies because almost none of my clients do business there, or register their trademarks in this region. First, it is expensive and takes a long time. Second, there is little value to owning a trademark registration in Russia when intellectual property laws are rarely enforced. The only exception is my cigarette client, who owns numerous registrations of their trademarks in Russia and other former Soviet bloc countries. Not surprising, given that these regions have the largest smoking populations.

What do you think about this invitation? Do you like it, or find it offensive? Please give me tips on Russian business etiquette, so I don't embarass myself at this reception!

Comments

( 157 comments — Leave a comment )
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moxel
Apr. 22nd, 2015 04:51 pm (UTC)
I like this invitation ) Good design, good colour and printing.
Russian business etiquette is the same, as in Europe and USA - please, do not disturb.
in this time, I think, organisators want to create a calm, relaxed atmosphere, so do not understand everything literally. No one will be forced to drink vodka and dancing with a bear))
peacetraveler22
Apr. 22nd, 2015 04:54 pm (UTC)
I don't think it's really the same as in the U.S. For instance, at this conference I attend every year, I meet trademark attorneys from everywhere in the world. Almost everyone speaks English, or at least tries to. Of course, some people make a lot of errors or speak in broken English, but I'm not rude or taken aback by their mistakes. In fact, I appreciate their efforts a lot. Sadly, there will be no bears at this reception! :)) Or, maybe this will be the surprise ending to the party.
(no subject) - andrejefremov - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - a_nimaida - Apr. 22nd, 2015 07:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
montrealex
Apr. 22nd, 2015 04:55 pm (UTC)
I made a major language faux pas when I greeted her with "Привет, Очень приятно
No you didn`t. This kind of greeting is quite appropriate as far as a normal person is concerned. But she was a bitch as you said. That explains everything. You can`t (and you shouldn`t) be pleasant to bitches or/and moudaks.
peacetraveler22
Apr. 22nd, 2015 04:59 pm (UTC)
Re: I made a major language faux pas when I greeted her with "Привет, Очень приятн
Well, many Russians in the comments to that post told me my greeting wasn't proper. But, anyway, this is not the point. I've found that many Russians are scared to speak in English if they think they will make mistakes. In other words, they are striving for perfection in foreign speech. I'm so used to hearing broken English all the time due to so many immigrants living in my country that it never phases me. :)) And, I just always appreciate someone's effort to speak in their second language, even if they make a lot of mistakes.
Stan Podolski
Apr. 22nd, 2015 04:56 pm (UTC)
The first thought that came up... Why there is a barbed line...

Famous russian dish could be like crepes with black caviar? There was quite a russian cuisine before 1917, very close to french of course, but with the nice twist. Since then, the only that stayed is something like holodetz and vodka
peacetraveler22
Apr. 22nd, 2015 05:00 pm (UTC)
Fences are everywhere in Russia, so it is normal to have them depicted in the photo. Oh, I hope they don't serve caviar or herring. I don't like any type of fish, and I don't want to offend them by not eating it. This is always an etiquette nightmare - declining food which you strongly dislike but don't want to offend the host. Dilemma! :)
(no subject) - Stan Podolski - Apr. 22nd, 2015 05:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
montrealex
Apr. 22nd, 2015 04:57 pm (UTC)
And, yes, I forgot to add
The invitation sucks. It`s soooo kitchy.
peacetraveler22
Apr. 22nd, 2015 05:01 pm (UTC)
Re: And, yes, I forgot to add
I like the invitation, but it doesn't really portray Russia as a modern or progressive country. And this law firm is one of the prestigious in the country, so I found the design unusual for them. Their lawyers charge very high rates.
Re: And, yes, I forgot to add - montrealex - Apr. 22nd, 2015 05:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
onkel_hans
Apr. 22nd, 2015 05:02 pm (UTC)
I've never been to Russia but met a few their business visitors here.
Men dress rather formally. Dark suites, shiny suites, usually two sizes larger than normal.
Women I do not quite remember ... The impression is that how you described dressing yourself will do.

It should be noted that they never dry-clean their suits.
I am afraid they drink too much at any occasion (reception included). So be extremely careful.

Once a Russian business visitor was arrested in Texas and we had to persuade the police to release him without charges.
A woman had smiled at him in elevator and he'd understood it as invitation and tried immediately to consume which had caused the woman to cry "rape".
So be cautious how to smile (but you know!)
peacetraveler22
Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:10 pm (UTC)
No smiling allowed at the reception? :) There will be a lot of people there, so if some drunkard tries to touch me, there will be plenty of protection. Btw, I never drink at business parties or receptions. This can potentially lead to disaster. However, lawyers really like to drink a lot of alcohol (American ones also!). Probably to deal with their stressful, boring profession.
(no subject) - onkel_hans - Apr. 22nd, 2015 07:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 22nd, 2015 08:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - moxel - Apr. 22nd, 2015 08:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
juan_gandhi
Apr. 22nd, 2015 05:09 pm (UTC)
Well, you've been there. You met nice people, but you are probably aware what a "корпоративчик" means. Everybody gets drunk, then they dance half-naked on the tables, they they will try to rape you, and the next day everybody pretends not to remember anything at all.

So the etiquette, for females, is to be prepared to kick them as soon as they come over and try to kiss you or hug you or pester you in any other way. Be cool. Be prepared to say the right words. A colleague of mine was complaining about Russian parties; her "I already have a boyfriend" did not work, of course; so we taught her an important word: "отъебись!". That's the magic keyword.
peacetraveler22
Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:14 pm (UTC)
I hope Russian lawyers are more refined than this! I don't want to see my colleagues naked!! What does this word mean - ""отъебись!"?
(no subject) - al_lex_ey - Apr. 22nd, 2015 07:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - juan_gandhi - Apr. 22nd, 2015 08:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - moxel - Apr. 22nd, 2015 08:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - juan_gandhi - Apr. 22nd, 2015 08:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Stan Podolski - Apr. 25th, 2015 04:06 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - agathpher - Apr. 23rd, 2015 02:00 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - juan_gandhi - Apr. 23rd, 2015 03:18 am (UTC) - Expand
vitsky
Apr. 22nd, 2015 05:12 pm (UTC)
That fuzzy boots are called "валенки". So, when you go there, put on валенки and take a балалайка - it will be ok.
peacetraveler22
Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:14 pm (UTC)
Where do they wear these boots? I've never seen them in any of the areas of Russia I visited.
(no subject) - al_lex_ey - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - al_lex_ey - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - vitsky - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Leo Y - Apr. 24th, 2015 09:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
Where do they wear these boots? - montrealex - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Where do they wear these boots? - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Where do they wear these boots? - montrealex - Apr. 22nd, 2015 07:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Where do they wear these boots? - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 22nd, 2015 07:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Where do they wear these boots? - qi_tronic - Apr. 22nd, 2015 08:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Where do they wear these boots? - montrealex - Apr. 22nd, 2015 08:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Where do they wear these boots? - vitsky - Apr. 23rd, 2015 07:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Where do they wear these boots? - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 24th, 2015 01:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mystery_86 - Apr. 23rd, 2015 09:14 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 24th, 2015 01:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mystery_86 - May. 13th, 2015 03:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - al_lex_ey - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
persona_grata
Apr. 22nd, 2015 05:18 pm (UTC)
\\I like the invitation, but it doesn't really portray Russia as a modern or progressive country.
It may be an attempt to show sth out of the ordinary, off the beaten path, sth unmistakably Russian.
Incidentally I would say it's a boy in the picture.
The hat is a man's hat by default, even if occasionally women may wear them.
As far as Russian dishes, pancakes with caviar are very likely; sturgeon; pirozhki with various fillings; stew in claypots, pickled vegetables.
something along those lines)))
peacetraveler22
Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:15 pm (UTC)
Yes, the hat is a good observation! It's definitely a boy. I like Russian pancakes, but only with sour cream or fruit. Not caviar.
(no subject) - persona_grata - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
onkel_hans
Apr. 22nd, 2015 05:22 pm (UTC)
A formal Russian greeting is ZDRASTYE. You can easily pronounce it.
peacetraveler22
Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:17 pm (UTC)
This word is impossible to pronounce. For the very beginning of my Russian classes, I could never say it properly. So, usually I say доброе утро, добрый день, или добрый вечер, depending on the time of the day. I can pronounce all of these fine.
(no subject) - al_lex_ey - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - onkel_hans - Apr. 22nd, 2015 07:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Leo Y - Apr. 24th, 2015 09:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Aleksi Udovichenko - Apr. 22nd, 2015 08:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - onkel_hans - Apr. 22nd, 2015 08:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Aleksi Udovichenko - Apr. 22nd, 2015 09:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
saccovanzetti
Apr. 22nd, 2015 05:23 pm (UTC)
The fences in the picture look like they are made of barbed wire.
peacetraveler22
Apr. 22nd, 2015 05:24 pm (UTC)
Another reader commented on this also. I did not notice. However, I see it now. Not very inviting! :)
(no subject) - genka8 - Apr. 22nd, 2015 05:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sun_jr - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sun_jr - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sun_jr - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - genka8 - Apr. 22nd, 2015 07:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - marcusxxx - Apr. 24th, 2015 07:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 24th, 2015 07:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
pin_gwin
Apr. 22nd, 2015 05:41 pm (UTC)
The only meal I could imagine could be caviar with bliny, may be "pirozhki". Russian Vodka sounds like pedaling antique stereotypes and I would rather drink Sky or Grey Goose instead, if I do not have my cheap Hennessy.
I would think that elevated business casual will fit. Also - you are at home, not them, so you are defining the etiquette, not them, you have a beautiful smile, not ......))))
About Russian language - Привет works for friends, formal greeting is ЗДРАВ-СТВУЙ-ТЕ, or ДОБРЫЙ ДЕНЬ(ВЕЧЕР)
The same is true about Пока vs До Свидания.
But here is what I see -- you may confuse them by speaking Russian, they won't know how to continue conversation after that, I would not use Russian. I remember how I tried using my poor Spanish in Mexican stores -- they probably were pleased, but we continued in English anyway. Mexicans are million times easier to communicate than with Russians though.
The card is nice, but there is a barbwire resemblance in a fence, isn't it?
peacetraveler22
Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:19 pm (UTC)
Grey Goose is my favorite! Just because they are on American turf doesn't mean they will abide by our customs. :) I think it's better to just not speak Russian in this situation. In Russia, I always say a greeting to people or strangers in Russian and then immediately ask "Вы говорите по-английски?" And pray they answer "ДА!" :)
rankin_almst500
Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:03 pm (UTC)
"...I rarely deal with Russian businesses or government agencies ..." ---- are you required to check them against SDN database or check if financial institutions they are affiliated with are not on sanctions list?
peacetraveler22
Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:04 pm (UTC)
No, I don't represent financial institutions as a lawyer. My big clients are in the automotive, apparel and tobacco sector.

Edited at 2015-04-22 06:05 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - rankin_almst500 - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
al_lex_ey
Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:19 pm (UTC)
Hi!
I strongly :)) recommend you to find and read Ada Baskina book about the differences between Americans and Russians (habits and ways, etc.)
You'll find the needed answer...for sure.
peacetraveler22
Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:24 pm (UTC)
What book? When I google the author, only Russian language books appear.
(no subject) - al_lex_ey - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - al_lex_ey - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
persona_grata
Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:22 pm (UTC)
As far as the fence, the artist definitely meant this:

But didn't do a very good job.
peacetraveler22
Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:25 pm (UTC)
Well, no one is perfect! :) I didn't notice the fence, because my eyes were immediately drawn to the boots on the invitation, and wondering whether the person depicted is a boy or girl.
(no subject) - persona_grata - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
yarowind
Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:52 pm (UTC)
Бывают приглашения и лучше, но оскорбительного тут нет. Мальчик просто неудачно получился:).
peacetraveler22
Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:53 pm (UTC)
You forgot how to write in English? :))
(no subject) - yarowind - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - yarowind - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - yarowind - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - yarowind - Apr. 22nd, 2015 06:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
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