Whilst nobody expects a visitor to be aware of the finer details of every single culture, there are some cultural faux pas in Russia that can easily be avoided. Some slips are a source of amusement, but others can be very embarrassing and offensive for a Russian.
Before taking your trip, have a look at the following tips to avoid a cultural faux pas in Russia and don’t make some of the worst tourist mistakes:
Don’t Burp in Public
Burping is seen as being very ill-mannered. Passing wind is equally as offensive to Russians. Even if it is perfectly normal and acceptable at home, don’t pass wind from either end whilst in company in Russia! It is seen as crass and impolite. We’re all human, however – if you do have an accident, do not acknowledge the fact. This includes apologising or trying to ease tension by making a joke of the matter. Just ignore it. The people around you will have noticed, but they will politely, and usually somewhat awkwardly, ignore it. If you draw attention to your error you will offend people more.
Don’t Assume That Everyone Can Speak English
If you are stuck and need some help with communications, look for a younger person. Most youngsters learn English at school, so should be able to assist. Take a translator or phrase book though as a backup option, as you will certainly meet many people with whom you cannot communicate with, and you could find yourself in a tricky spot if you are not prepared.
Don’t Assume That Everyone is Ethnic Russian
Russia is such a vast country, and it is home to numerous different ethnic groups. Assuming that everyone is the same can cause a lot of offence.
Do Remove Your Shoes in a Home
Russian homes often have plush carpets and rugs, and it is customary for people to remove their shoes before going inside. Many Russians carry a spare pair of house shoes with them when visiting another person and change their shoes at the door. Some people have slippers to give guests to wear. It is completely acceptable to go barefoot or wearing just your socks inside someone’s house – this is much better than wearing your dirty outdoor footwear indoors.
Do Dress Up
Both male and female Russians are known for being smart and stylish dressers. They may appear to be somewhat overdressed, but this is the way it is done in Russia. Russians wear nice clothes to go to parties, the theatre, bars, parties, and restaurants … indeed, Russians will be well turned out for almost every social occasion. Foreigners are often conspicuous because of their casual attire. To blend in and prevent your own embarrassment, pack some of your better clothes when visiting Russia.
Do Give Your Seat Up
On public transport you are expected to offer your seat to elderly people and pregnant woman. Whilst this is polite conduct in many societies, it is an entrenched part of the Russian way of life.