Russian etiquette – Do’s and Don’ts when visiting Russia

Russian etiquette – Do’s and Don’ts when visiting Russia
02 April 2019

Russian society is marked by ancient traditions and habits. They are very cultural and so they easily recognize other cultures by their behavior. Sometimes these other behaviors may even be considered offensive to Russian citizens. So you should know about the table manners, Russian gestures and traditions, if you want to experience a stay without any embarrassment in Russia.

In my following blogpost I have collected some Do’s and Don’ts when visiting Russia. First, we start with the Do’s!

Bring gifts for your Russian Hosts

When you get invited in a Russian household, always bring a little present with you in return, otherwise this is considered as rude. It doesn’t matter what it is, this can be flowers, a bottle of wine or a cake – just don’t show up empty handed. When you think about bringing flowers, always bring them in odd numbers because even numbers are common for funerals .

Eating in Russian families

A Russian host will always put more food on the table than any reasonable person could possibly eat but that is a way to show the guest that he should feel free to eat as much as they like. Don’t start eating until your host starts. Also important is, to always keep your hands visible and don’t put your elbows on the table. When you are finished eating, don’t clean up the entire plate because otherwise your host thinks that he didn’t provide enough food. Russian people will always offer to refill your plate, then you have to politely refuse and compliment the cook and host for the fine, but filling meal. Last, don’t get up from the table until your host invites you to do so.

Always respect Russian babushki

In Russia elderly people command a lot of respect and power. If you see an elderly lady on public transport, carrying a heavy bag and she asks you to help her – do so. Giving up your seat on a train or bus for elderly people is a sign of respect.

Now you know the most important Do’s let’s take a closer view at the Don’ts.

Come on in, grab a seat but don’t leave your shoes on

This rule is very common in Russia and Asia. In an average Russian household there are many expensive rugs on the floor and even on the walls. When you enter someone’s home, immediately take off your shoes to avoid being disrespectful. Your host will probably offer you a pair of slippers.

Don’t smile at strangers without a reason

Russian people reserve smiling for their family, friends and people at work but they do not smile randomly at strangers. Russians have the saying, “To smile with no reason, is a sign of a fool.” So don’t expect them to smile back at you when you smile at them in public transport or when you go shopping in Moscow.

Never shake hands with your gloves on

This is considered as extremely impolite. Make sure to remove your gloves before you shake someones hand. Another tradition or better, another superstition is to never shake hands over a threshold because Russians see this as bad luck. This may lead to an argument with the person partaking.

Whenever you’re travelling to another country, it is important to research certain habits and tradition in order to avoid being impolite. Hopefully this little Do’s and Don’ts list helps you to not be recognized as a foreigner that fast and to avoid situations which could be considered rude by locals. Last but probably the most important Don’t – never, ever refuse Vodka!


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