When In Rome... (Part 3)

Posted by Mark Gilbert on 25 March 2015

Nick Elliott returns with a final look at the cultural differences between European workplaces.

russian flag

Welcome to the third and final blog of my three daily blogs about the differences between the working environments of Britain and other countries. This I hope will help students who are thinking about working abroad, but once again please bear in mind that working practices in different sectors can vary, especially in multinational companies.

со своим уставом в чужой монастырь не ходят‎ (so svoim ustavom v chujoy monastir ne hodjat) (don’t go with your own rules to someone else’s monastery, which is the Russian equivalent of ‘when in Rome…’).

3 Cultural Differences between British and Russian Workplaces

Punctuality and Working hours

During communist times every Russian worked for the state, so they had a different approach to tardiness, since the fall of communism more and more people are working for themselves, therefore to use an old phrase ‘time is money’ so most Russian are very punctual when doing business.

Muscovites who work in offices mostly work from 9-10 till 17:30-19:00.

Appropriate Communication and Workplace protocol

Russia can at times be an enigma and this concept was confirmed after I asked my Russian friend about the laws which exist in Russian workplaces. He replied that “Russia is not the land of law, but the land of ‘понятии (understanding)’. Where everybody knows or feels how it goes or works”.

A Russian workplace is more formal than a British one and the majority of white collar workers will address their colleagues using Vy/formal instead of Ty/informal. Just like other Slavonic workplaces, this is even more relevant if you are speaking to a senior manager or where there is a significant age difference between you and a workmate.

The ‘after work’ drinks culture doesn’t really exist in Russia but this may vary from sector to sector.

Cultural assimilation & awareness

Although Russia is a multicultural country, the population of Russia’s capital city Moscow is made up of 92% ethnic Russians and, just like in Poland, this is reflected in Russian workplaces and ‘banter’ which is seen by Russians as being non-offensive can still be heard in the working environment.

Annual Leave

Workers are entitled to 28 calendar days of annual leave and 12 paid public holidays.


  • офисный планктон (office plankton) - a white collar workers/junior office employees
  • мыслить нетрадиционно (mislit netraditcionno) – to think out of the box

Other words (list below) have made their way from the English language into the Russian working environment:

  • Перформанс/performance
  • Реквест/request
  • Тренинг/training



Topics: employability skills, Working abroad, International Students

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