Directness and politeness
To many foreigners, Russians sometimes might come across as too rude and too direct. For example, a typical feedback from a Russian client, might even upset one as being too critical, too negative, at times jumping straight to the point with no “hello” or “thank you”.
However, let me tell you, more often than not, this is not a sign of rudeness, as the person in question is not intending to deliberately upset you. They are just being direct, which is another feature of the Russian culture.
As a rule, Russians do not generally believe in understatements, softening the truth or coded speech, and prefer not to waste time on pleasantries. If something needs to be changed, they would say it outright. This would be their way of being sincere and honest.
On the contrary, if something is great, Russians might not mention it and might not say “thank you”, because, in their view, “this goes without saying”. Having worked as account manager (read: a culture mediator), liaising between a Russian client and the UK creative team, on top of communicating over the client’s (very direct) feedback, I often had to add “That said, all in all the client is happy with how the things are going”, as this was indeed the fact. It’s just that it was not put in writing!
Having lived in the UK, I have quickly become aware that one cannot be overly polite here. However, you can indeed in Russia! If you say too many “Thank you”, “Please” or “Sorry”, this would make you come across as insincere, fake, flaky, and even weak! Russians believe in being direct, outspoken and assertive, and tend to value this more than strict adherence to etiquette.
Maybe for this reason, politeness in Russian culture can be expressed without pronouncing words like “Thank you” or “Please”, as a lot could be expressed by the tone of voice.
Too much smiling and exclamations like “Everything is fantastic!” or “Great job, team!” are foreign to a Russian ear, and would more often than not cause irritation. Russians perceive it as superficial, which is something that is opposed to their system of cultural values, where depth is, perhaps, the cornerstone.
By this time, you are probably guessing there is no small talk in Russian context, and you are guessing it right! Russians do not believe in small talk and generally perceive it as “trivial”, “flaky” and “shallow”. Try having a conversation with a Russian, and you will see that it will progress into a deep conversation about the meaning of life at the blink of an eye!
Have you ever come across something similar? Have you ever dealt with a Russian client?