Living in Russia can be tough for foreigners. Adapting to all of these hundreds-year-old customs and traditions can be a great shock to many. However, learning and practising them can help you integrate yourself into the community easier and help you get by as you’re starting your life in Russia.

The Russian culture has its own set of unique customs and traditions, a set where it may seem unfamiliar to many of us. But that is what makes it unique!


Russians value relationships with an authoritarian mentality. Therefore, relationships are shaped through respect across generations.  With that being said, they aren’t usually the type to be direct in conversations. As to not offend any parties, indirectness often aligns with a culture that values relationships, just like the Russians. 

When starting your life in Russia, these values must be kept in mind in order for you to carry on conversations, build relationships, and adapt well to the culture.


If you’re planning on meeting new people and maybe sharpening your Russian communication skills, mingling with locals is the best way to go. In Russia, there are many cultural or art events or gatherings that you can attend. Take this opportunity to also learn about the culture itself. Find what sort of gathering suits your comfort zone the most. By doing so, you will also get to attract locals to come and start a conversation with you first. Russians are generally nice and friendly people so don’t be afraid to say the first privyet! (hi!).

So what should you do when meeting new people? Give them a firm handshake and don’t lose eye contact. Looking somewhere else when talking with them would give you a bad first impression and we don’t want that, do we? Men usually try not to initiate the first handshake or hug with women; therefore, wait for them to reach out first. But don’t shake hands over a threshold. There’s a strong belief in Russian culture that doing so can lead to arguments.

Even if you don’t speak an ounce of Russian, you would get by just fine with speaking English, though you won’t get far. Although they do learn English at schools, the majority of them don’t exactly speak the language. Therefore, you should learn the language before living in the country; which is why we recommend a 1-year preparatory Russian language course before starting your education journey in Russia. The more you try your best to speak the language, the more appreciative your new friends will get. 

Tips: When meeting with someone older than you (or with a higher status), you have to once again remember how Russians have authoritarian thinking. Therefore, you should always address their names and speak in a formal manner; otherwise, you may come off as rude.


After staying in Russia for a good few weeks, naturally, you would have already made close friends, close enough that you are now invited to their homes! A step closer to understanding Russian culture.

It is common sense to visit a household on time, especially when they’re hosting you lunch/dinner. When you arrive, you might see that the host has not yet finished setting up the table. According to Russia Beyond , one of the unspoken rules when it comes to dining is to not help your host. While you do have good intentions, your host might not be too comfortable with the idea. You are their guest, therefore giving you their utmost hospitality is their job. Don’t feel too bad about not helping out, you can bring a thank you gift instead. Bringing flowers is always the safe option (make sure it comes in odd numbers), but a better one would be to bring a souvenir from your home country. This way, you will get to share your life at home with your new friends. Once the food has arrived on the table, don’t eat just yet! Wait for the host to start so you can all enjoy your meal together. 

If you are ever invited to dine at a Russian household, be sure not to have any plans afterwards. Russians usually take their time enjoying a meal as they look at it as an opportunity to bond. Meal after meal will be offered and put on the table, eventually looking like non-stop eating, which is quite normal in the culture. Therefore, leaving early to attend to other plans might end the dinner on a sour note. 

Last but not least, enjoy your meal and enjoy the company! This is the perfect chance for you to strengthen your relationships. You might only be staying in the country for a few years so enjoy the tasty authentic delicacies while you still can.


Most Russians are extremely superstitious. If you wish to get to know the culture better, then practising these superstitions might be good for you. So here are a few famous superstitions in Russia.

  1. Do not greet someone on the threshold. Russians believe that doing so can bring bad luck. Therefore, wait until the guest comes inside or for the host to go outside to greet one another.
  2. Do not put your empty alcohol bottles on the table; put them on the floor instead. Putting your bottles on the table is also thought to bring bad luck. This superstition (and is now a tradition) started back in the days when it was common to be charged based on how many bottles were on the table. To pay less, the Russians would put the bottles on the floor instead and this habit is practised until today!
  3. No empty wallet or whistling. There are a few superstitions in the Russian culture that involves money. Gifting someone an empty wallet is a no-no. An empty wallet is a sign of money trouble; so you should at least put in a coin to be safe. Whistling indoors is also a definite no as it is believed that you are “blowing away all the money”.
  4. Going back home to retrieve something after leaving is considered bad luck. It is believed that your journey won’t go smoothly. Therefore, either leave the thing behind or remember to look at yourself in the mirror before leaving again.
  5. Before leaving for a journey, the whole family (or group) should sit down for a while. This is a good opportunity for you to do a self-reflection or check your list of things to bring.
  6. Russians are afraid of jinxing. When they speak about something good they are expecting to happen, they would knock on wood three times to avoid the jinx. If there’s no wood around for them to knock on, they would use their heads as alternatives. Unexpected, right? This practice is believed to be able to block negative energy.