1. Do Not Joke About Parents
Russians are not politically correct, so you are free to tell anecdotes based on gender and ethnic stereotypes. But never make jokes about someone’s mothers or fathers – they will not understand you.
2. The Russian Saying, “To Give Away One’s Last Shirt”
It means “to give something, regardless of what it will cost you”. Russian hosts offer guests everything they want as a sign of courtesy. Such desires may not be limited to eating or spending the night; if you say, “Oh, I like this…” enough times, then Russians can offer you the object you are referencing. It can be a picture on a wall, a vase, or a sweater, etc.
However, if they offer to you something, you don’t have to take it. Just remember, Russians do not offer things because they want to get rid of them – they offer them in order to make you feel good. Refuse at least couple times, as the hosts will insist. Accept a gift only if you want this particular thing, but then repay good-for-good, giving the owners something nice in return.
3. Do Not Show Up Empty-Handed
If you are invited to dinner or any other social gathering, do not visit the host’s home without bringing a token of appreciation. The item you bring does not have to be extravagant: a box of chocolates, flowers, or a small toy for their child would suffice. Russians are good hosts and they are preparing for guests, creating their best meals, and buying delicacies, which they wouldn’t usually buy for themselves. If you come empty-handed, Russians would feel as if you don’t care about their preparations and efforts. In simple words, “it will show your disrespect to the hosts”. This can be changed dramatically if you’ve known these people for quite a long time and you visit them often. In this case, to come with “empty hands” wouldn’t be considered bad etiquette.
4. Don’t Make Your Woman Pay the Bill, or Even Part of the Bill
In this case, Russians are fundamentally different from Western Europeans. If you invite a young lady on a date, do not expect that she will pay for herself – neither in the restaurant, nor in any other place. Of course, you can suggest she pays for herself, but then you won’t have much of a chance to see her again. She may not even have any money with her. A Russian woman will take money for a date with a man only if she was invited by a maniac and she will have to run through the back door.
Please avoid doing the things mentioned above and you won’t have such misunderstandings with the Russians you are trying to have nice relationships with.
5. Do Not Dress Too Simply
Russians dress up more often than Americans. Russian women usually wear high-heeled shoes and fashionable dresses even for a simple walk. Feminists will say that they do this because they are oppressed, meanwhile, Russian women explain it this way: “We only live once, and we want to look and feel as good as possible.”
In some cases, it turns out that all foreigners, regardless of gender, are the most modestly-dressed people in the room. Usually this happens at table meetings or the theater. Going to a restaurant is also considered an event, where you shouldn’t come in jeans and a t-shirt, no matter how informal the institution seems to you. Our suggestion is to ask about the dress code before you go somewhere.