Etiquette and Customs in Russia

Meeting EtiquetteEtiquette in Russia

. The typical greeting is a firm, almost bone-crushing handshake while maintaining direct eye contact and giving the appropriate greeting for  the time of day.
. When men shake hands with women, the handshake is less firm.
. When female friends meet, they kiss on the cheek three times, starting with the left and then alternating.
. When close male friends meet, they may pat each other on the back and hug.

Naming Conventions

Russian names are comprised of:
. First name, which is the person’s given name.
. Middle name, which is a patronymic or a version of the father’s first name formed by adding ‘- vich’ or ‘-ovich’ for a male and ‘-avna’ or ‘- ovna’ for a female. The son of Ivan would have a patronymic of Ivanovich while the daughter’s patronymic would be Ivanovna.
. Last name, which is the family or surname.

In formal situations, people use all three names. Friends and close acquaintances may refer to each other by their first name and patronymic. Close friends and family members call each other by their first name only.

Gift Giving Etiquette

Gift giving using takes place between family and close friends on birthdays, New Year, and Orthodox Christmas.
. If you are invited to a Russian home for a meal, bring a small gift.
. Male guests are expected to bring flowers.
. Do not give yellow flowers.
. Do not give a baby gift until after the baby is born. It is bad luck to do so sooner.
. Russians often protest when they are offered a gift. Reply that it is a little something and offer the gift again and it will generally be accepted.

Dining Etiquette

If you are invited to a Russian’s house:
. Arrive on time or no more than 15 minutes later than invited.
. Remove your outdoor shoes. You may be given slippers to wear.
. Dress in clothes you might wear to the office. Dressing well shows respect for your hosts.
. Expect to be treated with honour and respect.
. Offer to help the hostess with the preparation or clearing up after a meal is served. This may be turned down out of politeness. Asking ‘are you sure?’ allows the hostess to accept your offer.

Table manners are generally casual.

. Table manners are Continental — the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
. The oldest or most honoured guest is served first.
. Do not begin eating until the host invites you to start.
. Do not rest your elbows on the table, although your hands should be visible at all times.
. You will often be urged to take second helpings.
. It is polite to use bread to soak up gravy or sauce.
. Men pour drinks for women seated next to them.
. Leaving a small amount of food on your plate indicates that your hosts have provided ample hospitality.
. Do not get up until you are invited to leave the table. At formal dinners, the guest of honor is the first to get up from the table.

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