Doing Business In Russia

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Languages, Etiquette & Culture


While an increasing number of Russian companies, particularly those with an international outlook, have English speakers on their staff, do not assume that everyone speaks English. It is advisable to engage a local interpreter to accompany you to your first meeting with a potential partner until you have established whether your partner is confident doing business in English. You will see many companies are ready to hire English-speaking staff once they are confident that business relations run well.

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Your interpreter will be one of your key assets and should be selected with care. We recommend you to use the services of professional interpreters for your negotiations and possibly avoid using electronic translation in your correspondence. We shall be happy to help you identify an interpreter or translator to work for you in Moscow, St Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, or other cities of Russia.

You should try to ensure that initial written approaches to Russian companies are in the Russian language and that company literature (including a basic company profile and product descriptions/profiles) is translated.

The Export Communications Review provides companies with impartial and objective advice on language and cultural issues, in order to help them develop an effective communications strategy, thus improving their competitiveness in existing and future export markets. Subsidies are available for eligible companies. The Export Communications Review is administered by the British Chambers of Commerce on behalf of UK Trade & Investment.

For more detailed information, please contact:

Export Communications Review Team
Tel: +44 (0)845 034 2111


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Establishing personal relationships is essential in conducting business in Russia. You will need to be prepared to invest time and effort into creating rapport with your business partners.

When meeting and greeting it is normal to shake hands with men. Handshaking with women is not expected, but gradually becomes more common. Russians address each other by name and patronymic, however, foreigners can use first names.

It is probably best to start arranging meeting schedules around two weeks before arrival. But it is normal for meeting schedules to remain unconfirmed until close to the visit. It is advisable to reconfirm meetings the day prior to the scheduled slot.

Obtaining meetings with officials from the public sector can be difficult, especially at a senior level, and these meetings can be particularly vulnerable to late changes. Meeting requests should be submitted by fax in Russian and preferably be followed up, otherwise they are not considered. UK Trade & Investment can provide assistance in this area.

When arranging a meeting, it is advisable to provide the Russian company with the subject of the meeting and provisional support materials in advance, although only limited detail will be required at that stage. Meetings can be quite formal, with business coming first and small talk in the end. Russians rarely smile, but this should not be interpreted as a sign of rudeness.

Be prepared that distances in Russia are long. Traffic in Moscow can be bad, so plan your trip with plenty of time to allow for delays.

Russian business is hierarchical. Decisions are made by the highest‑ranking person. You should not expect lower-level staff to have the authority to take decisions.

The FCO travel advice available through provides the latest information and advice for those visiting.


A good interpreter is the key to successful communication. If your audience has not understood what you have said, your message will be lost on them.

A growing number of Russian executives and government officials speak or understand some English but you should not assume this. When setting up an appointment, you should always ask if your contact speaks English or if they would feel more comfortable with an interpreter.

Interpreting is a skill requiring professional training. Just because someone is fluent in English and Russian, it does not mean that they will make a good interpreter. If you are giving a speech or presentation, remember that the need to interpret everything will cut your available speaking time approximately in half (unless using simultaneous interpreting). It is essential to make sure that the interpreter can cope with any technical or specialist terms in the presentation. It is better to be slightly restricted and speak close to a script than to fail to be understood because your interpreter cannot follow you. If you are giving a speech, give the interpreter the text well in advance and forewarn them of any changes.

Below are a number of recommendations for getting the best out of your interpreter:

  • Though expensive, a well-briefed professional interpreter is best.

  • Try to involve your interpreter at every stage of your pre-meeting arrangements. The quality of interpretation will improve greatly if you provide adequate briefing on the subject matter. Ensure that your interpreter understands what you are aiming to achieve.

  • Speak clearly and evenly, without rambling on for several paragraphs without pause. Your interpreter will find it hard to remember everything you have said, let alone interpret all your points, if you speak at length.

  • Conversely, do not speak in short phrases and unfinished sentences. Your interpreter may find it impossible to translate the meaning if you have left a sentence hanging.

  • Avoid jargon, unless you know that interpreter is familiar with the terminology.

  • Avoid jokes. They can fall flat, embarrass you, and leave the audience puzzled.

UKTI will be happy to help you identify an interpreter or translator to work for you in Moscow, St Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, or other cities of Russia.

Source - UKTI

What is the right approach to Russia?

  • Leave your preconceptions at home.

  • Keep hold of your business sense as tightly as you would anywhere else.

  • Do your homework on the market and on potential partners.

  • Be ready to start your business relations in the Russian language or through an interpreter.

  • Be patient - bureaucratic issues can take much longer than you might expect.

  • Take the time to meet and speak with people - in Russia people prefer to do business with people who they know personally; building a positive relationship will be crucial.

  • Obtain good-quality, independent legal and professional advice.

  • If your product is in danger of being copied or counterfeited, seek specialist legal advice on how best to protect your intellectual property rights.

  • Do not forget to carry out due diligence.

  • Consult UK Trade & Investment teams in Russia and the UK who can provide help with researching the Russian market, marketing, events and facilitating meetings.

























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