WORKING ABROAD / AUG. 14, 2014
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How to Master Business Etiquette in Belarus

Doing business in Belarus can be quite a difficult endeavour because of a variety of factors: a poor infrastructure, a weak financial system due to the economic collapse and its dependence upon other nations. Of course, with downfall also comes the possibility of business opportunities.

During the Soviet Union, Belarus maintained a strong and successful industrial base. Soon after the Soviet Union collapsed, Belarus kept this industrial base, but did not develop it. This has now left Belarus with an infrastructure that is outdated, energy inefficient and reliant on nearby countries, such as Russia, for both energy and markets.

Although Belarus still hasn’t reached a premier economic status, its adoption of capitalism, free markets and private property rights allowed the fledgling country to experience some level of wealth. Right now, it is prospering from a $150 billion gross domestic product because of its machinery tools, tractors, trucks, fertilizers and textiles.

One major advantage that Belarus enjoys is a very low unemployment rate which amount to one percent. Many critics inside Belarus attribute to some of its economic successes to various bailouts it has received from Russia and the European Union, while others say it’s because it has sold off its assets to the Russians.

In any case, Belarus welcomes all kinds of business. Here are five business etiquettes to know in Belarus:

Communication

Russian and Belarusian are the two official languages of Belarus – Russian is the most-spoken language, though. Polish and Ukrainian is also uttered but by a very small population in certain regions of the country.

In conversations, Belarusians are very honest and direct. They usually say what they mean and what they are thinking. In formal or informal settings, Belarusians are commanding in their requests and questions. This can be considered rude to outsiders.

To someone who is alien to the Belarusian culture, it can be rather intimidating because men feel comfortable with invading somebody’s personal space. Touching is also apparent in conversations between men and women.

When situated in a business meeting, direct eye contact is crucial. However, if there is too much eye contact between men and women then it can be misconstrued as flirting.

Dress Code

Men usually wear suits and ties wherever they go, particularly black and gray with some dark colors. Women are more conservative in their attire than Western females as they wear mid-length skirts and jackets.

Greetings

When men greet men for the first time then it is required to maintain direct eye contact and have a firm handshake. Light hugs are only permitted by longtime friends and family members. When women greet women in an initial meeting then a simple handshake and nod will be the custom. Three different kinds of kisses take place between close friends and relatives.

If a man meets a woman for the very first time then there is no touching at all. If a man tries to shake the hand of a woman then it would be considered odd.

Professional Titles & Business Cards

Instead of saying Mr. and Mrs., a person will say “Imya Otchestvo,” which is a person’s middle name of a variation of their father’s first given name. For men, the ending is “-ovich” and for women it’s “-yevna.”

There are no specific rules as to how to distribute and receive business cards.

Punctuality

If you say that you’ll be somewhere at a certain time then you have to be there at a certain time. Belarusians are rather punctual but also understand if there is an unforeseen event or unexpected occurrence that was out of the individual’s control.

Belarus has greatly changed since the days of the Soviet empire. Rather than being a place filled with suffering and unhappiness, the Belarusian people have transformed the country into a somewhat affluent region with a hard working labor force and a combination of cultural heritage and neoteric economic models.

Have you previously conducted business in Belarus? Let us know in the comment section.

Photo by Anthony Gherghetta via Flickr.

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