Russian Culture

Do's and Don'ts

Do’s

  • If anyone elderly is present, direct your attention and respect towards them.
  • Offer advice and help when the opportunity arises; however, do so directly. If you try to be delicate and pose ideas as suggestions, it may be taken as exactly that – a suggestion – and may be ignored.
  • Try your best to perform a favour if a Russian asks one of you. To request a favour from you indicates they feel a personal trust with you, and failing to perform or return the favour can jeopardise this. Similarly, consider that they should be willing to do something for you at a later time in return if you need it.
  • Mentioning your own family closeness can earn admiration as many Russians consider the English-speaking West’s treatment of family ties to be quite negligent. For example, residential care for the elderly is uncommon in Russia and is considered a last resort.
  • When pointing out a mistake or critiquing something, do so privately and directly. The best approach would involve offering your assistance to help solve the problem as you point it out. Any criticism is also likely to be appreciated more when it is delivered as the problem is occurring, as opposed to later on when the person can no longer do anything about it.
  • Try to refrains from voicing judgement of people until you have a clear understanding of their situation. It is common knowledge that the Russian government cannot be relied on to adequately provide for those in need. Thus, Russians tend to be very sympathetic towards those in desperate situations. They are unlikely to judge someone who has fallen for the vices of social ills or broken rules to get provisions as harshly as Australians would. This is because there is a shared understanding of how difficult it can be to live in the socioeconomic climate of Russia.

 

Don'ts

  • Avoid critiquing or offering your opinion on Russia, its politics or the president unless you are well informed. Russians often find that Australians have limited knowledge of the history and context that have contributed to certain situations. Thus, while they may agree with aspects of your argument, they can find it patronising.
  • Avoid mentioning past failures of the Soviet Union or Russian state. Conversations around communism are generally acceptable, but straight criticism is unlikely to be unappreciated. Similarly, respect any tributes to Soviet achievements. Russian pride of this era may be affected by a revisionist history, but a core patriotic feeling remains.
  • Do not make jokes about Russians being drunks or women being mail-order brides for foreign men. Such comments can become insulting if delivered insensitively or too often.
  • Avoid bringing up wars Russia has been involved in. If the topic arises, consider that many Russians would’ve had family members that participated in the conflict. Also, be aware that the Russian account of history may differ from your own. The country’s involvement in conflict has been seen as a necessary defence against aggressive neighbours.
  • Do not make comments that could be perceived to have a disrespectful undertone. Russians can be sensitive to condescending remarks.
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