Each culture on the planet is very unique in it’s own way even if there are some norms that are universally accepted. Some of the things we in the West consider normal and typical are done entirely differently in the Russian culture. We have come up with a small list explaining some rather baffling differences between our cultures:
Difference nr. 1 – Punctuality
In lots of cultures across the globe and especially so in the US and Japan, time is seen as something incredibly valuable. There are several sayings about this like “Time is Gold” for example. When you have a meeting scheduled at 1 PM it will begin at 1 PM sharp. People in the West don’t like wasting a single minute of their time.
In Russia there is much less pressure to comply with a strict schedule. It is thought it has something to do with how their culture comes from a rich agricultural heritage where there was constant waiting for the harvest time and it varied a lot depending on the circumstances. A Westerner would be in the meeting room 10 minutes prior the start of the meeting while a Russian won’t be exhibiting the same urgency.
Difference nr. 2 – Smiling
In most cultures smiling is very common. It’s a symbol of hospitality, warmth, friendliness and so on. It is normal to greet people with a smile on your face and leave with one as well. People smile at random people on the street without thinking it is a huge deal.
In Russia how ever things are different. It isn’t the norm to be smiling at strangers when walking on the street or even when meeting people for the first time. There is much more of a strict feeling to this. Russians keep their smiles for family and friends. Don’t get us wrong – they are very hospitable people and once you’re invited into their home for dinner smiles go all around.
Difference nr. 3 – Weddings and wedding rings
In the West people usually wear rings on their left hand. Same with engagement ring and at the wedding itself the bride’s family will join the groom’s family in paying for rehearsal dinner. These customs are accepted in lots of places all over the world but Russia differs here as well.
Wedding rings are typically worn on the right ring finger in Russia and it is customary for the groom’s family to be paying for the entire wedding.
Difference nr. 4 – Privacy
Western societies put a lot of emphasis on privacy. It’s not okay to stick your nose into other people’s business and everyone is entitled to have their ideas and personal space accepted and respected.
In the Russian culture there is still residue from the old communal system where people gathered together to make decisions. That has created a sense of community where people are quite comfortable as a collective. It makes sense to join strangers at a table and put your word in and also welcome stranger at your table. This would freak out some people in the Western world but in Russia it’s the norm.