Russians are keen internet users and big fans of social media, which has taken the country by storm in recent years. As well as Facebook &; Linkedin, both of which are popular, there are numerous Russian equivalents, the best known being Vkontakte or VK (www.vk.com) which is essentially a Russian language version of Facebook. There is also www.odnoklassniki.ru but this has fallen out of favour lately and is now much less popular amongst Russia’s cool youth.
Whereas back home you typically use Linkedin for business purposes and Facebook for your family &; friends, in Russia the situation is less clear cut. Visitors to Russia are often surprised to receive a Facebook friend request not only from work colleagues, but from people they have met (perhaps just once, and only briefly) in a business situation, be it as a supplier, customer, partner or even just a client prospect. Russians view this as normal; after all the line between work and play in Russia is a blurred one, and don’t forget that Russians typically do business with people whom they are on friendly terms with.
This can create a dilemma for people who prefer to keep their business and private lives separate. Ultimately whom you choose to be ‘friends’ with is up to you and there is no need to feel bad about not ‘befriending’ people whom you are not comfortable with seeing what you get up to outside of office hours. Just be aware that Facebook is fast becoming the main means of communication amongst your colleagues in Russia and you could find yourself missing out on much of what’s going on around you should you choose to blank those you work with.
Even if you are not a social media aficionado, you may want to at least create a basic Facebook profile as the are numerous groups worth joining, such as Expats In Moscow, Moscow expat Life etc. Many nationalities have their own ‘closed’ groups but will happily allow you in should you demonstrate some connection to that particular country.