(Thom Wheeler)
List Words : My life as an Expat | 13 September

8 top tips for working in Russia

Author Thom Wheeler drove across Russia in a rusty old VW camper van in search of employment. Here he gives travellers tips on how to work in the former Soviet Union

1. Useful tools

Working in Russia can often be a contradiction in terms. Naturally each situation is going to be unique, however on the whole be prepared to leave all dynamism at home and adopt a more laissez faire (cynical) approach to productivity. A well practised 'tut' 'groan' and 'hurumph' are useful tools. Its worth keeping at the back of your mind the old soviet proverb 'initiative will be punished.'

2. Public transport

Commuting in Russia on all modes of public transport, makes travelling to work on the tube in London feel like being caught up in a carnival procession. Thus leave home suitably equipped – taking a selection of Haiwiian leis is not a bad idea, in order to distribute some happiness amongst your fellow commuters.

Alternatively drive or perhaps consider a car share option.

3. Forget the thermals

Central heating in the Russian workplace (Russian buildings generally) is very effective if your comfortable working in 35 degrees celsius all year round. So, certainly in the Winter months, on arriving at work be prepared to ditch the thermals for more suitable attire... Perhaps shorts and flip flops.

4. Don't overdo it

Smile at Russian colleagues sparingly, otherwise they will think you know something they don't... Which they wont like.

5. Don't get too drunk

Be prepared to think nothing of consuming alcohol with colleagues after work, often before work and sometimes even during work! However approach with some caution, as this particular variant on team building is always risky for your long term prospects.

6. Have your cake... And eat it

A healthy fondness for cake is always going to be useful. The most elaborately crafted, artery blocking creations are likely to appear at any moment and for any reason during the working day.

7. A smoker's paradise

Being a smoker in the Russian workplace does not give you membership of an exclusive club, with access-all-areas to the grapevine, and the secrets therein... Everyone smokes.

8. Finally, don't expect to be paid on time...

Or safer still don't expect to be paid. However for those who enter into employment in Russia with a more philosophical outlook... the rewards are endless!

Thom Wheeler travelled the length and breadth of Russia in a rusty old VW camper in search of work. His book One Steppe Beyond, tells the tales he encountered on his way: corrupt officials, over-friendly gangsters and the longest commute ever, are just to name a few. Check out his book here on Amazon.

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