Only in Russia – Pride

The Russia Only articles are a series of short stories about Jeroen's experiences of living and working in Russia over the past 25 years.

Caution when talking about Russia’s shortcomings

According to good Russian tradition you may find yourself at a certain point in time sitting around a kitchen table, with your Russian friends, discussing all that is right and wrong in this country.

After a good meal and the customary glass of vodka you may hear a certain discontent being expressed by your Russian friends, ‘why is there such a bureaucracy in this country?’; ‘why can’t we fix our roads?’ and why don’t the rich do more for their country?’. It is only natural in such a discussion to add some views of your own and contribute some criticism you have to add about Russia. But the moment you do this, do not be surprised if silence descends over the kitchen table and your Russian friends turn to you in indignation. It is like a husband complaining about his wife to his neighbor. He can tell his neighbor all about her shortcomings, but the moment his neighbor agrees and adds some more shortcomings on his own initiative, an invisible line is crossed and an insult is inflicted. With Russians and Russia, it is the same. They can complain about all they think is wrong in Russia, but as soon as a foreigner attempts to chime in, the Russian pride gets hurt.

Show not tell

No matter what a Russian says about Russia, he always has a very strong sense of pride when it concerns the Russian people, soul or soil. You always need to be aware of the Russian pride, especially, when telling a Russian that you – or “we in the West” – know how to do something better. Apart from the fact that this is not always true, you are guaranteed that Russia’s doors will remain closed to you by doing so. If you want to convince a Russian colleague or business partner about a better technology or method, or way to do something, it is best to expose him to this method or technology and to let him come to a conclusion on his own. And if ever in doubt, just remember that with respect, you can never go wrong and that all that Russia requires from the outside world is to be taken seriously.

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