I was listening to one of our titles recently – 'The Lowdown: Business Etiquette – Russia’ – and it got me thinking how I wish I’d had access to this title when I was last in Russia in the 1990s.
I was in a film, which entailed flying back and forth between Moscow and London. Even in those pre-9/11 days there was a lot of bureaucracy getting in and out of the country – but one Moscow to London sector is especially memorable.
The production company had let me fly back to London for 48 hours to audition for a television series, and I was travelling with two members of the crew - one was taking the film rushes, and one was going to his father’s funeral.
A bit of advice if you’re trying to get out of Russia:
Don’t try to get out of Russia accompanied by a grieving, weeping, very drunk chippie who has the contents of the hotel mini-bar clinking in his pockets.
Nor should you attempt to leave in the company of a gorgeous, soft-spoken, five foot tall, 98 pound, blonde techie - whose passport says she was born a man.
The airport guards confiscated the film rushes and our passports, and after much discussion (not with us) and many curious looks at the little blonde, they announced that we couldn’t leave. My drunk friend was busy trying to light the filter end of a cigarette, so he didn’t really notice – but Blondie came into her own. Without raising her voice or making any attempt to speak Russian, she told them not to be ridiculous, the rushes were for an internationally significant film, and we were getting on that plane come hell or high water. I looked at the set of her tiny little jaw and the steel in her baby blue eyes, and I looked at the big airport bruisers with their Kalashnikovs ... and was astonished when - after a bit of a standoff, and at the very last minute - we were allowed to board the plane and leave.
Years later, when we published our title about doing business in Russia, I read, “If it’s important to success, then be absolutely firm – but explain your reasons. Don’t ever be weak or ‘wishy-washy.’ Russians will take it as weakness and exploit the advantage.”
My blonde companion instinctively seemed to know this, and for that I am grateful. We made the trip (with my grieving friend sleeping in my lap). I got to the audition on time – and arrived with a great story to tell. (To this day, I’m convinced that’s why I got the job!).
I don’t know what Russia is like now – the authors of “Business Etiquette Russia” tell me it’s quite different from how it was in the 90s - but it was so exciting then, and I missed it when I left. It’s an amazing country, and Moscow is a compelling city. I’d love to go again and see what changes there have been.
If you’re lucky enough to be planning a trip there - Udachi v Rossii – which I am assured means ‘Best of luck in Russia!’ - LK
We’d love to know: Have you ever done business in Russia? How did you find it?
Photo courtesy of neiljs