Russian Culture


Basic Etiquette

  • Always show heightened respect to those who are older than you. It’s common to adopt a more formal demeanour.
  • Offer your seat to an elderly person, pregnant woman or woman with a small child if they do not have one.
  • Men are expected to open doors for women, pay for their food, help them carry items, etc.
  • People do not always wait in line. For example, Russians may start entering a train or bus before those on board have had the time to exit. Commonly, one may be in line without actually standing there and will just inform the person in front of them they are behind them so that they can notify anyone else that arrives in the meantime. This ‘reserves’ their spot so they can do something else until it is their turn.
  • Dress neatly and tidily. Footwear for sporting activities should not be worn to enter restaurants or bars. One may be refused entry if wearing these shoes.
  • Talking to someone whilst keeping your hands in your pockets is rude.
  • Do not spread your legs wide apart when sitting.
  • It’s normal to be actively pushed when standing in crowds, lines or public transport.
  • Russians commonly take a brief pause to silently reflect and recall whether they have everything before leaving on a trip.
  • It can be very rude to act too casual and informal towards a stranger. It’s not always appreciated to assume familiarity before you are close with them. For example, calling someone by a nickname or using an informal pronoun to talk to someone you are not close with is disrespectful.
  • Russians are generally punctual; however, they tend to see time as rather fluid. Engagements and appointments usually run longer than expected, and deadlines are not always met.



  • When visiting a Russian home, bring flowers and wine or sweets as a gift for the woman of the home, and hard liquor for the man.
  • Offer to remove your coat and shoes before entering the house. You may be provided slippers to wear instead.
  • Expect to be offered tea or coffee along with some food. If you arrive at the house around the time of lunch or dinner, you may be invited to stay for the family meal. Try to reciprocate these same gestures if inviting Russians over to your own home.
  • You should accept all food and drink offered to you if possible.
  • Offer to help clean up after any meal or stay.



  • Any bottles of alcohol that have been opened are usually finished before the end of a meal.
  • It is impolite to pour a bottle of wine backhanded.
  • Men pour the drinks of women seated next to them.
  • Leave a small portion of the meal on your plate when finished to indicate to the host you are full.
  • Russians may make toasts during meals. The common toast is "Vashe Zdoroviye" ("Your health"). Sometimes, the gesture can be long and elaborate, especially at big occasions. It is disrespectful to drink or eat while the toast is being said. You are expected to give your full attention and clink your glasses with everyone else’s at the conclusion of speeches. Refusing to drink at a toast is impolite and can lead people to think that you don’t like the person who spoke or agree with what they said, creating awkwardness.


Gift Giving

  • When offering a gift, expect a Russian to protest it initially. Insist a second time and it will generally be accepted.
  • Flowers are given regularly when visiting someone, going on a date or even for a child’s first day of school. If giving flowers, an uneven number should always be given for an occasion (unless it’s a funeral). The bigger the bouquet, the better.
  • Yellow flowers should not be given to a romantic interest. Giving any yellow gift to a friend implies disloyalty.
  • Blue is a good colour for friends’ gifts.
  • Avoid gifting carnations as they are associated with funerals and Soviet holidays.

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