Interview with Arnaud Benoit, Director, AOS Studley Inov’office

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What is the main difference between French and Russian Business Cultures?

Very often, French people think that they understand business in Russia like they understand business in France. But in Russia, business is a new thing. French business culture is very specific but it is made up of many archaic and traditional aspects and also sometimes modern practices. In Russia, there are just two ways; the Soviet system where you have a chief who doesn’t work and the rest of the staff who do the job, and secondly, the young business people who work hard, in the mornings, right through to night, during the weekends. This is the main difference. The legislation which we have in France can be taken as a good thing or a bad thing, but the freedom that the young business person has here is incredible. We can see here people under 30 who have amassed fortunes, and it is through their hard work not because they have been given it.

What are the main differences that you have noticed in terms of living here?

My feeling about living here can be summed up in a few words: Everything can change tomorrow. Because of the weather, because of the politics, because of whatever. You have to be ready to change your mind at a moment’s notice. In France and Europe you can prepare for the next week or the next ten years, but here there is a continual evolution of anything and everything. This is not same thing as living in a cosy Parisian suburb and taking an administrative job.

Is it important for a French business person to live in Russia in order to understand the way of doing things here?

Yes it is. The new Russia has only existed for 23 years and is not really mature, and if you want to make business here, first, it is crucial to live here and secondly, it is very important in Russia to work within the law. It is complicated, but once you step outside of it, you lose the ability to fight if a problem should come up. You have to live here, work with Russians to fully understand this.

What do you love and hate about Russia?

I love, in the capacity of my real estate job to be able to evaluate buildings; to have the chance to enter into Pasternak’s house in Peredelkino, and other historical buildings in Moscow. At the same time I see the most incredibly horrible buildings. I invite you to have a look at the old blue mansion at the corner of Abrikosovsky pereulok and Pagodinskaya street (close to Novodivitchy). Incredible!

Always in Russia you have the best and the worst. The very rich and the very poor.

Where do you go in Moscow when you want to be reminded of France?

I go to 5 different shops to feed my family on Saturday. For meat I go to Globus Gourmet; for fish (or oysters for my wife) to ‘La Maree’ on Volgograsky; for bread ‘Volkonsky’ on Moraseika and for all other French specific food items, to ‘Cash & Carry’ on Krasnaya Presnya. As far as restaurants go, I liked Carre Blanc, before it shut down but the one that hasn’t changed for the past 18 years, and has consistently good food and service is Scandinavia on Pushkinskaya.