Russian business meeting etiquettes are quite formal, as the Russians’ appreciation of structure and rules shapes the way business is done in Moscow and throughout Russia.
Russians value patience and appreciate time to debate, consider and digest negotiations. Trying to impose a decision through high-pressure talk will only make you appear impatient, rude and incapable of professional business interactions.
Although it is acceptable for your Russian colleagues to be late to business meetings, but, as a foreigner, you are expected to arrive on time. Also, don’t let your late Russian colleagues to apologize for their tardiness, as their behavior is considered to be a test of your patience.
If your business meeting is focused on technical topics, be sure to bring technical experts and a Russian interpreter. Your Russian colleagues will expect a thorough presentation of the history and/or precedents associated with your topic. Bringing experts establishes your credibility, foresight and general expertise.
Although most Russians speak English, be sure to have a Russian translation of your business card on its flipside, as this indicates your enthusiasm for doing business with your Russian colleagues.
Initial greetings may come across as cool. Do not expect friendly smiles.
A handshake is always appropriate when greeting or leaving, regardless of the relationship. Remove your gloves before shaking hands.
Business dress is formal and conservative.
Wearing very light or bright colors might make you appear lazy or unreliable to a Russian.
MEN: They should wear business suits.
WOMEN: They should wear subdued colored business suits with skirts that cover the knees.
Shoes should be highly polished.
Russians are very demonstrative people, and public physical contact is common. Hugs, backslapping, kisses on the cheeks and other expansive gestures are common among friends or acquaintances and between members of the same sex.
Russians stand close while talking.
Putting your thumb through index or middle fingers or making the “OK” sign are considered very rude gestures in Russia.
Russians appreciate punctuality. Business meetings generally begin on time.
Business cards are handed out liberally in Russia and are always exchanged at business meetings. The ceremony of presenting and receiving business cards is important. Do not treat it lightly. Hand your business card so the Russian side is readable to the recipient.
Representatives of the Russian company or government body are usually seated on one side of a table at meetings with guests on the other side.
Your company should be represented by a specialized team of experts. Presentations should be thoroughly prepared, detailed, factual and short on salesmanship.
Russians find it difficult to admit mistakes, especially publicly. They also find it difficult to risk offending someone by making requests or assertions.
Trying to do business in Russia over the telephone is generally ineffective. The Russian telecommunications system is inadequate, but improving quickly. The telex is widely used.
Personal relationships play a crucial role in Russian business.
Business negotiations in Russia are lengthy and may test your patience. Plan to be in for a long haul.
No contract is final until a contract has been signed.
A small business gift is always appropriate, but its value should correspond to the rank of the Russian businessperson with whom you are meeting.
As a general rule, do not give items that are now easily obtainable in Russia.
Bring a gift for the hostess when visiting a Russian home. A small gift for a Russian child is always appropriate.
The business breakfast is not a part of Russian business culture.
Business dining is getting more and more popular. It is generally taken as the time for selling a deal.
The center seats are reserved for the most senior officials.
Begin eating only after somebody says a toast. Toasting is a very important part of dining.
Russians use a continental style of holding the utensils, i.e., the fork is held in the left hand and the knife is held in the right hand while eating. If you are unsure of which utensil to use, start from the outside.
Do not turn down offers of food or drink. Given Russian hospitality, this can be difficult, but to decline such offers is considered to be rude.
If you are invited for the dinner, do not make other plans for later in the evening. You are expected to spend some time socializing after the meal.
After a toast, most Russians like to clink their glasses together. Do not do so if you are drinking something non-alcoholic.
Do not get up until you are invited to leave the table. At formal dinners, the guest of honor is the first to get up from the table.
Do not begin eating until the host invites you to start.
In order to understand the differences between two countries, we need to know what is cross cultural communication.
Cross Cultural Communication
Cross cultural communication, also known as Inter-personal communication, is a field of study that looks at how people from different cultural backgrounds communicate with each other, in similar and different ways among themselves, and how they endeavor to communicate across cultures.
With the process of globalization, especially the increasing of global trade, it is unavoidable that different cultures will meet, conflict and blend together. People from different culture find it is hard to communicate not only due to language barrier but also affected by culture styles. Effective communication with people of different cultures is especially challenging. Cultures provide people with ways of thinking-ways of seeing, hearing and interpreting the world. Thus the same words can mean different things to people from different cultures, even when they talk the same language. The study of cross-cultural communication is fast becoming a global research area.
Cross cultural communication is a combination of many other fields, like, anthropology, cultural studies, psychology and communication. Its charge is to produce some guidelines with which people from different cultures can better communicate with each other.
Cross cultural communication is based upon the knowledge of certain factors which are as follows:
Cultural values, perception, manners and social structure of the other country
Understanding of how members of the group communicate, i.e., verbally, non-verbally, in person, in writing etc.
Business Culture of Japan
Japan is a highly structured and traditional society. Great importance is placed on loyalty, politeness, personal responsibility and on everyone working together for the good of the larger group. Education, ambition, hard work, patience and determination are held in the highest regard. When you are doing business in Japan, make sure that you are not insulting any rule of Japanese culture, if you want your business deal to continue.
Business meetings in Japan are conducted formally and generally need to be scheduled weeks in advance.
Before everyone takes a seat, it is an essential part of Japanese business etiquette to exchange business cards. Business cards should be printed one side in Japanese and one side in the language of the individual’s home country. It is in ones best interest to offer their business card with both hands as this denotes greater respect.
A handshake is appropriate upon meeting. The Japanese handshake is limp with little or no eye contact.
Some Japanese bow and shake hands. The bow is a highly regarded greeting to show respect and is appreciated by the Japanese. A slight bow to show courtesy is acceptable.
Dress is modern and conservative. The Japanese dress well at all times. Dress smartly for parties, even if the invitation says “Casual” or “Come as you are”.
For business, men should wear dark suits and ties.
Women should wear dresses, suits and shoes with heals. Subtle colors and conservative styles are best for business.
Nodding is very important. When listening to Japanese speak, especially in English, you should nod to show you are listening and understanding the speaker.
Silence is a natural and expected form of non-verbal communication. Do not feel a need to chatter.
Do not stand close to a Japanese person. Avoid touching.
Prolonged eye contact (staring) is considered rude.
Don’t show affection, such as hugging or shoulder slapping, in public.
Never beckon with your forefinger. The Japanese extend their right arm out in front, bending the wrist down, waving fingers. Do not beckon older people.
Sit erect with both feet on the floor. Never sit with ankle over knee.
Waving a hand back and forth with palm forward in front of face means “no” or “I don’t know.” This is a polite response to a compliment.
Never point at someone with four fingers spread out and thumb folded in.
Punctuality is a must in all business and social meetings.
Any degree of knowledge of Japanese culture is greatly appreciated.
Japanese may exchange business cards even before they shake hands or bow. Be certain your business card clearly states your rank. This will determine who your negotiating counterpart should be.
Bear in mind that initial negotiations begin with middle managers. Do not attempt to go over their heads to senior management.
It is acceptable to use a Japanese company interpreter in the first meeting. Once negotiations begin, hire your own interpreter.
Both business and personal relationships are hierarchical. Older people have higher status than younger, men higher than women and senior executives higher than junior executives.
It is very important to send a manager of the same rank to meet with a Japanese colleague. Title is very important.
Work is always undertaken as a group. The workgroup is strongly united with no competition; all succeed or all fail. Decision-making is by consensus. Everyone on the work team must be consulted before making decisions. This is a very slow process.
The first meeting may focus on establishing an atmosphere of friendliness, harmony and trust. Business meetings are conducted formally, so leave your humor behind. Always allow ten minutes of polite conversation before beginning business meetings.
It takes several meetings to develop a contract. When the time comes, be content to close a deal with a handshake. Leave the signing of the written contract to later meetings.
Etiquette and harmony are very important. “Saving face” is a key concept. Japanese are anxious to avoid unpleasantness and confrontation. Try to avoid saying “no.” Instead, say, “This could be very difficult,” allowing colleagues to save face.
Proper introduction to business contacts is a must. The introducer becomes a guarantor for the person being introduced.
Do not bring a lawyer. It is important is to build business relationships based on trust. The Japanese do not like complicated legal documents. Write contracts that cover essential points.
The ritual of gift giving is more important than the value of the gift.
Allow your Japanese counterpart to initiate the gift giving. Present a gift in a modest fashion, saying, “This is just a small token,” or “This is an insignificant gift.”
It is very important to receive a gift properly. Give a gift and receive a gift with both hands and a slight bow. The Japanese may refuse a gift once or twice before accepting it.
Do not give anyone a gift unless you have one for everyone present.
Correct wrapping is very important. Appearance counts for as much or more than the contents.
Be prepared to give and receive a gift at a first business meeting. Gifts are frequently given at the end of a first meeting. Not giving a proper gift could ruin a business relationship.
Restaurant entertaining is crucial to business. A person is judged by his/her behavior during and after business hours. Seldom is a business deal completed without dinner in a restaurant.
Drinking is a group activity. Do not say “no” when offered a drink.
An empty glass is the equivalent of asking for another drink. Keep your glass at least half full if you do not want more. If a Japanese person attempts to pour more and you do not want it, put your hand over your glass, or fill it with water if necessary.
An empty plate signals a desire for more food. Leave a little food on your plate when you are finished eating.
When drinking with a Japanese person, fill his glass or cup after he has filled yours. While he is pouring, hold your cup or glass up so he can fill it easily. Never pour your own drink and always pour your companion’s.
Toasting is very important in Japan and many toasts are offered during the course of an evening. At dinner, wait for the toast before you drink. Respond to each toast with a toast.
Wait for the most important person (honored guest) to begin eating. If you are the honored guest, wait until all the food is on the table and everyone is ready before you eat.
When offered food, it is polite to hesitate before accepting. You do not have to eat much, but it is rude not to sample each dish.
It is acceptable to slurp noodles. Some Japanese believe that it makes them taste better.
Do not finish your soup before eating other foods. It should accompany your meal. Replace the lid of the soup bowl when finished eating.
Business Cultural Differences between Russia and Japan
In Japan, a person is always greeted with a bow, which expresses high respect, gratitude, sometimes sympathy or an apology. It is an integral part of Japanese culture. But in Russia, a person is greeted with a mere handshake. Handshakes are firm, confident and brief with proper eye contact in Russian culture but in Japanese culture, handshakes are limp with little or no eye contact.
In Russia, tapping on the back is considered to be an expression of friendship or motivation but in Japanese business culture touching or back slapping is avoided.
Silence is usually avoided in Russian business or social meetings but in Japan it is an expected form of non-verbal communication.
In Russian work culture, it is necessary to maintain an eye contact with the person whom you are talking with or greeting but in Japanese business culture prolonged eye contact is considered as rude.
In Russia, gift is given according to the rank of the person to whom the gift is being given, but in Japan, the value of the gift doesn’t matter. Instead, gift giving is more important.
The problems that are discussed above are some of the cross-cultural problems that a person working in Russia would face after going to Japan and working over there.
Ways to overcome the cross-cultural problems
Though bowing while greeting is vital in Japan but as a Russian, one is not expected to bow. The thing that is more important is to show respect and gratitude, it can be either with a handshake or a bow.
It is important to use full name followed by the company’s name at the time of introduction. Always use proper titles when addressing someone.
Exchanging business cards is seen to represent the individual. So make sure to keep ample cards with you, with one side printed in Japanese. Always offer the card with both the hands with Japanese side up.
Communication is the main problem in cross cultural businesses. Always explain and clarify the meaning of what you are saying to maintain harmony and miscommunication.
Try to learn the culture and customs of the country in which you have to reside now. It is important to have a smooth and efficient life as you have to work in that country now, with the country men, so it is for your benefit.
The above discussion clearly explains that cross cultural differences will be faced by every person who changes his/her country either for work or some other purpose. In order to overcome the problems that arise due to cross cultural differences, it is very important for the person to understand the culture of the country he/she is shifting to. It is necessary for the person to adopt the new culture as soon as possible to avoid miscommunication with the local residents of that country.
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