One of the many things that surprise expats about Russia is the amount of holiday and vacation time. Understanding local time-off habits is very important if you plan to do business in Russia.
Lets look at the situation month by month.
New Year’s Eve is the most beloved holiday in the country. New Year’s Eve is bigger than Christmas, since Christmas was not celebrated for many decades during the Soviet time. By the way, our Christmas is celebrated on Jan 7th, not on Dec 25th (because the Russian Orthodox Church still lives according to the old Julian Calendar, which is 13 days behind the Gregorian Calendar).
It looks logical to have Jan 1st, maybe Jan 2nd and Jan 7th off. However in 2014 we had 8 official days off – Jan 1st-Jan 8th. That is a long holiday week in the beginning of the year. But in fact, most people have even longer holidays. We celebrate a bizarre unofficial holiday – Old New Year on the night from Jan 13th to Jan 14th. Do not plan any business meetings in the first 2 weeks of January – most people will be on vacation during this time.
And it takes some time to get out of holiday mode, so the best bet is to plan business meetings some time after Jan 20th.
There is just one official holiday in February – Day of the Defender of Motherland (or Men’s Day), celebrated on Feb 23rd. How disruptive can one holiday be for business? Very disruptive.
In Russia, if the holiday falls on Saturday or Sunday – Monday is a day off. If it is on Tuesday – Monday will be the day off and although Saturday is supposed to be a workday in that case – most people will ignore that. So any holiday turns into a long weekend, around which people tend to take several days off.
Similar to February – just one holiday – International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8th, but it turns into a several days vacation. Also, keep in mind that workday on the day before the holiday is 1 hour shorter (and since in most cases people will celebrate the holiday at work on that day, planning meetings for that day is risky)
End of February and beginning of March is also time for Maslenitsa – pancake week, which is loved and celebrated, however does not bring more days off work.
April is a really good month to do business in Russia. No official holidays, since for some reason, there are no days off for Easter. People are energetic and welcome spring. Plan your business meetings for April.
But be careful on April 1st – that is a Fools Day. Be prepared to experience pranks even in the business environment.
Forget about business at least for the first half of the month. There are 2 official holidays – May 1st (May Day) and May 9th (Victory Day), but in 2014 official holidays are May 1st-4th and May 9th– May 11th. Needless to say – people will be on vacation from May 1st till May 11th at least.
May is one of the best months in terms of weather and it is also time to plant flowers and veggies at dachas (country houses). Most people will be at the countryside either working in the garden or doing barbeques. If you happen to stay in the city, you will enjoy no traffic jams.
Officially there is just one holiday – Day of Russia, which takes place on Jun 12th, but you already know how it works with one-day-holidays here, right?
However summer is traditionally the time when most people take long annual leaves. Russians have 28 vacation days a year and some people have even more (if your work demands for long hours or unpredictable work schedule, you officially get 5 extra days of vacation a year)
In Soviet time people tended to take the entire month off and spend it in a sanatorium at the Black Sea or elsewhere. Now most people take 2 weeks off in summer and divide the rest of vacation time to add it to other holidays.
When you plan any meetings in summer – check the business partner’s vacation schedule first.
These 2 months are great for doing business. First of all – most of your business partners will be in the city by September 1st, since kids start school on that day. Secondly – all people treat September as a start of the new business year in some way, because it’s a start of a new school year.
No holidays during these 2 months, business is in a productive mode. If you are looking for a job – also best time to get hired.
We no longer celebrate October Revolution, but since people are used to celebrate something in November – there is another holiday – National Unity Day, celebrated on Nov 4th. Most people neither understand the roots of that holiday, nor care. But November is the month when weather gets really nasty, so it is a perfect time to take a week off and spend it in a warmer and sunnier place. Do not plan any business meetings for the first week of November.
Officially there are no holidays in Russia in December. But the last 2 weeks of the months are devoted to preparation for the New Year and companies have corporate events. That time is really unproductive for business.
Also, a lot of people take the last week off and add it to the January holidays. That happens especially often in the foreign companies, since their international offices are closed for Christmas in that time and expats, who work in Russia also travel home. In short – forget about any business in Russia starting from Dec 20th.
I hope that this calendar of holidays will help you to plan your business schedule in Russia. And how disruptive are holidays in your countries? Do you have more or less vacation time than Russians?
© 2016 Tatiana Golubeva. All rights reserved.