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Chapter 6: International etiquette. Russia.


Problem setting:

1. Before we start talking Russian management, let’s learn a very nice saying of John Mole (the author of “Mind manners” text book). Here it is: “Culture shock is when our expectations and values and behaviours and beliefs do not match those of the people we're living and working with. So we feel surprised and alienated and sometimes angry.” To what extent do you agree with this saying? Have ever experienced the feeling that you differ someone from another culturevery much, so much that it is nearly not possible to find anything in common and compromise?

2. The great Confucius had once said that "HAVING THINGS IN COMMON MAKES A RELATIONSHIP AGREEABLE. WHAT MAKES IT FASCINATING, HOWEVER, ARE ITS MINOR DIFFERENCES." Would you agree with this statement? Give the examples of real situations from work or life experience that justify this saying.

3. Here are few tips that can be given to a manager going to work abroad:

1.) Learn as much as you can of the language - it shows that you're making an effort and it will help you understand others.

2.) Remember culture shock lasts statistically only between 6 and 9 months.

3.) Try and enjoy the difference, learn from it.

4.) Keep a sense of humour - it will help you get a perspective on things.

Do you find these tips helpful? How much? Will you appeal to them if it occurs to you to go abroad for work?



As most everyone knows by now that in 1991 the union of Soviet Socialists republics, also known as U.S.S.R. or the Soviet Union dissolved and Russia which has been the largest republic became an independent country. Russia, no longer a totalitarian country is now governed by a President, elected by voters to a four-year term, and a Prime Minister appointed by the President with the approval of the State Duma.

Just as it was a faux pas to call the former U.S.S.R. Russia, it is now a faux pas to call Russia the Soviet Union, or to be unaware of how Russia has changed politically, economically, socially since the end of Communist rule in 1991.

The Russian federation is vast (it covers 11time zones and stretches 6000miles from the Baltic to the Pacific). There are 20 republics and 55 regions. But for its size, the population of Russia is small, about 150 million, compared with about 335 million in the EU and 225 million in the USA. The country as a whole has a negative population growth – in other words more are dying than are being born. The distribution of population is very uneven – vast territories of Siberia have no constant population at all. Moscow is an international cosmopolitan and imperial city. A Russian’s identity documents indicate both citizenship and nationality, although there are strong rumours that nationality will soon be removed. There in Russia have always been distinct and self-sufficient social hierarchies based on education and profession. There are still oligarchies in politics, diplomacy, industry, science, education. It is still hard to be a journalist if you are not the child of a journalist, or a diplomat if you are not the child of a diplomat. And harder still to make a successful career if you do not have the right contacts.

There is regret for the loss of the empire, and still the Russian independence day is celebrated albeit to the amusement of some Russians who wonder from whom they have seized independence.

Change in Russia has usually been imposed from above and its consequences have normally been more hardship and misfortune.

As for women, there are 50 % of blue and white collar workers, 5% of managers, teachers and doctors are predominantly female and a lot are engineers. There is no upper limit on salaries but the employer pays a so called tax on excess salary on any amount over 200000 rbls per month. Whereas the minimum living wage is around 500000 rbls. Most companies avoid this tax by paying in cash or “kind salary”. The taxation system is geared to catch evaders with the result that it encourages evasion.
Many companies and their land plants and buildings were simply appropriated by mangers without payment or legal sanction, so their legal status is in doubt. In fact there is no judicial system as it is understood in the West. There can’t be many major markets where agreements are made purely on the basis of mutual trust and self-interest. The overabundance of bureaucratic regulation left over from the previous regime creates a fertile ground for inducements and corruption. There is Mafia (organized crime as a big business dominating retail and transportation) and mafia with a small “m” which describes any group of people colluding for their mutual benefit. This was a characteristic feature of Soviet professional and private life. The economic system could only work on the basis of informal networks of managers trading favors, goods and services.

The crime explosion and the collapse of policing create a genuine need fro “protection” what is called a “roof”. The cost of the roof is up to 10 percent of turnover, payable in cash.


It is necessary to point out that academicians occupied the pinnacle of society. Applied science and technology ranked slightly lower. Writers and artists were also valued. Law and accountancy representatives were regarded as little more than clerical functions. With free markets and a civil society the role of lawyers and accountants has changed dramatically and they are now bubbling to the top of the social brew meeting…the scientists and artists on the way down! Out of necessity many scientist have turned to commerce and have proved to be remarkably successful. Motivated and extremely intelligent, they come fresh to a new game without the old habits. Brought up with a respect for truth and accuracy, they are very good to work with.

In the old days biznesmyen was a euphemism for criminals. With plummeting standards of living after perestroika getting into business became a necessity. For many biznes is synonymous with mafia and indignity of peddling on the street. Business is as much a means of self-expression as an opportunity to get rich.

New Russians build fancy dachas, take vacations in the west, and send their children to English boarding schools.

The autocrat is the dominating cultural role model for Russian leaders. The organizational icon is not the pyramid, but a Christmas tree with the ever widening branches connected not to each other but to a central trunk of resources, communication and instruction of a boss, the Christmas fairy on the top. In a chaotic and lawless environment a solid personal relationship, based on loyalty and trust is the basis for a profitably working relationship.

As for etiquette, name and patronymic is the most formal form of addressing to each other. Titles such as Doctor or Professor are widely used. Unmarried women are called devushka and colleagues refer to each other by their last names. First names are among colleagues of the same status. Every first name has a score of variants, each of which represents a different level of intimacy.

There are many little customs, such as “never shake hands over a threshold.

On first meeting Russians appear gloomy and forbidding. A smile is only used for greeting among personal friends, for no reason it is a sign of idiocy.

The sauna has a special place in business life. “Men trust each other more when naked”. But the discomfort of saunas are not as unpleasant as sometimes food and drinks can be from which the ill effects are more likely to come. Restaurants remain vital in developing business relationships.

Westerners are often warned that they will have to function in a haze of smoke and drink. Middle class professionals are often non-smokers and teetotal (íåïüþùèå). At meals and parties it is more often westerners who get drunk, not because they are less used to it but because they drink more. If Russians want to get drunk, they are more likely to do it privately with a couple of friends than on a formal occasion. This is not to deny that smoking and drinking are favorite Russians’ pastimes and solaces (óòåøåíèå) that is a cause of embarrassment the next day.

Date: 2016-04-22; view: 1008

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