Working in Russia

Russia has abundant natural resources and is one of the world’s biggest exporters of gas. The country’s expat community is diverse – from language teachers and diplomats to senior executives working in large multinationals.

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Doing business

Russia was ranked 35th out of 190 countries in The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2018. It scored very well for enforcing contracts, but a number of historical factors make doing business in the country challenging – not least is a mistrust of the State that has given rise to bureaucracy and corruption.

Bribery is widespread in Russia and is sometimes seen as a legitimate way to cut through the infamous red tape to get things done. In fact, being asked for favours is an indication that a business relationship is becoming stronger.

Technical knowledge is highly valued and used as a negotiating tool – so it’s good to have a strong technical team at business meetings.

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Business culture

Russian business culture is hierarchical – rank, age and qualifications are all important. Personal relationships play a crucial role and negotiations can be slow, often getting mired in bureaucracy.

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Management style

The Russian manager is a distant, powerful figure and junior employees are expected to respond immediately to their requests. Decisions are usually made at the top – and it’s not unusual for the most senior person to be confrontational in a meeting if they aren’t getting their own way.

Communication style

You may be taken aback by the blunt communication style. Russian businesspeople are fearsome negotiators and reaching a compromise isn’t easy. They’re also demonstrative – hugs, backslapping and overt displays of emotion are common.

Meetings and contracts

Meetings are scheduled a long time in advance and always start on time – so punctuality is very important. No agreement is final until a contract has been signed and even then it may be subject to last-minute changes.

Cultural pride

Russians are fiercely proud of their cultural heritage. Any knowledge you have of Russian history, literature, art or music will be appreciated by your colleagues.

Fast facts

Business language

Russian is the official language, but English is spoken by some younger businesspeople. If you don’t speak Russian, you’ll probably have to hire a translator.

Business hours

Usually from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.


Men greet each other with very firm handshakes. When you greet a woman, wait for her to extend her hand first – if you’re unsure, a simple nod will do. You should have two-sided business cards with Cyrillian text on one side. Include your job title and qualifications – and hand over cards with the Russian side facing up.


Businesspeople dress stylishly but conservatively. Men wear dark suits and women choose trouser suits or skirts. Clothes are a sign of prestige and Russians often spend more than they can afford on their business wardrobe.


Russians enjoy giving and receiving gifts, but it’s not expected. If you’re invited to a Russian colleague’s home, take some sweets or wine.

Gender equality

Men and women are equal in theory but not in practice. While expat businesswomen will be treated with old-world courtesy, they aren’t respected as leaders and it’s rare to find women in senior management positions.

Expat salaries

Expats in Russia often earn high salaries and their employment packages tend to be lucrative to offset the high cost of living.

Take a language course. It is a great way to meet like-minded people and navigate through your new city much better!


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All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in June 2018. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

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Always remember to ensure you are aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.