Everyone knows that the key to effective communication is knowledge. And cross-cultural communication is not an exception to the rule. Quite the contrary we have to know not only the basic data about our foreign partner, but also we ought to be acquainted with numerous rules and standards of behavior established in his or her country. To negotiate with our partner we should possess both the minimum personal information about him or her and the maximum information about his or her country. In this essay I’d like to examine differences and common points in styles, traditions and etiquette of the US and Russian negotiations. I believe that present relations between the United States and Russia are quite good. The two countries still have differences, but they increasingly work together on a wide range of political, economic, cultural issues. Despite the fact that we can still destroy each other with our nuclear weapons, our businessmen and entrepreneurs work very closely, and Russian-American enterprises and firms develop with increased speed nowadays. Naturally I reckon it makes no sense to have all those warheads.
The Cold War is over, and the best thing our countries can do is to be reconciled and to get along well with each other. And business partnership is one of the factors to establish friendly bilateral relations in all aspects of cooperation. However, sometimes it is very difficult to build relationships with people of different cultures, mentalities and customs. And this point concerns both our peoples too, because the Russians utterly differ from the Americans. In fact I consider that actually we also have much in common. So further in this essay I’m going to compare our countries’ negotiation styles and traditions, and to define how much differences we have and how much we have in common. In the first place I want to compare appearance of business circles in Russia and the USA. Both Russian men and women leading the negotiations usually wear conservative dark, often pinstriped, and well-tailored clothes along with good dress shoes.
A Russian man is not supposed to take off his jacket during the negotiations, while a businesswoman is more welcomed to be dressed in a pencil skirt than in pants. However on some shirtsleeve meetings Russian people of business prefer to look more casually, in such cases they untie their ties, take off their jackets and can choose suits of more light classic colors, such as gray or camel. Similarly American business people wear conservative suits and ties of dark colors. But women are also allowed to put on not only classic skirts and dresses, but also pants. In rural areas American people of business can wear their suits even without jackets and ties. Both Russian and American businesswomen are not supposed to wear jeans even on casual occasions. All in all negotiators of both our countries have an utterly conservative look, avoid vivid colors of fabrics and gaudy accessories. In the second place it’s necessary to compare the ways of behavior of Russian and American negotiators.
Be ready to that your counterpart from Russia will not be in time. It is quite appropriate in this country, so do not wait any excuses. What is more is that the higher is the rank of your colleague in the company the more probability he or she will be late for much time. On the contrary it is inappropriate and very offensive for your counterpart in the USA to be late, as every businessperson in this country follows the rule “time is money”. Gift giving in the USA is discouraged by many firms and companies, because it can be considered as a bribe. A gracious note will be enough for your partner. In contrast of the USA gift giving in Russia goes without saying. The fact is that it is extremely difficult and even impossible to do business in Russia without help from local authorities, thus a pretty penny, a cognac bottle, a chocolate box, a bouquet of flowers or other items can help you by doing business in Russia.
It is necessary to take into account that negotiations with Russians often can be unsystematic, as negotiators in Russia can focus on several issues simultaneously. Moreover, the Russians are very emotional, so tantrums and walkouts can occur during the negotiations. Although the Americans are quite emotional too, the negotiations with them are more ordered, as they prefer focusing only on the one issue. During their negotiations Russian businesspeople can make some pauses, while the Americans seem to fill the silent periods and do most of the talking. The Americans are individualistic aggressive self-reliant businessmen who do not care for cultural customs of other countries and very often just neglect them; they have a greater level of tolerance for a variety of ideas, thoughts, and beliefs within a business team.
On the contrary people of Russian business most often resort to collective thinking and take collective decisions. However, there is a great hierarchy within the structure of any company, and the subordinates must respect the chain of command and do not offer any ideas their chiefs do not want to take. The US businesspeople are really initiative and active in contrast with negotiators from Russia who very often bide their time, demonstrating their well-known patience. Russia is renowned for its hostility, so it will be a serious breach of etiquette, if you refuse to take a drink or to have a toast. In the third place I compare the gestures the Americans and Russians have. Both in Russia and the USA you greet your colleague by a firm and lasting a few seconds handshake, but in Russia this handshake should be a little bit firmer.
Also shaking hands with someone in Russia be sure that you have taken off your gloves, as it is considered rude not to. Keep good eye contact during your handshake. In the USA the counterparts who are good friends can briefly embrace, though in Russia it is not appropriate. A smile is a sign of friendliness for the US businessmen, while Russian people of business prefer to maintain gravity during the negotiations and do not smile at every occasion. In Russia it is extremely inappropriate to show soles of your boots, as they are considered to be dirty, while in the USA they can put their legs on the table. To laugh and to talk too loudly is regarded as bad manners in Russia.
Just quite the reverse it is regarded as a sign of sincerity of a person in the USA. To summarize everything that has been written above, I want to stress the fact that actually both our peoples, including negotiators, do have too many differences. They have a great heap of differences in all aspects, but nevertheless I assume they have one very important common thing: both the US and Russian strive to maintain economic links and friendly relations with each other.
To achieve success, business organizations sand negotiators should follow the culture of every particular country. It can be quite a problem for American and Russian people of business, because they do not pay much attention to cultures of other nations. It is quite a bad trait business circles in these countries have. Without understanding culture of a country in which organization want to do business, the organization cannot achieve success because if they don’t know the norms, values, beliefs and attitude of customers and employees then they cannot run their business successfully.
Courtney from Study Moose
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