Wednesday, June 5, 2013

About My Culture- The Eastern European- Part I

Different cultures.
Somethings you/I do may seem rude. Mostly is unintended. It gets to be funny if talked about it. Here are "some" of the differences I have seen in US from where I grew up.

Relationships & Communication
 Russians are transactional and do not need to establish long-standing personal relationships before they do business with people.
*(Don't ask me how I am, how is my dog/hamster/pig, what I think of the #*$%^ football team's performance)
*(A business relationship can be abruptly broken if the two care for different soccer teams, hockey, rugby, polo, etc)
It is still a good idea to develop a network of people who you know and trust. The Russian word "svyasi" means connections and refers to having friends in high places, which is often required to cut through red tape.
Bringing a gift to an initial business meeting is common.  Something with your company logo or representative of your country is always a good idea.  
Avoid hard selling tactics and any sort of conflict or confrontation. 
Important decisions usually take a while but simple decisions are sometimes made on the spot. 
Going out for a drink together is highly recommended as it shows interest in strengthening the relationship and promoting good will.
Russians value being well dressed and nicely groomed. 
For men: Formal suits are the norm.  Dark colors are the way to go. 
For women: Standard business attire. Stylish, yet conservative. 
Jeans and business casual attire are usually not appropriate for initial meetings.
 It is best to err on the side of formality when you first make contact.
Sincerity is crucial as it is required to build trust, and trust is needed to build a relationship.
*(And yet always have enough cash on you to have in case of bribing needs to be done)
Most Russians do not trust people who are 'all business'.
An indication that you have successfully developed a personal relationship is being asked for a favour by that person.

 Sports Fans

*(When a major soccer game is played there are no women seen in public on the stadium, as at the end or during the game, punches can fly)
*(Women and kids know which stadium the game is happening and they avoid that side of town for that half of the day. The fans get into the public transportation and can fight there too)
*(Soccer fans tend to be very passionate about their team, and sparks can appear, with physical violence if an opinion comes across as offensive)
*(Sometimes just wearing the favorite soccer/rugby/hockey/polo shirt, can start a fight.)

**it was weird to me to see men (in US) with football, basketball, baseball, jerseys of different teams in bars side by side, watching the game- without fist fighting.
Entering someones house
When you invite someone into your house, open the door and move aside, holding the door. Hand should make a "welcome", "come in" sign. Then shake hands/hug/kiss.
Those things are not done outside or in the door.
*(only strangers/informers are kept to stand outside)
*(I am not trying to teach you about religion)
 *(Russia has very harsh winters, and people are usually bundled up in fur coats and Ushanka . Thick gloves and heavy boots, probably wet from all the walking. So the faster inside, the faster your guest can "make himself comfortable" - literally. ;) 
Men bring flowers if there are women in the household
Appropriate gifts include high quality chocolates/sweets or fine wine or liquor (avoid Vodka).
*(Always make it a bouquet of ODD numbers. Even numbers are only given at funerals)
If there are kids in the house, bring some candy/toys for them.  
If there are only men, bring either a bottle of alcohol or some "manly" gift.

Remove your outdoor shoes. You may be given slippers to wear.
Allow the guest time to take his/her shoes off. Help by either offering a chair, stretching your arm for support, or shoulder to lean on.
*(In the Foyer, entree, anteroom, lobby, hall, corridor- there is a place where to put your shoes and there is a coat hanger with bench where shoes are taken on/off)
*(Street shoes do not go passed that area no matter what. You will not see streets shoes in any room, stored in closets, unless they are brand new or bought to be given as gifts)
*(not hygienic and they may give out an unpleasant odor)

Once in the house

In every building, men take the hat off.
Always offer something to drink.
*(Not necessarily alcohol)
Mineral water is known in the US as club soda water, sparkling water, carbonated water. No flavor, bottled from natural sparkling springs. Concentrated fruit syrup and club soda mix can be offered as well. 
Expect to be treated with honour and respect. No flirting, no kissing, no dirty jokes, especially if the host is older or there is an elderly person.
Offer the guest to sit down.
You will not be offered the tour of the house. If you need to go to WC, ask and you will be instructed where to go. *(Do not take the tour on your own)


Men pour drinks for women seated next to them.
*(When offering pour until she says stop)
Do not "drink yourself under the table" (meaning, do not drink until you fall off the chair)
Do not get drunk, even if the host asks you for drinking duels.
You may not always be offered hot/cold vodka.
Spritz is a very popular drink for both genders. It can be done with just wine and sparkling water. It will bring more of a champagne.

What you called me?!
How do you address one's elders and superiors respectfully, which means using their first name and patronymic (the name deriving from the person's father's name). Russians also use the formal pronoun of address when speaking to elders, as well as strangers. Intimate forms of address are used only among close friends and family members. To speak otherwise is considered rude.

 Eastern European Children

Babies, though coddled, are often treated like little adults and scolded for childish behavior like crying, biting or hair pulling. Girls are expected to be quiet and mutually helpful, while boys are encouraged to be boisterous and loud. In schools, academic standards are high, in order to instill culture in Russian children.

Gift Giving Etiquette
Gift giving using takes place between family and close friends on birthdays, name anniversaries, New Year, and Religious Holidays.
If you are invited to a Russian home for a meal, bring a small gift.
Male guests are expected to bring flowers.
Do not give yellow flowers. (Friendship, jealousy, infidelity, apology, a broken heart, intense emotion, dying love, extreme betrayal)
*(In history, it is known that the types of flowers and colors have their on language  )
Do not give a baby gift until after the baby is born. It is bad luck to do so sooner. *(no baby showers)
Russians often protest when they are offered a gift. Reply that it is a little something and offer the gift again and it will generally be accepted. When you want to buy/give a gift, don't ask, just get it. 
*(Art, perfumes, bonbons, jewelry, office supplies, make-up, beauty products, household items always welcomed. Gift cards/certificates are mostly welcomed)

Do not give intimate items, lingerie. Most clothing items are not to be given as gifts. 
*(If it is the "wrong" size, it can be taken as offensive, or if it doesn't fit as she wants. A gift card to a certain store or go on a shopping trip can save you from some awkward moments)
*(Candles are not considered gift. We pray with candles, and go to funerals with candles)
*(Oval picture frames are used for tomb stones. No oval picture frames, photos. Ever)
*(No towels)
*(Do not ask later on about the gift. Your gesture was noted in your favor)

 Get your own: 
Matryoshka pendant

Photo@ Taste Of The World Event.
For more photos visit and "like" Steve Yap Photography page:

thank you, Steven Yap