The topic was quick to come up on the agenda of our conversation with the Vice Director of the Department of Foreign Affairs of The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation in Moscow: are we Russian so dangerous? Is there a bear lurking at every street corner? It is obviously not a question of danger and bears are very few in Moscow. My simple answer was that, rather than fear, it is more a matter of shyness which results from the ignorance of the customs, culture, language, and history of this enormous country, or better said, continent.
But I already see the next question coming: how do I, Mr. Nobody on his second day in Moskow, get the honor to speak with such a high-level lady? My answer will sound simple: if you slowly but surely build the correct contacts, it can then go very fast. Then, trust is speed. My friend Vladimir Iwanowitsch has not only the right contacts, he is also wholeheartedly honest and I can trust him completely.
Right upon my return to the hotel that evening things start to happen, first with a phone call from the Chamber of Commerce: a Russian Bank and a company for renewable energy would like an appointment with me the following day. This shows clearly that the Russians’ ignorance concerning Europe, the lack of language and management skills, without even mentioning the cultural differences, are at least as big as ours concerning Russia.
In Russia, just like any other former Eastern bloc country, the differences between the big cities – St. Petersburg, Moscow and Novosibirsk – and the immense rest of the large country are brutal. The gradual transition from communism to a free-market economy represents another fierce challenge. So, if the Russians still do not think a lot of brands and marketing, it is simply because in many respects, the demand is still greater than the supply.
In spite of or rather just because of that, I consider respect for the host country the best solution for business. After all, we want to be respected as well. The usual glass of Vodka, a steady part of the Russian life, is another piece of the mix. That is why one should really not exaggerate.