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Expats about communication and language barriers in Russia

Category: Russia

Relationships in Russia are very important. If you look at kind of business in the States it tends to be very bottom-line driven. Americans don’t need to like each other but as long as there’s mutual business interest they can do business together.

And I think that my experiences in Russia are much more personally driven. So I think it’s absolutely important to invest time to build the relationships .

What situations you’ll find probably more difficult?

James: “I think that building sustainable business relationships here take a little bit more time than you would find in, let’s say, for example, the States. Sometimes here I feel from time to time that the obvious things are assumed. Coming from the States, you state everything. So there is no uncertainty.

There is no confusion in the communication. So sometimes it seems like you’re stating things that are so obvious, but occasionally those very obvious things can be misunderstood. And here sometimes I feel that some basic things are just assumed, so you don’t talk about it, and sometimes that can lead to confusion.”

You said that your first language was Russian.

Anna: “ I would say the language question is a painful question for me because when I moved to Russia, I was living in the States close to 20 years. My Russian was very, very basic. I couldn’t read and I couldn’t write, but I could understand and more or less speak. Fast-forward almost four years, I think my spoken Russian is fairly good. I can read well, but I still cannot write. And this is the surprising thing that I found in Russia: I worked in a big company that had people from experts who spoke perfect English down to people that spoke almost no English. All of my communication, written communication was always in English. This is now my second company and I continue that practice. All of my written communication is in English and it has never been a problem. Which tells me something: I think Russians can read and understand English fairly well.”

Will it be also true for small companies?

Anna: “ I think at this point it’s true for everyone. From what I can see, I would say currently, written English is  acceptable and appropriate for most business in Russia, even small and medium businesses.” 

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