The purpose of this essay is to show that intercultural differences between French and Russian businessmen exist and discuss if they are a threat for effective business communication. The structure follows the different steps of a real business situation: a French businessman meeting his potential Russian partners for a negotiation in Russia.
Before going to Russia, what important information should a French businessman know?
There are many cultural differences between France and Russia that a businessman should know before he goes to Russia in order to adapt himself and limit the risk of an intercultural issue. First, it is important to consider the past of Russia, who was part of the former Soviet Union. People who experienced this regime do not have the same mindset as younger people. The same phenomenon can also be observed with companies. Corporate culture can be totally different depending on its historical background. For example, companies who are less than ten years old usually have a low distance with hierarchy, whereas older ones are much more vertical and bureaucratic. Russia is in fact a very fragmented country and it is important to get a maximum of information about your interlocutors before you meet them. One of the main differences between France and Russia is certainly the importance of relations as a success factor in business. It is crucial to develop and keep alive a strong network of contacts in Russia. Without the help of a Russian, it is almost impossible to do business there. This point can be explained by the fact that Russians do not trust their legal system to solve conflicts. For example, reforms can be taken anytime and two laws can be contradictory. That is why they value human relations much more and need to trust the person they are doing business with. In fact, Russia is still a risky country and foreign businessmen should always be careful.
Before he goes out to meet his Russian partners, how should a French businessman dress?
Elegance is part of French culture and French businessmen wear suits. However, the color of their shirt, of the tie or the fashion accessories they may wear can be perceived as bad taste for Russian people who value sobriety. For them, a man’s wardrobe reflects his image as a professional. This is why Russian businessmen always wear expensive dark suits and avoid colorful cloths. A foreigner should obviously do the same. French businesswomen should also be careful and dress as 1/4
conservatively as possible. For example, they should wear a dress instead of trousers. In Russia, it is also rude to take off his jacket during any kind of business meeting. It is supposed to be the same in France, but nowadays this kind of rules tend to disappear. Considering physical appearance as the first form of communication, there is no doubt that if someone is considered as being not properly dressed or makes mistakes, this will harm oral communication later.
What should a French businessman do to be appreciated by the Russians from the beginning?
In France, business people do not give presents. It is seen as more annoying than pleasant because if you receive a present, you will have to give another one in return, of the same value. Indeed, if the gift is obviously more expensive, your partner will feel humiliated. If it is cheaper, he will think that you are stingy. Moreover, many companies forbid this practice because it can be considered as a form of bribing. However, Russian businessmen like them a lot. Giving presents in Russia is mandatory for everyone who wants to build strong links with his Russian partner and develop the network described in the introduction. Foreigners will have to give presents at least for the first three meetings...