The Difference between Russians and Brits

The difference between Russians and Brits in terms of culture, behavior, lifestyle, thinking style, work and future. See a summary of cultural differences below.



United Kingdom – Interaction Style

There is a cultural preference in the United Kingdom for fixed time displayed through the British controlled management of time.
The British tend to display a need for order and structure. Thus, time is often seen as discrete and as a manageable commodity to be controlled and made the most of.There is a perception that the Welsh and Irish are more fluid than the norm and that the Scots and English are more fixed.

Russia – Interaction Style

Russians tend to display a fluid orientation. Individuals within the country recognize the importance of time, but do not always feel the need to control or manage it precisely.
Russians do not tend to think that time can be tightly defined and/or tracked, even when the pressure to be on time is strong. However, Russians expect their counterparts (especially foreigners) to be punctual. Though most companies have a corporate culture of starting meetings on time, there is still a tolerance for a few minutes’ delay. This delay may be even greater for those in positions of power. People may use tardiness as a way to demonstrate power, signifying that their time is more valuable than others’.

Russians almost always establish that deadlines are fixed during the project-planning process, but during implementation, timelines may be easily corrected if needed. However, if business partners replicate this behavior, it will often be met with less understanding.Under pressure of time, people begin to use time more accurately. This attitude is more visible in smaller cities. In larger cities, people try to use time management.

United Kingdom –  The way of Doing

The British preference is for a doing orientation, as a pragmatic approach to “getting the job done” is more important than other considerations.

This orientation is influenced by the competitive business practices in the European Union and with the rest of the world.The British tend to focus on the accomplishment of tasks and making decisions. They are assertive rather than aggressive and are loyal and dedicated workers.British professionals tend to view their business relationships as a means to get their job done.

Russia –  They way of Doing 

Russians tend to be being-oriented people; they place a great deal of value on personal relationships and trust. Truly close relationships may take a long time or special circumstances to establish, but once established these relationships generally last a lifetime. Even when contact is broken for a long period of time, a pre-established relationship can be picked up again at any time.

Maintaining good relationships is very important for Russian individuals and businessmen. For example, contract discussions may be concluded without any signing and based on good relationships.A foreigner will often have difficulties in doing business in Russia without a strong and trusting Russian partner. Building such a relationship takes some time and needs to be mutually engaging. The process may take a prolonged period of contact, getting to know your Russian partner’s friends and family and being nice and interested.

Russians have adhered to a being orientation throughout the course of the country’s history. The saying “Save your friend even if at the expense of your own life” still rings true. Russians do not tend to have any middle ground in their personal relationships. If a friend loses trust, he or she is completely excluded from his or her former friend’s life.Whether certain work will be done by team members depends not only on their job responsibilities, but also on their interpersonal relationships. Relationships in the team or organization tend to be the second most important factor (after salary) in choosing or changing jobs. For many individuals, it is a decisive factor.

Still, individuals in modern organizations may be result-driven, may feel the pressure of performing, and thus may focus on accomplishing tasks.This orientation can vary based on location. In general, people want results, which is the most important measure of their work. In big cities, people try to get results without paying attention to the social opinion, but in smaller cities, people are usually unwilling to do something that can negatively affect their reputation.

United Kingdom – Communication (Indirect)

The preference is for indirect communication to avoid direct confrontation, which feels stressful and awkward to most British.

Indirect communication is commonly used to minimize the appearance of difference and to maintain a civilized style on the surface despite what is really happening.The exception to this orientation is where there is a crisis or a breaking of the law where extreme directness is seen as appropriate and necessary. It is often said that in the north or in Scotland there is a preference to “tell it like it is” and to “get to the point,” though there is little scientific evidence to support this.

Russia – Communication (Direct)

In general, Russians prefer free and lively exchanges of ideas, particularly among friends and colleagues. They love heated debate and are rather open in dealing with interpersonal conflict.

Russians do not like to deliver bad news or provide negative feedback. Therefore, they will go to great lengths to avoid, or at least delay, this process. In some cases, a person may say “yes,” even if they really mean “maybe” or “no.”

On a business level, conflict may be resolved only in face-to-face actions and may not be mitigated by ignoring the existence of a conflict itself. When two parties of significantly different levels of power conflict, the party with the lower level will try to avoid the conflict and will try to not take the conflict into the next, sharper phase. On a personal level and in terms of reputation, people tend to avoid conflict and focus on saving face. Strong discussions with conflicting sides are often taken personally.

Often conflicts in a business environment can be settled by addressing the boss. However, when a Russian is dealing with a superior or someone who he or she does not trust or know well, he or she will usually turn to indirect communication. Saving face is important in front of strangers and people who are not well known.

In the Caucasus, people will be much more indirect when talking to outsiders.

United Kingdom – Instrumental communication

There is a preference for instrumental communication through a focus upon facts, processes, and formulae.

This orientation is consistent with the British need for the avoidance of expressing emotion, which is seen as vulgar and lacking in self-control.There may be a variance by gender, as some British perceive women as more expressive in Britain than men.Celtic lyricism can be considered a general exception, tending more toward the expressive end of the spectrum.The Welsh character may be seen as more expressive with song, emotion, and pathos part of the tradition of religious practice, community spirit, and high culture seen in written and art form.

Russia – Instrumental communication

Russians tend to be instrumental communicators who also have an aesthetic appreciation for the use of language. While the utility of communication is primary in a business context, most Russians are trained in the Russian literary tradition to appreciate and strive for the artful use of language.

The success of a presentation depends on a fine balance of expertise, accuracy, and eloquence. Data is most effective when presented in a disciplined but pleasing manner. Logical and attractive graphs, tables, and charts are useful. Persuasion will be most successful when the argument is both logical and appealing to the audience’s imagination. Business is personal in the region, and credibility and likeability depends in large part on knowledge and the effective use of communication.In some business environments, being too expressive can be considered as showing off and, therefore, impolite. However, in southern parts of the country, expressive speech is acceptable. In meetings, especially when problems arise or there are differences of opinion, Russian communication can seem highly emotional. However, Russians may adjust their behavior if their counterparts come from countries with different styles of communication.

United Kingdom – Formality

There is a preference for formality, as manners, form, and etiquette are seen as signs of civilization, class, and sophistication. Formality is generally expected when meeting high status individuals for the first time and when conducting business with people over 50 years of age.

The exception to this orientation is in instances when relationships are expected to develop over time. Then, a more relaxed, informal approach is acceptable, though the basis of polite behavior and consideration continue. This can be influenced by company culture, with the obvious example of a business casual rule for clothing or “dress down Fridays”. The Scots are known in general for their more correct use of grammar, form, and address, so they may be found to be more formal than those from other areas.

Russia – Formality

Generally speaking, in the workplace and in business situations Russians observe specific rules of etiquette and protocol and expect subordinates to be mindful of etiquette during workplace interactions.

When interacting with a person who they do not know well, a person from a more mature generation, or a person of higher rank, a Russian will use formal language. In business, formal language is also used when a superior is present and when business acquaintances are included. In such circumstances, people are addressed by their first name, patronymic, and vy (the formal version of “you”). Informal language is used when interacting with younger people and with peers with whom one has a comfortable relationship. These people are often referred to by their first names.If one is much younger or if one is in a close relationship, a Russian might refer to his or her counterpart by ty, the informal version of “you.” Special diminutive name forms, which are abundant in the Russian language, are used to stress special closeness and warmth. A modern tendency in business is to abandon the use of patronymics and adopt the Western style of addressing a person by his or her first name. In this case, a small name is never used.

The orientation depends on the culture of the company in question. While a state-owned or public company would likely be more formal in its communication, an art studio or web design shop would likely find informal behavior to be more appropriate. This includes the manner of speech, etiquette rules, and dress code. The way people dress reflects their position and is taken very seriously. In horizontal (lateral) communications, Russian organizations prefer an informal and friendly style. This includes most types of oral communication and socializing. Having friends and romantic relations on the job is considered normal. Many families in Russia are created as a result of workplace relationships.

When it is about vertical communication (communication with superiors or subordinates in the company’s hierarchy), communication becomes formal in an effort to preserve status and power.

United Kingdom – Universalistic 

There is a preference for the universalistic application of rules, procedures, and protocols.

One of the highest compliments a boss can receive is to be described as fair and consistent. There is a “morality culture” of right and wrong that is instilled by parents, teachers, and the police and is embedded deep into the minds of the British. Democracy and decent society are thought to depend on the correct application of the rules.There are, however, exceptions to the universalistic tendency as certain Brits may feel that a special case should be made depending upon the parties or circumstances involved.

Age also plays a part, as more mature Brits tend toward more extreme views at both ends of the spectrum.

Russia – Particularistic 

Though most would not challenge the idea that there are universally right or wrong approaches, Russians are guided in their behavior and assessments by situational and relational requirements, indicating a particularistic orientation.

Depending on each person’s status, connections, and other factors, exceptions, big or small, can almost always be made. In fact, such favors tend to be the rule rather than the exception. In the workplace, employees are normally evaluated by their competence and performance, quality of the work done, experience, morale, etc. However, this can be overridden by good connections with a high-ranking person. This behavior is especially visible in the industries or sectors and positions where performance is less visible or where poor results will not have an immediate impact on the organization.

United Kingdom – Thinking style

The British tend toward a single-focus orientation, as often one thing is done at a time, interruptions are not seen as polite or helpful, and structure and predictable patterns of work are important.

This orientation falls into line with Anglo-Saxon culture and Northern European values. The exceptions come in crises, emergencies, and when other influences come into play, such as a multicultural setting or a new team getting together and moving into the “storming” phase of its formation.

Russia – Thinking style

Russians tend to display a multi-focus orientation. They can deal with a variety of tasks and/or relationships at the same time and are not likely to be disturbed by unpredictable and unscheduled events.

Usually, work is not very well organized. People may have several obligations, which are not necessarily under their competence, and have to work on several problems simultaneously. People do not do things on an “as-needed” basis because they are often confronted with different tasks. Under time pressure, multitasking takes place. In traffic jams, people will talk over a cell phone to discuss business if they are late for a meeting. Business processes are made with extra time in case something unforeseen happens.

Most companies in Russia work in many directions and do not hurry to finish projects unless required to do so. If a task allows for time lapses before it can be completed, an employee would be likely to do something else in between.

People in organizations have to create plans to do things sequentially. Low-level employees may do things sequentially, but managers and engineers often focus on a variety of tasks at the same time. Bureaucratic attitudes may be seen as an opposite tendency to doing things sequentially. They would often say, “It’s not my work” and “Let’s look for a solution for a problem only after that problem appears.”

United Kingdom – Future 

The British tend to display a preference for a future orientation, with an emphasis on the short-term.

Factors that have influenced this orientation include former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s cultural revolution and the U.S. American commercial influence on business processes, with an emphasis on “action, speed and results”. The growth of spiritualism in the United Kingdom similarly concentrates upon the short term future. There is a generational split, however, with people over 50 years tending toward the past, and people under 20 years having a preference for the future.

Russia – Future

Russians in their daily life and work are guided by concerns over the short-term future and are motivated by the promise of quick results and returns. They tend to focus on short-term results and the demands of the current situation at hand.

Most business projects in Russia are scheduled for six months to a year. People do not typically trust the government, but would invest in financial schemes with a promise of quick returns. As the future is uncertain, people do not plan for it, and thus do not typically invest long-term. Most Russians do not maintain savings accounts and instead use money as they obtain it. Also, they may lend money to a friend without ever considering if the friend in question will be able to pay it back.

People agree to get their work officially paid for with a small salary and to get a larger part unofficially, in cash, even if it decreases their future pension. Again there is a difference between big cities and modern companies and what one will encounter in smaller places. In big cities, people try to get an official salary, but in smaller cities, it is less important. A promise of getting a bonus for a specific project will tend to motivate more than a future career boost.

Still, as compared to the 1990s, the situation in the country has shifted and became much more stable. Political campaigns and commercial advertisements exploit the concept of the future to its fullest. Environmental concerns are often expressed on all levels, which tend to follow a future-oriented mindset.

On a more global level, national ideology and organizational cultures, while proclaiming innovation and changes, are in fact often guided by an adherence to tradition. State-owned or simply old-style companies and public organizations usually are inclined to withstand changes.

United Kingdom – Competitive 

There is a preference for competitive behavior, as British employees believe that they can influence the outcome of business and win and receive good rewards.

There is a need for results and achievement in British work culture, and employees and managers are expected to own their projects and deliver positive outcomes in the face of others trying to do the same. Competition is viewed as healthy, inspiring, and creative, but there is the irony of fairness when unfair advantage is acceptable if it happens to help one personally and unacceptable if it favors the other team. While gender equality has improved in the United Kingdom, men’s competitive behavior is still seen as more socially acceptable than a woman’s in the same circumstances.

Russia – Competitive 

Russians value harmonious and mutually supportive, even familial, relationships with colleagues and established norms, patterns, and procedures, but they seek achievement and personal results. The developing entrepreneurial spirit and changing public order has encouraged a brisk shift from cooperative to competitive tendencies in business, especially among young people.

Competitiveness is common for companies and business environments as a whole. Some companies that hold team building trainings shift this attitude toward the work. At the same time, results and ambitions are not the only goals. Maintaining good relationships is very important for Russians. A nice working climate is one of the most frequent reasons noted for staying with an organization for an extended period of time. Russians speak a lot about what they have achieved and offer their opinion about any problem currently discussed, even if not asked to do so. However, they often will try to avoid such behavior if doing so seems profitable.

Russians have dealt with the hardship that has defined much of life in the area through cooperation within and among families (villages and communes). Personal ambition was looked down upon in the Soviet period and considered selfish and threatening. In old-style organizations, personal ambition and assertiveness will still be looked upon with disapproval.


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