Russia Travel Tips
Once travellers get over the stereotype that Russians are gloomy people drinking vodka in their big furry hats – by following a few rules of basic etiquette visitors are able to enjoy this country with an amazing depth of cultural and historical worth.
Have a firm handshake and maintain eye contact when meeting.
When female friends meet they kiss on the left cheek three times and then the right cheek three times. When close male friends meet they may hug and pat each other on the back.
Bring a small gift when invited to a home for a meal.
Men are expected to bring flowers, but do not bring yellow flowers. Yellow flowers are symbolic of separation. An even number of flowers is reserved for funerals so give odd numbers instead. A small toy for children is appreciated.
Do not give a baby gifts until after the child is born
It is considered bad luck.
Do not expect a short visit when invited for a meal.
Russians are very warm and hospitable people. They will want you to stay at length after a meal for conversation and socialising.
Leave some food on your platewhen you have had enough to eat.
Russians are great hosts who enjoy big dinners where an abundance of food is available. Leaving some food on your plate honours the host as it shows you have been well fed and have had enough.
Try not to say no to offers of food or drink.
This may be considered rude. Rather than declining their offer, accept and thank them. You may sip the drink or take small bites of the food to be polite. But don’t be afraid to decline a shot of Vodka – just have an excuse prepared.
Russians like to make toasts.
When doing this they click their glasses together in celebratory fashion. Some believe that you do not click your glass if your drink is non-alcoholic, however Russians generally will not follow this rule.
People in Russia won’t judge you if you don’t want to drink your body weight in vodka.
Some Russians people a shot of vodka before a meal helps stimulate the appetite. Whilst Vodka is very popular in Russia and the locals are known to down a lot of vodka – the Russians are very understanding if you don’t drink as much as they do. Russians also enjoy wine and beer just like any other country so don’t be worried if you don’t like spirits.
Don’t be surprised if you’re offered a doggy bag.
Russians love to feed their guests and with an abundance of food means generally an abundance of leftovers – so don’t be surprised if you are offered some food when you leave.
Russians appreciate punctuality.
So if you are invited for a meal or are attending a business meeting you are advised to be on time.
You may need to search hard for a smoke free area.
There is a standing joke among international business travellers that Russian buildings have two sections: a smoking area and a chain-smoking area.
Learn some basic Russian language.
Russians are very proud of their culture and by learning a few basics like Hello, Please and Thank You – this will show your willingness to embrace their culture.
Men - don’t go dutch on dates.
In Russia men are still expected to pay when they take a woman out to dinner. So if you by chance meet a Russian lady don’t expect her to pay half the bill.
Take a local Russian friend to the markets with you.
If the trader knows you are a foreigner they may be inclined to hike up the prices.
Check on the dress code before you head out.
Russians do like to dress up. Turning up to a restaurant in jeans and a t-shirt may be frowned upon so best to find out the rule of attire beforehand.
Respect your elders.
If you are on public transport and an elderly person gets on board – offer them your seat. The same goes for pregnant women, or women carrying heavy items.
You should know what Тапочки is.
They are slippers. When you are invited to a Russian home you will be expected to remove your shoes and may be offered a pair of Тапочки (Pronounced TA-pach-kee).
If you are constantly smiling at strangers – it may be considered insincere.
Russians are mistaken for not being friendly, however this is an untrue stereotype. Russians believe in sharing smiles with their friends and family, they will not smile to random people in the street.
Find out more on smartraveller.gov.au's Russia page.