How to bring your business to Russia: part 2
Here comes the second part of our interview with Maryke Otten, international trade advisor at the Dutch Chamber of Commerce, who shared her experience with SearchCowboys earlier this week. If you missed the first part of the article, you can find it here.
Q: Did you have a culture shock when you came to Russia?
“Yes. Actually the culture shock came after three months. In the beginning everything is different and you like your new way of life, but when you are staying in another country for three months or longer, you start having problems with all the changes you have experienced”. Maryke was shocked by the fact that in Russia she often couldn’t do things as she had planned. Every morning she got up and told herself: “Those are the tasks I have to accomplish today”, but it often turned out that at the end of the day she could hardly finish half of what she had expected.
“When you have planned to do three things in Russia, you are lucky to succeed in one, – she says with a smile. – It’s really hard for Europeans. You have to be more flexible. In the first couple of months it was really difficult for me to accept that I couldn’t do the things that I wanted to do in one day. You just have to accept that you are in another culture, and the way of working there is different…”
Q: Is this something for companies to take into account if they are planning to enter the Russian market?
“Yes, they should definitely take it into account. Everything turns out to be different when you are in Russia. No matter if you plan to do 3, 4 or 5 tasks in a day, you shouldn’t be disappointed if you don’t succeed”.
Q: What else can you advise companies that want to work in Russia or with Russians?
“The way Russians look at time is different. When you work in Russia, for example, you learn not to set dates for meetings that would take place several weeks later. And when you do have a fixed meeting you should definitely make a phone call in the morning to check that it will take place”. (Actually, on the day of the interview I sent an email to Maryke to confirm that the interview would take place as it had been scheduled some weeks ago – and I’m not even Russian!)
“Another difference is in management culture” – Maryke says. In Russia, decisions are made at the top management level, and people on lower levels always have to check up with their boss before making decisions. In Europe companies are less hierarchical, and employees often have more power to make arrangements. “But in the end, I think that the most important thing is to realize that both Europeans and Russians have a certain perspective, and paying respect to each other’s cultures is the key to success” – Maryke adds.
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