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Business Culture and Customs of Asia and Russia

Business Culture and Customs of Asia and Russia
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Russians have the reputation of being tough negotiators.

For many companies, global travel is an integral part of doing business.  Presently, Asia and Russia are  global economic hot spots and therefore host millions of business visitors annually.

When you are assigned a trip overseas by your employers it is wise to do your homework and learn the manners and customs of the people you will meet. If your company is investing in sending you to do a job abroad you will want to represent them in the best possible light, and understanding the culture of the place you visit will prevent you from embarrassing yourself or even worse, insulting the people you meet.

Modern culture has changed many of the old traditions across the world but there are still customs that have withstood the test of time and values that are deep rooted within communities. The following advice comes from a variety of business travelers who are experienced in cross cultural interaction, and although it is unfair to generalise, the following observations were experienced by many as they travelled through areas of Asia or Russia.


Asia consists of many different cultures and customs but certain traits are familiar across the continent.

Business Attire... should be simple yet conservative. A dark suit worn with a white shirt or blouse is the best choice, accompanied by a modest colored tie or neck scarf. It is best to stay away from large prints or bright clothing in the business environment. but red is considered good luck in Asia and can be added sparingly as part of an outfit. 

At the meeting...It is imperative that you arrive punctually to the meeting, lateness is considered insulting and will start you off on the wrong foot. Greetings are usually accompanied by a handshake but additionally a small bow is a respectful gesture. Gift giving is an important part of eastern culture so offering something to the senior member of the group is an acceptable practice; the gift should be presented with both hands as this is the polite way to do so. Business cards should also be issued this way. When you receive a card, note that names are written in the following order: Last, Middle, First. For example.. 'Smith John James' is indicating that the first name is James. However, you should always use the last name with a title (Mr. Smith) when addressing your hosts.

Negotiations may be interrupted by long periods of silence while the host ponders a thought. Silence is held in high regard and should be treated with patience.

Hospitality... can be delivered in the form of lunches or dinners and sometimes long evenings of karaoke. When dining, if you find chopsticks tricky to maneuver then request a fork and one will be provided. It is considered rude to eat everything on your plate as your host will feel that the meal was insufficient and drinking is common practice when entertaining. If you are not much of a drinker then it is best to raise your glass to a toast and sip a little, as it is also rude to decline.

At the close of your trip, it is polite to have a dinner for your host as this will leave them with a positive last impression.


Business attire... should be smart, classic and of the utmost quality. Wearing high- end suits and shoes will be an asset when working with Russian business people. Since the economic boom, luxury is coveted in Russia and conversation will often turn to cars, property, and other items that could impress. However, do not over do it and keep your appearance and your conversation professional.

At the meeting... Although many Russian professionals speak English, it would be prudent to enquire ahead of time as to whether an interpreter will be required.

You will be expected to arrive at the meeting on time, even though you could have to wait for it to commence. Once negotiations begin, you may find yourself tested, as Russians can be tough negotiators and will expect a lot from you. Meetings may be long and drawn out with the possibility of your host staging a temper tantrum and walk out, show patience and stamina as this is likely not the end of negotiations. In this part of the world it is widely believed that compromise signifies weakness which can make reaching a deal challenging, however once a trusted relationship has been built it will be long lasting.

Hospitality… comes easy to Russian people and you can anticipate a generous dining experience. Feel free to eat well and show plenty of appreciation for the food. When a toast is made (and there can be many of them) raise your glass enthusiastically and politely sip on your beverage as failing to do so could be seen as rude.

If you are invited to a family residence, be sure to take along a gift of wine, champagne, chocolates or flowers. Gifts in general are widely accepted and are useful when making connections in business. Be sure to have many business cards on hand and distribute them generously as connections are key to doing business in Russia.



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