The hand shake is an almost universal greeting, but here in Russia there are some very specific points of etiquette surrounding the good old handshake that may confuse foreigners. Here in this article I will give a brief overview of Russian hand shaking etiquette.
1. Shake hands with men and women you meet for the first time. In many cultures, there is a separate form of greeting for men and women, but in Russia, a firm handshake is good for both genders. Some men from an older generation may kiss a woman’s hand instead, but this is increasingly uncommon.
2. Men greet each other with a handshake. This applies no matter how well you know the person or how often you meet with them. This often seems overly formal for foreigners who generally reserve the handshakes for first meetings and formal occasions.
3. Female acquaintances are greeted with a polite nod of the head – no need for more handshakes after you meet them for the first time! However, a more Mediterranean style of greeting – a kiss on the cheek – is becoming more popular among younger generations.
4. During cold weather, you should remove your glove before shaking hands with anyone.
5. Often (but not always), men also shake hands as a way of closing the meeting or conversation. As you can see, there is a lot of hand shaking in Russia!
Other than these general rules which are slightly different to western handshake etiquette, the same rules for giving a firm (but not too firm) handshake apply in Russia. No one likes a limp, weak, handshake.
There you have it, a simple, no nonsense guide to Russian hand shaking etiquette. Even if you are visiting Russia for pleasure rather than business, knowing a little bit about the local customs can really make your a stay a little bit more enjoyable.
If you know of any other interesting points of etiquette about shaking hands in Russia, please leave a comment below. It would be great to add any additional information to the points above!