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Business Greetings in Russian

Yesterday was a rare occasion when I actually met with a Russian lawyer in my office. She arrived and I greeted her with "Привет, Очень приятно." She gave me a very strange look, as if I had insulted her. I thought this meant "Hello, nice to meet you." Is it wrong? What's the proper greeting for business meetings in Russia? Shaking hands is normal?

I immediately switched back to English because her reaction confused me. I don't really understand why people become so annoyed with mistakes when a person is speaking in their non-native language, whether it be in a business or social situation. I'm constantly communicating with foreign lawyers with less than perfect English skills, and I appreciate their efforts to speak to me in their second tongue. I never correct their minor mistakes, because it's almost always possible to understand what someone is trying to say or convey to you, even in horribly broken English. Same with my readers here. Please never hesitate to write me comments or messages for fear of bad English. I will understand, I promise! :)

I'm certain this Russian lawyer must have understood what I was trying to say, even if I didn't use the proper phrases. I probably used a casual greeting rather than formal, maybe that was my mistake. Do you communicate with business colleagues in a language other than Russian? Do you feel confident doing so?

Comments

( 282 comments — Leave a comment )
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vovik01
Nov. 18th, 2014 03:10 pm (UTC)
Привет to familiar. Добрый день - better in business meeting-:)
peacetraveler22
Nov. 18th, 2014 03:13 pm (UTC)
Honestly, she was a bitch, with a very bad personality. So, I doubt even this greeting or Доброе утро would have appeased her. How about you? Aren't you living in America? Do people always correct your English?
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fox511
Nov. 18th, 2014 03:13 pm (UTC)
Correct translation of "Hello, nice to meet you." will be "Здравствуйте, приятно познакомиться" (if you see person first time) or, maybe "Привет, рад(а) встрече", "Давно не виделись" etc.

"Привет, Очень приятно. - probably she gave you a strange look trying to understand what exactly causes your pleasure, just meeting with her, or something else.
peacetraveler22
Nov. 18th, 2014 03:14 pm (UTC)
Hmm...this is why it's necessary to communicate with locals when learning a language. Because in my Russian classes, we were taught "Очень приятно" is the common phrase for "nice to meet you."
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gallon
Nov. 18th, 2014 03:13 pm (UTC)
The most reasonable answer is that she's just bitchy :)

"Привет, очень приятно" is not a common greeting but in no way an insult.

"Очень приятно" is a standard reply when two persons are introduced to each other by a common acquaintance. (As for me, this is awkward beacause what if I am not pleased to meet them? I don't like to lie)

More common phrases are "рада знакомству", "рада познакомиться", "рада вас видеть" (the latter is more suitable for persons who had met already).

Edited at 2014-11-18 03:14 pm (UTC)
peacetraveler22
Nov. 18th, 2014 03:16 pm (UTC)
Okay, thank you. Yes, as I wrote in the comment above, she was just a bitch. :) This is the best explanation for her reaction. What's the English translation of "рада знакомству" and "рада познакомиться"? I don't know these phrases.
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little_bes
Nov. 18th, 2014 03:15 pm (UTC)
If your replica in the dialogue was the first - it sounded somewhat unfinished.
If you are responsible for greeting - then I believe she was just surprised
And yes - "Privet" for the first business talk very unusual greeting
peacetraveler22
Nov. 18th, 2014 03:17 pm (UTC)
I only use it because I can't pronounce the formal version - здравствуйте. This word is impossible for me, I've tried to pronounce it properly many times. :(
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def
Nov. 18th, 2014 03:19 pm (UTC)
"Очень приятно" case)

- Меня зовут peacetraveler22.
- Очень приятно. Я def.

Is the answer to the phrase, but not the beginning of a conversation. But the lawyer could be more polite, of course)
peacetraveler22
Nov. 18th, 2014 03:22 pm (UTC)
Нет, меня зовут Шеннон. :)) I know this greeting exchange. It's the first Russian I learned when I went to visit my friend in Kyiv. Because I was staying with him and his father, and the father knew no English. I wanted to be able to introduce myself to him in Russian when we first met.
(no subject) - def - Nov. 18th, 2014 03:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
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creaze
Nov. 18th, 2014 03:23 pm (UTC)
Nevermind, that lawyer must be just a tedious prig.

I've heard, it's kinda common to lawyers.
peacetraveler22
Nov. 18th, 2014 03:25 pm (UTC)
Yes, lawyers have a bad reputation in all countries. But I'm a nice lawyer. :) Further proof that I chose the wrong career, which is becoming all too obvious to me.
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moebiuscat
Nov. 18th, 2014 03:24 pm (UTC)
I'd say "очень приятно" is an exact equivalent of a French word "enchanté" that you use in (somewhat archaic) English in response to being introduced to someone.

Without hearing the name of another person it would just sound completely out of place, like someone you have just met would greet you with something like "Yes, very much!" or something similar... One might be puzzled or surprised, but it's in no way whatsoever insulting.
peacetraveler22
Nov. 18th, 2014 03:26 pm (UTC)
My readers were quick to explain my error to me, as I asked. :) Proves the point that it's always best to practice language with natives, rather than from a book, when possible.
ilfn
Nov. 18th, 2014 03:56 pm (UTC)
Our teachers and superiors, arriving for the first time in an American university, did not understand. Students at tekzamene says Professor - Hi Jack put his legs on the table, or at all. In Russia, so is not accepted. And hello used only with friends and colleagues. With superiors and business meetings as pending. But I'll say - Нi! you wherever you have gone. I added you as a friend ... -)))
peacetraveler22
Nov. 18th, 2014 03:59 pm (UTC)
It's a funny story. :) Yes, in America we are very casual. In business and most social situations. Thanks for adding me as a friend. I hope you will enjoy my blog. Welcome! :)
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texnic
Nov. 18th, 2014 04:05 pm (UTC)
Привет is too informal in business communication, it`s posible to use «Hello John» or even «Hi John» instead of «Dear John» in business communication in English, but Привет is never used in such cases in Russian. It`s only between friends or acquaintances.
peacetraveler22
Nov. 18th, 2014 04:10 pm (UTC)
Yes, this was my mistake. I'm not used to such particular rules about formal vs. informal because in English they don't really exist. As you mentioned, it's acceptable to say "Hi" or "Hello" in America, even in business meetings. But, I would say something like "What's up?" :))
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skifa
Nov. 18th, 2014 04:07 pm (UTC)
Did everyone know she was Russian? My guess is that she wasn't too excited to be uncovered and known as Russian :) Kidding, since you mentioned her bitchy personality in one of the comments.
Nevertheless it wasn't nice of her to treat you in such a manner. Every attempt to speak a language different from one's own is worthy of praise.
peacetraveler22
Nov. 18th, 2014 04:12 pm (UTC)
It was only me and her, no one else. I knew she was Russian, and was excited by this fact. Apparently she didn't feel the same about her American counterpart. :( Pity. But some people just have formal personalities. This is not my style. I'm a laid back, hippie chick. :)
(no subject) - skifa - Nov. 18th, 2014 05:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
old_perduccio
Nov. 18th, 2014 04:11 pm (UTC)
As a native Russian speaker I can assure you that the lawyer's reaction is very strange and abnormal.
peacetraveler22
Nov. 18th, 2014 04:13 pm (UTC)
I thought so too. I think she's probably such a difficult person all-around. Such people are easy to immediately spot based on the way they carry themselves, and typically the expression in their eyes, which is void. Not warm and inviting.
(no subject) - old_perduccio - Nov. 18th, 2014 04:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
siberian_cat
Nov. 18th, 2014 04:14 pm (UTC)
Another possible explanation is that she tries to hide her Russian origin (some immigrants do -- some even change their first and last names to Anglo-Saxon ones), so she was offended when you addressed her in Russian and reminded her who she is.

peacetraveler22
Nov. 18th, 2014 04:19 pm (UTC)
She still lives and works in Moscow. She wasn't an immigrant, simply visiting the U.S. for business. I think it's quite hard to hide Russian origin. I seem to recognize Russians from a mile away, no matter where I am in the world. :)
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south_of_broad
Nov. 18th, 2014 05:05 pm (UTC)
You confused the living light out of her)) here she is, all business serious and full of herself and suddenly : " привет " lol. Wish I was there to see it)
peacetraveler22
Nov. 18th, 2014 05:10 pm (UTC)
Yes, sometimes it seems Russian can't really "roll with the punches" or go with the flow so well. Anything out of the ordinary is cause for immediate suspicion. Maybe she thought I was an undercover C.I.A. Agent? :))
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a_nimaida
Nov. 18th, 2014 05:17 pm (UTC)
her office bitch)

Do not worry!
peacetraveler22
Nov. 18th, 2014 05:18 pm (UTC)
Office bitch! Yes! :)) Actually, I prefer to work with men in most situations.
(no subject) - a_nimaida - Nov. 18th, 2014 05:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Stan Podolski
Nov. 18th, 2014 05:18 pm (UTC)
it was just too informal. It is definitely a right one, but for something like a night party
peacetraveler22
Nov. 18th, 2014 05:18 pm (UTC)
This meeting definitely wasn't a party. :)
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