Recently, I have noticed such a phenomenon: at Russian-speaking business events, entrepreneurs from Russia often address unfamiliar people as “ты” (informal “you”). Participants from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and other Central Asian countries experience cultural shock from this. In these countries, it is customary to address unfamiliar people, even younger ones, as “Вы” (formal “you”). Furthermore, after getting acquainted, even older individuals are addressed as “Вы”. Moreover, at large events according to etiquette, even close friends publicly address each other as “Вы”, and only in private circles can they talk to each other informally as “ты”. Needless to say, in many Kazakh families, and Uzbekistan – in most families, children even address their parents and, if there is a significant age difference, older brothers and sisters as “Вы”. Therefore, it is understandable that people with such an Eastern upbringing experience shock when some unknown person at an international conference publicly says to them, “Hey, your presentation is great! What’s your business model for the project?” I think that such addressing is not a sign of lack of culture. It is just a new reality that has come into the Russian business environment. Perhaps under the influence of Silicon Valley, where the spirit of brotherhood and equality reigns with a certain degree of familiarity. Kazakhs should not be shocked and offended. They just need to be prepared for this. I advise Russians to also be prepared for the Eastern mentality and not perceive persistent addressing with “Вы” as excessive formality or unwillingness to get closer.

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