First impression of Russian people- unfriendly gloumy faces… Why don’t they smile, keeping poker face, what’s wrong with them? Nothing wrong, it is a cultural misunderstanding, there is no tradition in Russia to smile at strangers, they are very reserved in public. Even in Russian schools teachers do not allow children to smile during a lesson. This norms are not applied to you of course, but you should be aware of them to better understand Russian people.
However if you get to know a Russian person closer, you will be surprised how friendly and smily they are and you will see a sincere welcome in their eyes.
When English or American person says «How are you», he does not even expect an answer to this question.When you ask a Russian person «How are you», he will tell you very precisely about his life with all the details. Thus, be ready for a long answer on this short question.
Relations between men and women in Russia are still very traditional: For example, men are expected to take a woman’s coat while entering the house or any public place, man would never let his woman carry heavy stuff while they are together. It’s considered polite if while being in the metro and seeing a woman or an old woman coming in and there’re no free seats, man offers her his seat.
Another important difference is that traditionally Russian ladies do not pay when they are out with a man. Thus, If you invite a Russian lady to the restaurant or anywhere else, you should not expect her to pay for herself. Of course you can always tell her to share, but there is no chance to see this woman again.
Russian women like to dress up even for a casual event like going shopping or cinema. Concerning such important events as going to the theatre, club, restaurant, Russians put much more attention on their clothes than Europeans or Americans. High heels, elegant dress, beautiful hair, make up is a must have kit for a Russian lady if she is planning to go out. European feminists could even think Russian women are victimized or oppressed. However, this is just a Russian tradition to be a perfectionist in everything: she always has to be the best. For some reason, Russian men prefer a very formal style and black/grey color, you will definitely notice this contrast. Thus, being in Russia, be aware that many night clubs and restaurants have a certain dress code. If you would like to fit in and do not want to be the most undressed person, just try to think more what to wear before going out.
Hand Shakes: Do not shake hands with a woman unless she offers her hand by herself. Do not shake hands in gloves, this can be considered as disrespect. And the last suggestion is not to shake hands while you are outside the house, come inside the house first and then greet the person. Russians believe it could cause a quarrel if you do greetings a wrong way. They are very supersticious.
This is a good old Russian tradition to take the shoes and hats off. The host usually offers slippers called «tapochki» and you should better follow this rule, Russian streets are really dusty or snowy.
As for hats, you should wear off your hat while you enter the house as it is just perceived as uncultural.
If you are invited to the Russian family, try to bring a little gift. What Russian women traditionally expect to receive is a bouquet of flowers or chocolate box or smth small for children, the main thing is to show your respect and to produce a good impression.
You can find flowers everywhere in Russia. Men present flowers for any occasion, this is a tradition, it does not always show a romantic interest to a woman, some times it is just a sign of respect. But remember the most important thing about the number of flowers you bring: it should be an odd number. Even numbers of flowers are brought only to funerals.
Moreover, Russians are quite supersticious, they try not to choose yellow flowers for a present, this is a sign of separation.
Russians always make toasts while drinking. You can surprise your Russian friends by toasts that are popular in Russia. Instead of «Na Zdorovye» which does not make sense and means «you are welcome» in Russian, they would be extremely happy to hear such toasts as:
«za vstrechu» : good to meet each other»,
«za zdorovye»: to your health
«za hozyev»: to hosts
«za lyubov’»: to love
If you are invited to the Russian family, try not to plan anything else for the evening. The family will expect you to stay long…They love talking about politics and history, philosophy, travellings. If you stay late at night in a Russian kitchen with a big variety of food and alcohol, consider to be excepted, from this time you are perceived to be a local or “svoy».