15 Things to Know About Russians Before Your Trip to Russia

My name is Evgenii [yiv-ghe-niy]. I am an ethnic Russian, born and raised in the former Soviet Union, within Russian culture, traditions, and ways of doing things.

Even though I have not lived in my hometown (of Kishinev, Moldova) for the last twenty years (and am a citizen of the United States which I call home now), I had an honor of living in St. Petersburg, Russia for five years, and this is where we consistently spend at least a month of every year.

I haven’t told anyone (until this post), but while I’ve written books on marketing, my livelong dream has been to write a volume on the Russian mindset. In it, I would delve into why Russians act the way they act, and what a foreigner should know about them — to understand and appreciate them.

Having heard of yet another American friend planning a trip to Russia, I started thinking of quick things she should know about Russia and the Russians — to make the most of her trip. As a result, my list of comments grew from a handful of tips to fifteen things to keep in mind as you plan your trip to “Mother Russia”. Here they are (in no particular order):

1. Russians and Salutations

“Hi! How are you?” or “Hey! How’s it going?” is a commonplace greeting, but not Russia. Many Russians would argue that when/if they ask someone how they are doing, they really mean it. Equally, when they are being asked the same, their response may go much deeper than “Fine, and you?” Unless you’re ready for it, I suggest you drop that second part of your customary greeting and go with either Privet (Russian for “Hi”) or Dobroye utro, dobry den’, or dobry vecher (literally: “Good morning”, “Good day”, or “Good evening”).

2. Russians and Hugs

This one is closely related to the previous point. Unless it’s a relative or a very dear friend that you’re meeting, Russians do not hug.

Brezhnev kissNeither do they kiss like the infamous Berlin Wall graffiti depiction of Brezhnev and Honecker may presuppose.

Jokes aside, a handshake is a typical element of greeting. What’s important is that you shake hands not only upon meeting someone for the first time, but every time you meet them, especially among men (see the point about women in #11 below).

Remember also that if you are greeting someone with a handshake while sitting, make sure to raise your butt at the moment of the handshake!

3. Russians Don’t Smile

Be it because of their communist history or their generally reserved character, but, unlike westerners, Russians do not smile when making an eye contact with a complete stranger. In certain scenarios, your own smile may even be translated as flirting.

4. Why Russians Decline

NyetWhen a Russian declines an offer (be it of a bottle of water or another “treat”) it may not necessarily mean that they do not want it. It’s a customary sign of “politeness”.

You gotta be sensitive to this and gently offer again. A third (no, not second) decline typically means they really do not care for it.

5. What They Drink in Russia

When you ask for water, do clarify if you want still one (not carbonated or “without gas”). Keep also in mind that it will be offered without ice, unless explicitly asked.

When it comes to alcoholic drinks, the great European grape/grain divide should be kept in mind. If you’re in the south of Russia (or former Soviet Union), wine may be worth tasting. Otherwise, they’ll stick to such grain-based drinks as beer and vodka. Keep in mind that there will be no chilled glasses for beer there (or beer sampling), and never even think about watering down your vodka with ice (it will be served very cold as it is, and sometimes in a chilled shot glass)! Speaking of wine, it is seldom to witness it served at the right temperature, unless you’re in an upscale restaurant.

6. What to Eat in Russia

Since the water used in cooking is going to be different from what you are used to, bring plenty of Tums (or similar digestion helpers), and be ready to use them.

Russian pelmenyWhen ordering food, I recommend going for what’s sourced locally. Instead of a steak, try a kotleta. Also pyure (mashed potatoes) will always be better than french fries. And don’t forget about such staples of Russian cuisine as:

  • Blini
  • Syrniki
  • Mors
  • Borsh’ (no “t” there!)
  • Uha [oo-ha] (fish soop)
  • Rye bread
  • Pel’meni
  • …and herring

7. Tips at Russian Restaurants

Speaking of food and eating, no one expects you to leave a 20% tip (so common in the USA). Somewhere around 10% (rounded up to an easier amount) would be sufficient. In cash, please!

8. Russians Speak Russian

However obvious the above header may sound, it’s worth emphasizing: English-speaking Russians are fairly rare. Unlike in Scandinavian countries or the Netherlands, you’ll be lucking to meet an English-speaking waiter or grocery store assistant — especially outside of a big city.

9. Russians Appreciate

Any nation appreciates you trying to speak their language, and Russians are no exception here. Do learn some basic words and phrases and you’ll be appreciated. It’ll help you with ice-breaking too!

If someone invites you to visit them at their home, it’s a good idea to bring something with you (be it a bottle of wine or a box of candies). Flowers to the ladies in the house will always be a nice touch, too.

10. Russians and Headwear

Russian soldiersBaseball hats indoors are an absolute no-no. In certain cases it is okay for a woman to wear something on her head while inside, but in no case for a man.

Speaking of which: ladies, when you check out an Orthodox Christian church, make sure to cover head before entering it.

11. Russians Have Rules

The “rules” that Russians have could take a book of its own, but here are just a few that come to mind (as the more common ones):

  • Take your shoes off upon entering a house.
  • Don’t sit or put a drink on the floor/ground.
  • Don’t put your feet on the table (or really anywhere but the floor).
  • Take your glove off before shaking someone’s hand (it’s disrespectful to do it otherwise.
  • Don’t initiate a handshake with the woman (if you are a man) as she should be the one deciding whether to initiate it or not.
  • Don’t burp in public (“excuse me” won’t fix it), slam your hand on the table when laughing, or speak loudly… When in doubt, the good rule of thumb is staying modest and reserved.

Oh, and speaking about rules, be very careful crossing the street at pedestrian crosswalks! You might get run over, as not every car will stop at those. Don’t ask.

12. No Sales Tax in Russia

Whatever price you see on the price tag will be the price that you’ll have to pay. They do not add any sales tax at checkouts there.

13. Russians are Superstitious

There are too many superstitions to mention in one paragraph (which is intentionally numbered “13” here), but here are some of the most common ones:

  • Do not whistle indoors (as the house where you do so will have no money).
  • Do not shake hands over a threshold (it’s bad luck).
  • Do not ask for air conditioning in a regular taxi (as you get colds from A/Cs).
  • Do not give buy/give bouquets with even numbers of flowers (unless you’re putting these on a gravestone or a coffin).
  • Do knock on wood in the same situations as in the West.

14. Russian Metro

Moscow metroIf you are planning a visit to Saint Petersburg or Moscow, you must check out the metro! Many of the stations are nothing short of extraordinary in their design and decor. And seeing them won’t cost you a penny more than a regular metro token.

15. Russians are Amazing

Most Russians are actually very warm (somewhere deep inside), sincere, and kind people. If they let you into their heart, you will become friends forever. Respect them, honor their culture, and their ways of doing things, and you’ll have a trip of your lifetime!!

I’m sure there’s more to add to this list. Please do submit your comments and experience(s) using the respective field under this post. Anything that will help travelers to Russia have the best trip ever would be great to have here.

Reviews and Feedback on Geno Prussakov as Affiliate Marketing Speaker

Earlier this year, I spoke at the legendary Affiliate Summit in New York City, NY. This was my nineteenth time speaking at this major affiliate marketing conference. My 30-minute speech was entitled “Evergreen Techniques to Rock at Affiliate Marketing” and it was devoted to a number of practical approaches to turbocharging affiliate marketing campaigns. Coincidentally, a summary of the same by a third party came out just earlier today.

Geno Prussakov speaker review

At the end of every session Affiliate Summit asks attendees to provide their feedback on the speaker and the content presented. Later on, they share these comments with the speakers – a great way to help us learn what we can do better next time we’re on this conference’s stage.

As for my above-quoted speech, here is all of the feedback that I received (in the [unedited] words of the audience).

Reviews on Affiliate Marketing Speaker Geno Prussakov

Really appreciated that he shared his slide deck from the get go. Covered a wide variety of suggestions and evergreen techniques.

Wish it was longer so we could get more in depth.

Speaker had a lot of great info to share, wish he had a keynote spot.

Very clear an specific examples.

Session too short. So much great content here. Wish the speaker had more time to elaborate on each point.

Very good. I hope you’ll have him back and give him more time.

Lots of information – spoke incredibly fast.

Actionable advice, for sure.

Needs more time.

I found this very interesting from the affiliate manager side – helps to better understanding what affiliates need from us to be more successful.

Felt very fast.

This one could have been an hour session. Good info.

Awesome presentation!

It’s tough to get in depth on 11 items with such short time. Good tips though, just wanted more details.

Geno ALWAYS has actionable insights. I try to never miss his sessions at Affiliate Summits.

Good speaker, content more for affiliate/publisher vs. merchant.

Good info. We are a merchant, I felt this was geared much more for publishers.

Good content, but 30 mins was too short for details on all 11 techniques.

Less points and more details would be good for 30 mins, or more time for all 11 points.

Good content, good delivery, on time!

Great!

Impressive.

Too short.

30 minutes is too short for the top speakers.

Too short and condensed. Would have been better to spread the session over an hour.

Great content. Would love it be more in depth.

I personally can’t help but love those “too short” comments. It’s always best to leave the audience (hungry for more) than feeling “stuffed”. Yes, an hour would’ve been better but more susceptible to a “cognitive backlog” though.

If you need a speaker for your event, check out my speaker profile and testimonials here and here and email me if you’re interested in a truly memorable keynote speech for your event, a seminar (or training session), or anything else.


Disclosure: If you click some of the links in this post, and convert into a customer, I may be compensated for this. Regardless, I only recommend products and services that I use personally and believe to be of value.

Affiliate Marketing Book Becomes E-commerce Bestseller on Amazon

Things like this just don’t happen every day…

Late on the evening of August 15 I published “Quick Start Guide to Affiliate Marketing” — my newest book, aimed at aspiring affiliates, and everyone interested in learning how to make money through affiliate programs.

On August 17 it became the #1 “hot new release” in Amazon’s E-commerce book section [screenshot here].

And on August 19 the book turned into the absolute bestseller on E-Commerce and Web Marketing (in under 4 days!)

Then a number of business and marketing heavyweights picked up the news spreading the word about it and Tweeting:

The sales are still going strong, reviews rolling in, and if you haven’t yet picked up your copy, I am now selling the (originally $4.99) book only at $1.99. Order your copy here.

Top 100 Executives Magazine Email from Benjamin Morrison is Scam

It’s that time of the year when numerous executives in English-speaking parts of the world are receiving emails from a “prestigious magazine,” congratulating them on making the list of candidates for publication in it. I got one too:

Three problems on the very surface of it:

1. It came from info@sunetworks.com and sunetworks.com domain resolves to a one-page website which at the time of this post has one word: “Hello.” Also, the domain information is protected (read: all real contact info hidden) by Whois Privacy Protection Service, Inc.

2. When I search for “Top 100 Executives Magazine” I find another one-pager – top100executivemagazine.com – which hosts a form to harvest personal information.

3. CAPS and UNDERLINED CAPS isn’t normally a part of a serious “professional magazine” orthography.

Furthermore, if you dig a little deeper you will realize that this is a classic spear phishing scam which “lures professionals into parting with personal information, such as phone numbers, email addresses and job titles, by appealing to the executives’ vanity.” [source]

If you get an email like this, take a deep breath and breathe out. Relax. You haven’t been shortlisted for anything. Just steer clear of Benjamin Morrison’s email.

Entrust Marketing to Experts! Localization Disaster Example

I’ve been in marketing for so long that very few people remember (or even know) that, first and foremost, I’m a linguist and a translator. Having spent over 7 years of my life training for, and working in this area, I am particularly sensitive to translation and localization mistakes. And while many of them can be justified by complexities of grammar, the banner that I’ve spotted today was plain hopeless.

Checking my Yahoo mail earlier this morning I was staggered by what I saw in the sidebar. A banner which was clearly localized (the concept was likely American, the original ad copy was in English, but since I was accessing Yahoo from Russia, I was served a “Russian” version of it) contained 7 mistakes in 7 words:

What is even worse, all of the above are mistakes made by elementary school children.

When you need a surgery, you go to a medical doctor, not to a plumber whose mother is a nurse and he knows a medical thing here and there (and may even have similar tools). Why, then, when it comes to marketing, would you even think of hiring anyone but a professional? When you are marketing, you are putting your brand (your most valuable asset!) on the frontline. Do you really want to have it associated with low quality?

The above example has once again reminded me of Aldo Gucci’s “the bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of low price has faded from memory.”

Entrust your marketing to experts! Unless, of course, you want your brand to be associated with dilettantism.

Failure is an Integral Part of Success (in Business)

I am a big soccer fan. My team is FC Zenit St Petersburg (Russia). It is a good team (holder of UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup 2008, Champions of Russian Premier League 2007, 2010, and 2011-2012), but it didn’t win the Russian championship in 2012-2013 (coming to the end just one point short), and now that they have instituted a joint tournament between the most popular soccer teams of Russian and Ukraine it has already lost two (of the first) games: 0:1 in the game against FC Shakhtar Donetsk, and 1:2 agaist FC Dynamo Kyiv.

Tomorrow they are playing their third game in the tournament, but the team spirit is at an all-time high. Everyone at FC Zenit is optimistic, and ready to fight to the end. Knowing them I am also fully confident that their chances of finishing (this tournament) well are pretty high.

Why am I so confident?

Because I have come to treat defeats as an integral part of success. Any business(man)/(woman) can learn a ton from athletes here. I’ve mentioned soccer already; but here’s how the legendary Michael Jordan once put it:

I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

Remember how Steve Jobs was raising back up from his failures? Remember what he achieved as a result?

Failures and defeats should be treated as opportunities for learning and strengthening, not as excuses for whining or quitting.

The wise Sir Winston Churchill is known for saying:

Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

So don’t let any momentary failure get in the way of your longer-term success. Press on… Don’t lose passion (or optimism)… Overcome, persevere, and succeed!

Prussakov on 2013 Affiliate Marketing Awards Judging Panels

Earlier this year I had the privilege of judging the 2013 Performance Marketing Awards in the UK (for the third time in a row). The winners were announced in London a month ago [see the full list here].

This month I am judging for Rakuten LinkShare Golden Link Awards 2013 in the USA. This is my second time [see last year’s news here] serving on LinkShare’s judges panel, and I am truly honored to have been invited.

The Golden Link Awards are going to be presented on Monday, June 17, 2013 in New York City.

10 Free University-Level Online Courses in Business and Marketing

Did you know that there is a number of universities (including some of the world’s top schools) that offer free access to their courses?

Below you may find my compilation of business, marketing and entrepreneurship-related courses that are currently available for free access:

BUSINESS

  • Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies with Dr. James V. Green (University of Maryland): on Coursera
  • Introductory Probability and Statistics for Business with Fletcher Ibser (UC Berkeley): on YouTube / iTunes
  • Supply Chain Management & Logistics: An Introduction to Principles and Concepts with Richard Wilding (Cranfield University): on iTunes
  • Surviving Disruptive Technologies with Hank Lucas (University of Maryland): on Coursera

 

ENTREPRENEURSHIP

  • Entrepreneurship and Business Planning with Mark Juliano (Carnegie Mellon): on iTunes / Feed
  • Entrepreneurship Through the Lens of Venture Capital with multiple instructors (Stanford University) on iTunes / YouTube
  • Technology Entrepreneurship with Chuck Eesley (Stanford University): on YouTube / iTunes

 

MARKETING

  • Marketing 321 with Elaine Daussy (Texas A&M): on iTunes

 

OTHER (RELATED)

  • Search Engines: Technology, Society and Business with Marti Hearst (UC Berkeley): on YouTube
  • The Future of the Internet with Ramesh Johari (Stanford University): on iTunes

 

If you know of any other ones, please post links to these via the “Comments” form below. Please make sure that they are full courses (not merely previews/teasers)

First Comprehensive Affiliate Management Book in Chinese

Less than a year ago I announced that Wiley “signed a contract with a Beijing-based publisher for the translation and publication of my ‘Affiliate Program Management: An Hour a Day‘ book.”

In 2012 China’s population of Internet users rose 10 percent adding 51 million to the previous number of 510 million users. “Chinese leaders encourage Internet use for business and education” [source], and the Internet penetration is nearing 50 percent of the country’s population [source]. I am extremely excited that at a time like this my “Affiliate Program Management: An Hour a Day” has come out in Chinese:

The Chinese translation of my book has been published just two weeks ago, and is now hitting bookshelves.

This is the first comprehensive affiliate marketing book in Chinese, and I am looking forward to flying to China for book launch activities (exact dates TBC).

Affiliate Marketing Book Receives Small Business Classic Award

classic: noun : a work of enduring excellence [Merriam-Webster Dictionary]

Today is a very special day for me. Due to your overwhelming support, my “Affiliate Program Management: An Hour a Day” tome has won a big award, winning the first place in the Classics category of 2013 Small Business Books Awards.

I feel honored and altogether humbled to be acknowledged in this way. As far as I understand this is the first time an affiliate marketing book gets selected as a small business classic. Thank you for your support, everyone! It means the world to me!!

In case you haven’t yet heard, later this Spring the book is coming out in Russian, and it is now also being translated into Chinese. If you are interested in acquiring translation rights for it, I’d love to hear from you.