How To Say Hello In Russian | Correct Pronunciation

One of the first words you will want to learn when starting to learn Russian, or before traveling to Russia is how to say “Hello” in Russian.

This post will teach you how to say “Hello” in Russian, and also teach you some other common Russian greetings, and also provide guidance on the cultural nuance surrounding each word.

How To Say Hello In Russian

The Russian word for Hello is “Здравствуйте”. It is pronounced “zdravstvuyte“. Now this might seem intimidating at first (four consonants in a row!?!), but please give me a chance to teach, and give yourself a chance to learn!

It is important to learn this form of the word “hello” in Russian if you will be in any kind of formal contact with any Russians. But we’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s listen to how to pronounce “Hello” in Russian:

It is too bad that the Russian language can be discouraging at “hello”. But I guarantee that if you have fun with this tongue-twisting greeting on repeat, you will most certainly delight and impress the Russian-speaking people that you meet. This might sound strange, but you need to practice so that you can begin to “feel the sound in your mouth”. And you will be encouraged that even if you don’t pronounce exactly right, they will still be impressed at your effort, and over time you can drop a Russian “Hello” like the Russian mafia boss that you are.

One common mistake that I hear particularly with English speakers when they first start pronouncing the word Hello in Russian is actually the final syllable. It is “Tye”, and it is one syllable (not “tee-ye”, just “tye”). For some reason, when I first learned this word I would say something like “Zdrastvuche”. And I started noticing that this was a common mistake. Now again, your Russian-speaking friends will be very kind to you about this, but make a particular effort to enunciate the “T” at the end and not switch it out with a a “ch” sound.

FUN FACT: The Russian word for “Hello”, “Здравствуйте”, literally means “Be healthy!”. Now, of course, on most days Russians aren’t thinking about this deep meaning when they’re greeting each other. But sometimes your Russian friend might say “Hello” to you a bit more slowly with meaning in their eyes, and you can tell they aren’t just saying “hi”, they are wishing you health and that’s a very special moment for sure.

This brings us to…

How To Say “Hi” In Russian

I was sincerely shocked today when I googled “How to say hello in Russian” and received this result:

Google Translate is normally quite good, but I consider this to be a glaring error. The Russian words for “hi” and “hello” are very much dependent on the situation.

The Russian word for “Hi” is “Привет”. This word is pronounced “Pree-vyet” and is two syllables. This is, of course, considerably more simple than the Russian word for “Hello”, but before we work on the nuance of the pronunciation of the Russian word for “Hi”, allow me to provide some warning.

WARNING: Only say “Hi” in Russian if you are greeting a close friend, someone considerably younger than you, or if you are of a more youthful age, you can use this greeting when meeting someone who is your age.

I have seen foreigners walk into business meetings in Russia. They had found “Zdra-stvu-tye” to be too challenging, so they just went with “Pree-vyet” when greeting their new Russian counterparts. They were immediately and permanently banished to Siberia as a result. Kidding, of course, the Russians are always kind in these situations, BUT the foreigners started the meeting by demonstrating an ignorance to Russian cultural code. Which perhaps is not the best kickoff into the Motherland.

The two best ways to show that you are new to Russia are: 1) Wearing a hat like this. 2) Using the wrong form of greeting.

The most common mistake I hear (and again the same mistake I made early on) in saying “Hi” in Russian is turning it into three syllables. What I often hear is “Pree-vee-yet”. That is incorrect. Instead, work on making it two syllables: “Pree-vyet”. Again, repetition will help you “feel” it better as you speak.

Here’s an interesting tutorial on the pronunciation of the Russian “Hi”:

What If You’re Not Sure Which Greeting To Use?

Being unsure of what Russian greeting to use can be a somewhat amusing cultural dilemma, that quite frankly, I still run into from time to time even after living here for 23 years!

So, what do I do?

In situations where I am unsure which Russian greeting to us, I go with:

Good Morning: Dobroe Utro / Доброе утро

Here is the pronunciation:

Good Day: Dobriy Den’ / Добрый день

Listen to the pronunciation:

Good Evening: Dobriy Vecher / Добрый вечер

Pronunciation of “Good Evening” in Russian:

A FEW MORE RUSSIAN GREETING TIPS:

  1. It is important to use good morning strictly until noon, or else you might get a friendly lecture on getting out of bed earlier.
  2. Alternatively, if you start using “Good day” at about 11 a.m., you will be quietly respected for being such an early bird. I don’t understand this, particularly in a nation that starts work quite a bit later than where I grew up in Ohio, but there it is.
  3. Only greet a Russian ONCE per day! If you greet them twice they might give you an abrupt “мы уже сегодня здоровались”. This literally means “we have already greeted each other today”, with the subplot being “did you forget me already?”.

I hope this is helpful and takes away some of the complications of a Russian greeting. I do believe it is important to work on this, because wherever you are in the world, the first impression is a lasting impression. And if you demonstrate a sincere effort to greet your Russian-speaking comrade in their native language, you will have won them over from the get-go.

Now that you’ve learned how to say “Hello” in Russian, take a few minutes to learn how to shake hands in Russia.

Business in Russia | How to have a successful ‘first date’ with your Russian partner

Russians will often want a very quick and frank discussion so that they can understand whether the business relationship is worth their time, shares Andy Frecka, an experienced business negotiator living in Russia.

As an American who has now called Russia home for 19 years, I love negotiating on behalf of Russian businesses with their Western counterparts.

 

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Lately, I’ve taken special notice of the question “Do they have money?” often within 15 minutes of the beginning of the meeting. This question can take different forms such as “Are they ready to sign?” or “Do they understand why we are meeting?” but the point is the same, the Russian businessperson will want to quickly understand whether their Western counterpart is worth their time.

I may not know much, but I am well aware that it’s not usually a good idea to ask a girl to marry you on the first date. With that, I often find myself encouraging my Russian friends to not rush things, but to simply enjoy the process.

Unfortunately, it is often a misunderstanding early on a first date that can spell the end of what could be a fantastic romantic relationship, and the same is true in business.

Based on the first date question “Do they have money?” here’s a pair of paradoxes I have learned while working for Russian businesses:

1. Russians aren’t famous for punctuality, but once the meeting starts, they will want to move forward quickly

Russians will often want a very quick and frank discussion so that they can understand whether the business relationship is worth their time. Americans, on the other hand, will usually show up to the meeting on time, but will want to create a trust building process that will seem bafflingly lengthy to the Russians. The problem is that the Russians will understand this process to be a signal of disinterest by the Western partners.

2. Russians are well known for bureaucracy, but are more spontaneous than their Western counterparts

Relating to the previous point, if they understood that the Westerner is not interested in partnership, they will often simply begin looking for other partners, without completing the process. With all that Russia has to offer the world, I think this is incredibly unfortunate. This is why I am spending more and more time working with Russians in better understanding how to relate to Westerners.

So, what can you do if the timing between you and your Russian counterpart is out of sync?  Before judging and walking away after just the first date, consider the following.

Both the Western and Russian points of view are incredibly pragmatic… in their own way

You want transparency, the Russian wants to get to work and make sure they will get paid. Fortunately, these two points do not conflict with each other.

Russians value authority over transparency

You will put them at ease if you start the meeting showing what you are capable of, rather than using “small talk” to get a feel of who they are. “Small talk” can always come later, but it is often confusing to Russians if it is used towards the beginning of the talks. (Alternatively, I teach Russians to relax and enjoy the small talk at the beginning of meetings, if that is the way the Westerner wants to start.)

Explain your company’s process by using stories

I was recently working for a Russian company which was in partnership talks with an American company. The American who had come for the talks did a fantastic job of explaining how his company had worked out a similar arrangement already with a company in China. This gave us an idea of how they viewed the process of partnership formation, showed us that it was already working, and also gave us a good understanding of the length of the process.

Stay engaged with your Russian counterpart as your company goes through its process

If you keep silent, the Russians might understand you are not interested, and look elsewhere for potential partners, and you might lose a fantastic deal.

Russia has much to offer the world, of course, in natural resources, manufacturing, and technology. I have also been intrigued as of late, in how much Russia has to offer in educational systems, the arts, and mind-blowing tourism destinations.

So, don’t miss out on what could be years of mutually beneficial relationship for your business, simply because of a small misunderstanding on your first date.

Andy Frecka was born and raised in the great state of Ohio in the USA, but for the past 19 years is proud to call Russia his home. He is the founder and marketing director of Expat Flat, a Moscow real estate agency, and in recent years has enjoyed working in negotiations between various Russian and Western businesses. Andy also runs the Russian language blog “Amerikanets,”speaks frequently on foreign business relations, and is the author of Matryoshka: Как вести бизнес с иностранцами (How to do business with foreigners).

 

This post originally appeared in Russia Beyond.  You can check it out here.

What Will Studying in Russia Teach You?

5 not-so-obvious reasons to go to the largest country in the world to study, and stay a while longer

They come to Russia to study, for reasons of nostalgia, to stay with their relatives, or in search of good education at a reasonable price. However, prospective students don’t usually anticipate that they will earn their diploma while enjoying the fantastic experience of living in a country of “hot” winters, deep friendships, wise grandmothers, and a luxurious metro system.

 

Winter is always coming…

…but there is no reason to despair. Actually, Russians would love winter, were it not so long. In November or December, when the first snow falls, it’s as if you become a character in a grand holiday show – everyone around you cheers up at the autumn mud giving way to beautiful white powder, and the New Year – one of the main and most joyous Russian holidays – is just around the corner. Ornaments, decorations and bright lights begin to transform the streets almost a month before New Year’s Eve, and the holiday celebration itself lasts a whole week as the entire country changes its focus to gathering often with family and friends.

In contrast to Europe, central heating keeps Russian homes toasty. You might find a visit to your grandmother’s place feels like spending time in a sauna, with an open window being the only thing saving the old lady from a heat stroke, despite the -20 degree temperature outside.

The outdoors also offers plenty of winter entertainment, such as skiing, skating or sledding. Many Russian towns, in particular those known as the Golden Ring, turn incredibly beautiful in winter. And no less glorious are the snow-covered Russian forests. When you have some free time – such as the long New Year holiday – travel to frozen Lake Baikal and have a stroll – or better yet a slide – on an endless icy plane. Wow!

Find your people

It’s hard to believe when coming to study in Russia that such a chilling – ugh! – climate can be home to such warm and heartfelt  people. Curiously enough, this is exactly the case. Rest assured, no one will smile at you in the street for no reason. A walk outside, especially if taken in gloomy November, might make you think the people around you suffer from acute clinical depression. Enter into a store to buy a bottle of water or a soda, and a clerk will look at you as if you are an archenemy and your mere presence is a disturbance. But this icy outer crust of grumpiness thaws quickly, as soon as you buddy up with some Russians (drinking together is not necessary, however if your goal is a global warming of relationship, then a drinking glass will speed up the thaw time).

Foreigners often believe Russians do not like other people. Nonsense! They are just not used to showing affection to everyone who crosses their path. For a Russian, the world is divided into “us” and “them”, but not on the basis of nationality, rather on the basis of acquaintance. As soon as you take a leap of faith into the “us” category, the Russian mentality will open up its warm and incredibly friendly interior to you. You can expect warm welcomes, a seat at abundant and elaborate dinner tables, discussions that last until the early morning and heartfelt sharing of personal experiences. In Russia, a good host is one who welcomes a guest with homemade food and comfort. You would be hard pressed to find more sincere and cordial friends anywhere else in the world.

Having a chat with Russian grandmothers will boost your wisdom for many years to come – after all, they are savvy both in cooking borsch and economic recovery. Plus, you can always go to them for the latest gossip about popular culture.

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Feast Forever

Like the culture, the local cuisine has been shaped by cold winters. Food should warm you up! Russians are fond of meat and all sorts of pickled products (remember that episode of “Rick and Morty” when Rick turned himself into a pickle and had the Russian mafia call him Pickle Rick? There you go). Pickled cucumbers, tomatoes, garlic and pepper, soaked apples and pears, are all stored for the winter. A housewife raised in the USSR will store a variety of fruits and vegetables in glass jars on her balcony, ready to serve them when the time comes to share food over true stories and heated arguments about global affairs.

Sliced bread with butter and caviar, or jellied meat, is a popular treat. Buckwheat, an exotic cereal in many countries, is consumed on a daily basis. Russians love mushrooming and making dried-fruit drinks – all of the above characteristic of life in a Russian “Dacha,” or country house. In fact, the country houses of the residents of Moscow and Saint Petersburg are their own worlds to escape to during the summer. You have a good chance of being taken along, too. Quite often, Russians grow their own fruits and vegetables there and, even when the harvest is slim, they would be proud to give you a cucumber grown with their own hands, hoping you will truly enjoy it.

The country of peoples

Good news: racism is practically unheard of in Russia. A Russian might become irritated if you intrude on their personal space or act obtrusively, but any foreigner who respects the hosts and local lifestyle will receive more than their fair share of hospitality.

Though Russian is the only official language, Russia is home to as many as 27 official regional dialects and about two hundred nationalities. Today, it is more and more common for foreigners to come to Russia to study or work. Russians have become accustomed to living side by side with various ethnic groups. The USSR even had a strong ideological value – the friendship of peoples – which is still held by many and can cause the older generation to shed a nostalgic tear.

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MBA students of The Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO

The Russian higher education system welcomes international students as much as any other country, including the youth from the former Soviet republics, Asia, and even the U.S., who come over to study as doctors, engineers, agricultural or oil production experts, or even fashion photographers. And if you would like to do business with China, Central or Middle Asia, studying in Russia can give you a head start. Russia is a major economic partner for neighbouring countries, which has led to the development of specialized international business programmes. For example, this November the Russian business school SKOLKOVO and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) will launch the joint programme EMBA for Eurasia, designed for business developers in Eurasia and China. Leading professors from all over the globe – Kazakhstan to Switzerland – will serve as mentors, and the programme will allow students to make practical business contacts with top industry professionals right then and there as you study.

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The Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO, on Graduation Day 2018

Empires within the Empire

Just as there is a “them” in the context of Russian friendship, Russia has some internal divisions between cultures. The two capital cities – contemporary capital Moscow and former-capital Saint Petersburg – are considered to be empires, in their own right, within the empire of Russia. “Peter,” as Russians often refer to it, is arguably an enormous open-air objet d’art – the architecture is completely European and home to a mind-blowing number of museums that will make your head spin. The Hermitage, alone, would take a lifetime to fully explore! Luckily, a wide variety of unusual cafes and restaurants will give you sustenance on this never-ending exploration. If you live and study in Saint Petersburg, you’re likely to visit your friends in the former residences of the aristocracy with high ceilings and stucco molding. The friends themselves will almost certainly be art connoisseurs and able to arrange a rooftop tour of the city.

The largess of Moscow is made easily navigable by a uniquely magnificent and practical metro. The metro feels more like an underground residence for Soviet elites than a means of transportation. Statues, mosaics, stucco, and now even coffee shops and secret bathrooms, are characteristic of the Moscow metro! For a while, Dmitry Glukhovsky’s “Metro 2033” became popular in Russia. His novel is about Muscovites creating micro-states in the metro system after surviving a nuclear attack. Not bad for a survival idea, huh?

To sum it up, going to Russia to study will teach you a lot in the school of life – you will learn to enjoy extremes, such as cold yet postcard-perfect winters, and the art of turning a surly companion into one’s best friend. After all, as they say in Russia, “don’t judge by clothes.”

This post was guest-written by Daria Lavrentieva, Communications manager at EMBA for Eurasia program by SKOLKOVO Business School & HKUST