Social Etiquettes to Know While Travelling to Russia

Russian culture has a long and rich history, seeped in literature, ballet, painting and classical music. With a golden history of culture to share along with a troubled past, there are few things that Russians get offended on when they are practiced. So while you make a trip to this traditionally colored country, there are few things you should definitely not follow:

1. Not to Take out your shoes when you visit somebody’s home

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When entering a Russian home, offer to take off your shoes. In most cases your host will provide you with slippers (called 'tapochki' in Russian). 

2. To Under dress

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Russians are known for their impeccable dress sense and style. Tourists are often criticised, mostly behind their backs, for being too under-dressed. Russians dress up for theatre trips, dinner in a restaurant, nights out, parties, and similar occasions. Your dress says a lot about you, if you dress slovenly you will be thought of as being slovenly.

3. Overlooking the elderly on public transportation

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On public transportation, younger men and women should give up their seat to mothers with small children, pregnant women and elderly people. Certain seats may be marked for the use of these categories of people anyhow.

4. To burp in public

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Although perfectly natural, expressing bodily functions in a public place is very impolite in Russia a definite no-no in Russian society. While passing wind is impolite in most cultures, burping and belching is often tolerated. This is certainly not the case in Russia, and you will be seen as being very impolite if you do so. 

5. Not toasting while drinking

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Be prepared to give toasts at dinners and presentations. Do not say, 'Na Zdoroviye' ('To your health' - this is actually a toast only in Poland) - the correct form is 'Vashe Zdoroviye'('Your health'). Russian toasts can be very long and elaborate. For birthdays, weddings and other important events, friends and colleagues often write poems for the person they wish to congratulate. You don't have to do that of course, but it helps to be prepared to at least say a few sentences.

6. Not to Keep Your Cup Half-Full if You’re Not Ready for More Alcohol

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If you’re not a big drinker, be careful with how much they offer to drink. If they see an empty cup, they will automatically refill it to be polite. However, if you feel that you’re reaching your limit, keep your cup half full.

7. To let women carry heavy luggage

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In Russia, distinct gender roles still exist. Men are expected to act chivalrously offering a hand to woman getting off of a bus, opening car doors, assisting with heavy lifting. But it has nothing to do with a lack of feminism in the country. Their women are strong, but most Russian men just believe that lending a hand is a simple act of politeness.

8. To visit somebody empty handed

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When visiting someone’s home in Russia, it’s important not to show up empty-handed. The host has likely prepared a sumptuous meal and spent money to keep you comfortable at their home. As such, it’s polite to bring the host a gift. You don’t have to bring a gift for everyone, just the hosts. If the host is a woman, flowers, chocolate, or wine is much appreciated. If the host is a man, bring some beer if he drinks or ask beforehand what he would like you to add to the party. 

9. Shaking Your Hands Over a Threshold

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When meeting someone at the front door, never shake hands over a threshold. Wait until inside to do so.

10. To Lick The Food Off of a Knife

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Apparently it is unacceptable to lick any food or 'remainders' off of a trusty utensil. It’s considered rude and a sign of cruelty.

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11. Going Dutch

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When dining out, the host is expected to pay the entire bill, as going 'Dutch' is considered rude. Also, the tradition of a man covering all expenses when with a female is definitely still upheld in Russia.

12. To Crack a Joke about One’s Family

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Many jokes you’ll hear in Russia will not be considered politically correct as gender, race, religion and politics-based laughs are not off limits. However, never make fun of someone else’s family member as this is seen as very disrespectful and insulting.

13. To show the soles of your feet

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Definitely an act of impoliteness in Russia! Showing your soles of shoes is an insult to Russians.

14. To argue with Babushki

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The Russian babushki, or grandmothers, are not to be meddled with. Though they are among the weakest members of society financially, they command a lot of respect and power. No matter what they tell you to do, just smile, nod, and do it their way. There’s absolutely no point in arguing with them. You will not win.

So which of these beliefs do you think are superstitious? Let us know.

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A lover of literature, Neha wants to understand world through the prism of books. Nuances of words, spoken or written, entice her to delve into the human psyche ...