When I received a request from the WCNW Chamber of Commerce to give a talk at the International Trade Forum, I was delighted – the suggested topic was about Russia, culture, traditions.
Obviously my talk was from a coaching point of view! Would you say it is a challenge? With everything what is going on in the world – lots of disagreements about the recent Olympics, the sanctions… I wasn’t even going to touch politics! We were going to the core – people with their best intentions.
Since I’ve lived and worked in Russia and the UK for an equal amount of time and both countries are close to my heart, it was quite a demanding task.
Interestingly it was easier to discover how much these two great nations have in common. If I mention the fact that Russian and British Royal families were related once upon a time – the Russian Tsar Nicholas II was George V’s first cousin. Spending holidays together, they were bound to have similar interests and shared values.
Historically, the differences between Russia and the UK have always faded into insignificance during critical moments in European and world history. Our two countries were allies in both World Wars – those facts are never forgotten and cherished by both nations.
What about modern times?
2016 was the UK-Russia Year of Language and Literature, filled with the remarkable film festivals, art exhibitions, and theatre performances. People are fascinated by each other’s cultures and enjoy finding out and understanding more.
In Russia, when we speak about young lovers we call them Romeo and Juliet, if somebody acts with jealousy, he would be labelled Othello.
In the UK if I mention some Russian masterpieces like Anna Karenina, Doctor Zhivago, War and Peace surely, people have solid images in their minds.
We are similar in our joys and trials, perception of love and betrayal.
Another interesting event, which was not covered greatly by media. On 18 October Queen Elizabeth II has received Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia at Buckingham Palace, in her London residence, to discuss the ongoing relations between Russia and UK. “This meeting was productive for the building of relations between our nations as the Church and monarchy are a foundation for the preservation of traditional values, which, unfortunately, are losing importance for many people,” – said Alexander Volkov, the patriarch’s secretary.
Her Majesty the Queen and the Patriarch Kirill met together with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Bishop of London Richard Chartres to discuss values and relations between our nations.
If these prominent figures found time in their busy schedules and appreciate the importance of it, we all can make some effort to understand each other better, cooperate and build strong links in business, sport and cultural spheres.
The image of Russians is quite often surrounded by enigma, their actions are surprising and not predictable at times, there are so many controversial opinions about Russian – from deep love to “totally mad lot”.
My intention was not to resolve the enigma, and rather to point out some Russian values, which vary from being unique to similar to the values of other cultures.
The following five Russian traits will give some insights on the actions and behaviour of a Russian person, and help dealing with Russian counterparts in a more successful way.
This first value is quite a prominent one.
If you ever dealt with Russian people, you probably noticed how patriotic they are. The roots of patriotism are quite deep. If you go back to the Second World War – Russians call it the Great Patriotic War. During this tragic time massive blood battles took place on Russian territories, Russia lost 27 million people. It is not just a number from a book – my generation grew up without grandfathers – nearly all of them died at war.
We all heard stories from grandparents about their lives and suffering during the war, it stayed with all of us – the spirit that we are together in good times and in hardship.
From a coaching point of view, we dissect the “family” into a number of values – love, support, friendship. That is exactly the reason I am putting it here.
A Russian family is quite close, looking after each other generations. You can compare them with Italians – grandmothers are dealing with raising grandchildren, cousins looking after each other.
Home is where your family lives, where your soul can be in peace.
3. Work Ethics.
“Who do you want to be?” – is the topic of the first school essays, considering or dreaming about your future profession. Most boys were planning to conquer space as astronauts; girls had a variety of colourful options. My preferred future activity was tiger taming, it was slightly altered during the following essays.
From an early age, the idea of becoming ‘somebody’ in a professional capacity is given as matter of fact in the Russian way of upbringing and education.
Russian do not have a sense of entitlement. You have to work for your living “The one who does not work, does not eat”.
In the Soviet Union, there was a truancy clause in the law from 1961 until 1991 – people who didn’t work for 4 months would be prosecuted (with certain exceptions). At that period, the country enjoyed full employment.
In a different economic and political situation now, most of the Russians are determined to establish themselves professionally.
4. Sense of Humour.
Surely, having a sense of humour is applicable to any nationality.
Russian sense of humour has a variety of applications – from enjoying a good moment, to pointing out their own misfortunes and drawbacks, and finally working as a survival strategy. “I came to my friend to complain about a problem and we laughed all night”.
This great ability to laugh at ourselves goes quite well with being patriotic and proud.
If nothing else works, at least we have a laugh.
I have to choose this one, especially before Christmas, – it shows the happy Russian spirit.
Russian people like to celebrate and they adore British traditions. The problem is they take it quite literally from Victorian times.
Some parents questioned me about the second breakfast for their children and 5 o’clock tea – thinking it is a normal daily ritual in the UK.
Russian Christmas is on the 7th of January. In the Soviet Union the church was separate from the state. Although the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic officially adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1918, the Russian Orthodox Church continued to use the Julian calendar.
Russian Christmas is celebrated according to the Julian calendar… and wait, there is a New Year too, according to the Julian Calendar. It is called Old New Year and celebrated on the 13th of December.
If you are confused already, you would understand why Russian Santa Claus, Father Frost, is always in the company of his beautiful and bright granddaughter Snegurochka.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
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