It’s all about luxury and polished shoes

Russian culture, Russians and the country itself interest me a lot and partly for that reason I have visited Russia several times: as a tourist, as a gymnast, as a student. My latest visit was in January 2013 when I took part to an intensive exchange program held in Saint Petersburg. Length of this exchange trip was only one week but nevertheless I learned a lot new things about Russia and Russians during that week. That inspired me to write about culture and buying behavior differences.

Our lecturer told us lots of examples about differences between Finns and Russians in business life, in consumption habits, in dressing etc. One of those cases handled luxury watch brand Rolex.

For clarification in Russia watches, mobile phones, cars, dressing, shoes etc. are huge status symbols especially in business life. Of course all the mentioned products are symbols almost in everywhere in Western countries but perhaps not so significantly as in Russia. People spend lots of money and take even bank loans so that they are able get all the things which makes them to look successful and wealthy human beings. It’s not unusual that person who earns about 1500 euro per month takes 5000 euro loan just because (s)he just has to get the newest and the most expensive mobile phone, bike or TV. Cheap, normal or average product would be totally OK in Finland but in Russia it must be the luxurious one. In Finland we are usually given the possibility to pay in parts if we are making expensive purchases. In Russia they have this same possibility but it’s offered not only for expensive but also for inexpensive purchases too. And rates in Russia are much higher than in Finland – 12-13 %. Russians seems not to be afraid of consuming!

Back to Rolex. Its basic idea of getting customers hooked is very simple: If one is willing to buy one expensive watch he or she will be willing to buy another better and more expensive one! Naturally the money can become a problem but in Russia they have solved or reduced the monetary problems by offering compensation. Practically it goes like this: If your very first Rolex has cost 5000 euro you will receive 2000 euro compensation if you wish to buy 7000 euro Rolex. I don’t know for sure but I doubt that this wouldn’t be possible in Finland…

In Russia modesty is not a virtue in contrast to Finland. If Russian has money (s)he is not afraid to show it and it is not considered as a bad thing or boasting as it would be in Finland. On the other hand you are not allowed to show if you don’t have currency, you just need to act like you have! Offering food and drinks and cigarettes is a normal habit in Russia. Whereas in Finland the restaurant check is very usually divided and everyone in the company pays exactly only that amount what (s)he has spent. In Russia this would never happen. Waiters don’t even understand the question “Could we have separate bills?”

Could we learn some nice habits from Russians? How about providing after-work drinks to your friends on next Friday evening? I’m in!


Laurén, Anna-Lena. Hulluja nuo venäläiset. Teos Helsinki, 2008.

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6 Responses to It’s all about luxury and polished shoes

  1. metsapeiju says:

    How very informative summary of russian way of consuming culture! As we’ve seen Russians are willing to use money in total different way like for example us Finns. Question of consuming is quite contradictory comparing to Russian publics enormous problems like infrastructure, healthcare, gaps between social classes etc. but that’s another story.

    What it comes to business relationships and Russian nice habits, I think we Finns are nowadays far too careful because of the accusations of corruption and bribery which is, to my mind, leading far too sterile culture with strict lines. In certain business circumstances development in this direction may cause a lot’s of money. Or what will happen if sauna evenings, ice hockey –games and wine tastings will be denied?

  2. tuijasivula says:

    How interesting blog about differences between us and our neighbours Russians. It remains me that there are many ways to do things, our way is not the only right one. And as I am marketing student this blog makes me think that if we want to sell something in international market the most inportant tihing is to leasrn what is culture like in country we have business with.

  3. raisavarsta says:

    Interesting information in this post! And good comments 🙂
    When it comes to cultural differences we often tend to value them (which one is better and which one worse). However, from the business poit-of-view, it would be more valuable to stay neutral and try to understand the backgrounds, just like you’ve done here. Excellent!

  4. inkeritaurula says:

    A friend of mine took a cruise to Estonia couple of years ago. She wondered around in the cosmetic section of the Tax Free Shop and came across a new mascara. The card board box was golden. The mascara bottle was golden. The brush had a little engine inside to make the brush vibrate. Instead of applying the make-up yourself one could let the brush do it “simulating the hand movement of a professional make-up artist”, as the advertisement said. The price of the product was roughly 50e.

    I commented on the story in a very Finnish way: “Come on, no one buys that! No one pays for extra 20-30e for a stupid vibrating engine, no matter how high-brand mascara. Or fake golden surface.” “Think again”, said my friend. “The product is not launched for Finnish markets. Oh, no. It’s for the Russian women. They love and are willing to pay for glamor, glitter, high-class and new innovations. It doesn’t matter if the newest new makes sense, saves the rainforests or is somewhat over-priced. If having it adds the image of wealth and success, one will get it.”

    Ever since this conversation with my friend I have reset my brain to a different wavelength when it comes to Marketing & the Russian.


  5. eevateinila says:

    That was interesting blog. And I agree with Raisa. We don’t value cultural differences. It is crazy that Russians are using money to these luxury items, but then they don’t have money to buy food for they families.
    We can learn nice habits from different cultures, but only if we leave our stereotypes at home.

  6. Kevin says:

    Nice site, I think you like this latest post on Tourist Exchange Rates

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