Interview with Caroline Galliaerde, General Director, Russia/CIS, Brainpower

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

I would say that the main difference is in the system of management. Russian business culture corresponds to Russian culture, that is, the way of management is much more vertical, based on the directives of one person who is the leader. French and western business culture in general is more based on sharing opinions, and the responsibilities of the leader are a bit more distributed than in Russia.

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

I could write a book about this, but in a nutshell I would say that for French, what we eat and drink plays a more important role. But I have to say that the gap has started to decrease, with the opening of better restaurants here. Our country is comparatively small; in three or four hours you can get to the sea, or to the Alps to a skiing hut. Living in Moscow is actually not that bad, especially in the winter, when you can go skating and skate boarding which is great for the children.

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

I think it is important that he or she has at least lived in Russia. It is important to understand Russian culture and the way of doing things here. If he or she knows how to deal with Russians, that’s OK, even if you are not living here all the time. I know some people who are living in Paris and working here as well. Then it is a matter of personal timetables, because there is a three-hour time difference, and the flight is about four hours. You can do it, but how long can you keep that up for? Now, with the Internet it is not necessary to be here all the time if you have a good team here, it is more about personal preferences. But I am not sure about commuting as a viable option if you have never lived here at all, because somehow you need to feel the country.

What do you love and hate about Russia?

I hate the traffic, though I have the feeling that it is improving. One of the worst things used to be going to be the airport by car, but now we have the airport express trains, everything has changed. I try and arrange my client meetings in the mornings, when the traffic is lighter.

This is the first year when I have felt just how short the days are here in winter. I think that Russians are becoming much more friendly. I love the snow in winter here, it makes me feel that I’m in the mountains; it’s a very refreshing feeling. It makes Moscow feel like it’s a small village, and gives it a fairy-tale atmosphere.

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

One of the French restaurants, such as the café Jean-Jacques, which prepares good French food, and there is another great restaurant called café Michelle, close to Metro Barrikadnaya. The chef there has really tried to master French cooking and the prices are reasonable. The owner spends a lot of time in France, and his daughter is French. I like the large parks in Moscow, we don’t have such large parks with snow and skating rinks in Paris.