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Working in Russia

Russia has a unique history and culture, and at the beginning of the 21st century it is one of the world's most rapidly changing and developing countries. In many ways Russia is becoming closer to Europe and the West in its outlook and way of life (at least in the major cities), yet its cultural individuality remains strong. As you are considering living and working in Russia you should expect to be faced daily with a lifestyle, environment and attitudes that differ greatly from those you are used to. It is an experience that will be both challenging and personally enriching, and you will have the privilege of not just witnessing, but also taking part in this unique culture at one of the most fascinating times in its history.

In terms of culture and mentality Russians generally take a far more laid back attitude to work than their counterparts in western, consumer-driven, corporate-management societies. This sometimes has the result that standards of efficiency and service are somewhat lower than what you expect in the USA or the UK. Whereas in America everything should be done 10 minutes ago and in the UK it should be done right now, in Russia it probably won't get done until the end of the working day (or week). It's just the way it is, the way it always has been, and Russians, particularly among the older generations, see no reason why it should change. Although Russian business practice is becoming more and more westernized in many places, and you will on occasions come across friendly, efficient service, at times living and working here may also be a little exasperating due to the attitudes and behavior of those around you. Sometimes people in administrative and official capacities may seem slow, unhelpful, and inconsistent.

To live and work here successfully you must therefore be flexible, and be prepared to adapt to a working environment very different to the one you're used to. Waiting is an accepted part of life here - it's considered normal, and to many Russians, even among the younger generation, your expectations and desire to get everything done by yesterday will seem impatient, unreasonable and unnecessary. Things are changing gradually, but as they say over here, Moscow wasn't built in a day. Sometimes you will come across people working in a way similar to your own, other times you will have to compromise.

On the other hand, the laid-back approach also has its advantages. Interpersonal relationships are generally valued much more highly - if you keep smiling, make time to get to know the people you work with, or do someone a favor, they're sure to respond in kind. Birthdays at work are an occasion for all to celebrate with tea and cake! The cold face of Russian officialdom could not be in starker contrast to the warmth that will greet you when you get to know Russians better.

Working abroad is a great learning experience for all involved - both for you as the foreign guest, and for your hosts. The old saying that 'travel broadens the mind' is indisputably true, and by coming to work in Russia you will gain experience and memories that will prove valuable whatever you go on to do later in your career.

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