Top tips for doing business in Russia

Wed 15 Mar 2017
Posted by: IOE&IT News

Businessman showing map of Russia on globe background


The largest country in the world and yet just a 3.5 hour flight away, Russia remains one of the most promising markets for UK exporters.

Indeed, post-Brexit there is potential for Russia to become an ever more important asset and trusted trade partner. Before imposing the food embargo, 50 percent of Russian consumption of fish, milk, beef and cheese was dependent on imports. If the UK and Russia could agree to the lifting of sanctions between the two countries, Russia’s demand for agricultural products could potentially compensate any losses that the UK may have after the Brexit negotiations.

Russia’s diverse regions also present opportunities for UK business. These regions are increasingly competing to attract international investment. Some regions have made significant improvements to make it easier to do business, such as Kaluga and Kazan.

Overall, Russia is currently 40th in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings, up from 62nd in 2014 and making some headway in meeting President Putin’s target of reaching 20th position by 2018. In comparison, Spain is currently ranked 32nd and France is 29th.

As you might imagine, there are many cultural differences between the Russians and the British – and these extend to common business habits.

Some insights and advice include:

  • 15 minutes late for a meeting is not really late…
  • Do not shake hands in a doorway, it's considered bad luck
  • Always have a small gift handy in case they close a meeting by making a gift.
  • Do not over apologise, as we tend to in the UK. They won’t; nor should we!
  • Do not ask a person “Are you OK?” A Russian will immediately think there is something wrong with him. It is better to ask “How are you?”
  • Do not judge by appearances; millionaires may be wearing torn jeans and a T shirt
  • Personal questions such as “How much do you earn?” are pretty normal in Russia


To help further de-mystify this fascinating country and its people, the Institute and Albion (Overseas) Ltd have again joined forces for a new Russian Cultural Training full day course to be held 6th April in Peterborough.

Attendees will learn about the cultural and customs differences between the British and the Russians and how, by understanding them, businesses working in international trade can harness a wealth of opportunities.

The session will provide an overview of Russia and examine some of the issues that drive Russians, the problems these cause, and how to deal with them. Offering an insight into how being equipped with a cultural awareness can be good for business, it will cover topics such as the art of negotiation, leadership, conducting meetings and women in business.

The workshop also includes overcoming frustrations with bureaucracy and form filling; arranging meetings and slack attitudes towards punctuality; key meeting skills that avoid loss of traction and abrupt endings; getting around Russia; and avoiding misunderstandings and social faux pas. 

It will be led by Albion Overseas managing director, David Cant, a fluent Russian speaker who has lived and worked in Russia. He has been delivering cultural training for over 20 years, adapting the content as the country itself changes and adapts.

Don’t forget there is still time to book on our Making Russia Easy workshop, which is FREE for IOE&IT members, taking place on 21st March in Peterborough. Find out more here -