Meetings with or without vodka

How much vodka you should drink to start business in Russia?

Vodka was a part of “business” culture in ‘90s, when European businessman was almost obliged to consume alcohol before signing a contract. This was not (only) for the nice pastime, but it had a strong social context: a sign of hospitality and invitation to more open, friendly communication.


Vodka and business in 2020

Time changes and the manners evaluate.

Sometimes Russian business-partner still can offer you water, coffee and short drank during the meeting. It happen mostly by the companies with local business, and never by internationally oriented companies.

Generally vodka isn’t a symbol of successful negotiation anymore. Your explanation and polite refusal will be respected.

How to negotiate without drinking vodka

Nevertheless the social aspect if this tradition remains strong: trust, personal sympathy and easiness of your negotiation go before the deal.

So, stay open during your negotiation, show yourself as positive and helpful partner, try to be a real sincere person. You can tell the examples from your private life, catching stories with your other customers, difficulties of your company which brought to the great success.

Russian customer needs to see real person with strong company behind, but not company with a person behind.

A couple of rules if you consume vodka

  • Don’t consume same volume of alcohol as your Russian partners. You were trained on parties to drink beer and wine, not with vodka. They say that small dose of nicotine can kill the horse, not a man: so, affordable dose of vodka for Russian can kill European.
  • Strange, that Europeans measure Vodka in liters, Russians measure it in grams.
  • Always eat a lot fatty food. It you deal with vodka – no time for diet.
  • Be sincere when you raise a glass and say the toast. To say “For your health” of “For partnership” sounds  too impersonal.  By wishing something, tell your story: about your impression by the first meeting of the customer, or about great characteristics of Russian mentality…
  • Know your limits, think of your reputation and business meetings tomorrow.
  • If you are woman, or your are dealing with woman: it’s not appropriate to order a strong drank.