I mentioned meeting and greeting rituals in the recent article on a typical working day in Russia.
This article is about daily meeting and greeting rituals in a typical Russian office. Those rituals are nothing special compared to most “western” cultures, but few specifics worth mentioning. Meeting and greeting rituals are important for building and keeping relationship in Russian business environment. If you will be working (or are working) in Russia, be attentive how people do it and never neglect rituals even if they seem unimportant for you. Following meeting and greeting rituals ensures that you are accepted as “ours”. Being accepted as “ours” has great importance for success in business and in social life as well.
Russian offices greeting rituals for woman are simple. Woman just use verbal greetings. No shaking hands, no hugging or kissing. Hugs can be used if two women are in a good personal relationship and haven’t seen each other for a long time (like vacation time or maternity leave). But, generally you do not see hugging very often in the office environment.
Common verbal greetings in Russian:
“Zdravstvuite” — Hello. Universal greeting used all the time everywhere. Literally means “be healthy” or “be good”.
“Dobroe utro” — Good morning. Used until noon, roughly.
“Dobriy den” — Good day or good afternoon — same thing. Used Noon till, say 6-7 in the evening.
“Dobriy vecher” — Good evening. After 6-7 in the evening or when it gets dark.
“Privet” — Hi. Very casual and informal greeting. In the office environment used between friends and people who have good relationships. Very common though since relationships have got to be good.
Russian greeting ritual for men is a handshake plus verbal greeting, but ritual rules are is a bit tricky. General, unwritten and unspoken rule is this: you have to shake hands of all male employees you know personally (or have met) when you meet them for the first time on a given day. Time of the day is unimportant. Usually, it happens in the morning. But, if you bump into someone in the afternoon you must handshake with them. Normally, people do so many handshakes during the day, so they forget who they have already done a handshake with. It sometimes happens that two men meet somewhere in the office and get confused if they need to do a handshake, or they have done it already. Usual way out of confusion is to smile and maybe laugh and do it again “just in case.”
If you are working in a smaller office, you must do handshake with every man upon arrival. If it’s an open space type of office layout you handshake with people around you, those you can easily reach or walk to say within a few steps.
Handshake must be very firm and using full palm. Using just fingers, or lightly squeezing hand considered feminine.
Handshake must be done with an eye contact. If you are on the go, you can just glance at the other person, but some eye contact is a must.
Very slight half bow with your upper part of the body is a sign of respect and very commonly used.
If you do handshake outside you MUST take off your glove regardless or temperature or weather.
It is more polite (and more formal also) to be standing when shaking hands. In the office people don’t really stand up from their desks to shake hands, but just lift their butt off the chair to sort of follow this rule.
It is not acceptable to extend hand, offering a handshake to someone in much higher hierarchical position. Those on top of hierarchy shake hands with ordinary employees as a sign of respect and recognition.
To close the subject, hugging is not common in Russian office environment (although used in some situations). Kissing is not acceptable at all, even formal type of “not for real” cheek kissing like people do in many other countries.
Special note on using greeting “How are you?” in Russia. It is a bit risky, because not all Russians understand what is expected in reply. Those with extensive international experience understand how this greeting works. A typical Russian may view this greeting as a question requiring full answer. Thus instead of “fine!” or something short in reply, you will hear some story of their life, the one most compelling for them at a moment. Interestingly, quite often, in Russian we also use same type of greeting “Kak dela?”. “Kak dela?” meaning “How are you?”. Another form of it is “Kak ono?” (how is it [going]?). The short answer for both greetings would be “horosho” (good) or “normalno” (okay) or something like “dela v poryadke” (my business is in order). How people react to this type of greeting depends on a situation and a specific person. But most often this type of greeting provokes lengthy reply. Therefore, this form of greeting will start a conversation. If you are getting a longer reply to “How are you” type of question you absolutely can’t interrupt it or just leave without listening. You have to listen and somehow react, be emphatic; otherwise, it will look offensive.
There will be a different article on Russian meet and greet rituals outside office.