Russians enjoy a very similar cultural trait to Americans, they like to celebrate holidays. There are eight public Russian holidays, which is slightly different than the U.S. In Russia, businesses do not work these eight days. In contrast, a U.S. business can open its doors 365 days a year if it wants. Russian holidays such as Defender of the Fatherland Day celebrate the Russian Military, while International Women’s Day celebrates Russian women and women all around the world. New Year’s Day is considered the most popular Russian holiday.
The Russian cuisine is very diverse. Like the United States, there are many different components that go into a good Russian meal. To start off, Russians have nearly seven different types of soups to choose from. When making a meal, beef, bread, and potatoes are some ingredients that a business traveler is going to come across frequently. Because of its agricultural background, Russia has a unique relationship with those three foods. Like in the U.S., breakfast, lunch, and dinner are the three main meals. Russian families often eat dinner together, and businesses might buy lunch for their employees.
Russia is one of the largest consumers of tea in the entire world. While it used to import its tea from China, it now brings in most of its import supply from India. As far as alcoholic drinks go, vodka is by far the most well-known Russian alcoholic drink. However, Russians have been brewing beer since at least the 9th century, and today Russia is the fourth largest producer of beer in the entire world.
When thinking of cultural aspects that could affect business practices, a countries religion could potentially play a huge role. As for Russia, since most of the population belongs to an orthodox church, they have been instilled with certain values. However, around 13% of the Russian population is atheist, so that could potentially have some effects there. Russia in general, though, has large groups of people who classify themselves as Buddhist, Jewish and Muslim. However, there is a general attitude of non-importance when it comes to religion, since less than 10% of those that consider themselves religious attend church regularly. Another aspect of Russian culture that could be important is TV and cinema. All but one of the Russian TV stations are controlled by the government, and Putin is making taking it over a priority. 74% of the population watches TV regularly, on one of the 3300 available channels. Russian cinema has also been on the rise, becoming more and more prominent worldwide, with an estimated revenue of nearly $1.5 billion.
Fig. 1. Hofstede comparison levels between the US and Russia
When we compare Russia and the United States with Hofstede’s dimensions (as seen in Figure 1), it becomes obvious how different these two nations are culturally. The closest these countries come to is in the masculinity dimension, which still maintains a twenty-six point difference. The dimension that is most alarming in the business sense is probably power distance. Russia holds a score of ninety-three in power distance whereas the US only scores a forty. This means that power in Russia is generally divided very unequally, and that is accepted and expected. US workers would find this very oppressive, as the power here is much more evenly distributed and easier to earn. This dimension alone is enough to hurt foreign business, but the combination of the six paints a gloomy picture for a US company looking to expand into Russia.
Table 1. The different cultural dimensions between Russia and the United States determining Cultural distance.
Russia and the United states share some similarities (our need to master the environment and outlook on time orientation), but differ on three major cultural dimensions. These are: Social organization, Power distribution and Rule orientation. These three things are a big component of the culture in the united states and would need some major adjustments if someone was going to be moving to do business in Russia. Table 1 shows the differences in these cultural dimensions as well as the cultural distance. Cultural distance is simply how similar or different is the proposed host country from the home country. Overall, Russia has a very large cultural distance.
To determine if you are a good fit for this type of environment, you need to take a Personal Value Survey (or PVS). A PVS helps you determine the type of cultural environment that you thrive in, using questions with benchmarked answers to try to quantitate a issue as complex as culture. This survey can be done on individuals as well as the host country (for comparison) and when used with the Hofstede, can give a very simplistic picture of the host countries cultural climate.
That being said, Russian is beginning to change in small ways. There is an emerging middle class with a disposable income. They like to spend it on consumer goods like cars, house goods, and retail shopping. Russian businessmen use a mix of formality with a personal touch. They expect others to dress formally and conservatively. Nothing is a verbal agreement; everything must be written and signed. This includes meeting minutes after meetings a protocol may be signed describing what was discussed. Before negotiations start they may ask questions about your personal life to get a background before discussing hard details. Russians also use emotions at meetings and may even walk out if they are displeased. If they don’t walk out they may drag out the negotiation process. This practice is used because they know how quickly westerners want to seal a deal, taking advantage of western deadlines. When negotiating always use the first price as a starting point, because they may try to get you far from the number.