Value Added Tax
➤ 18 percent for goods, works, and services; 10 percent for certain non-excisable food products and children's goods (refundable).
➤ If your goods are leaving the country with you, they are considered a temporary import and are not liable for import tax. But if you plan to leave anything in the country or sell goods in the booth, you are liable for the often-fluid import tax. It's usually around 15 percent for literature but can change due to a new sliding-scale system introduced last January.
➤ 220 volts (European two-pin plug required).
➤ The venue management disposes of garbage only if the exhibitor has ordered cleaning services.
➤ Smoking is generally permitted. In places where it is not, the rule is often not enforced. Ashtrays should be provided in exhibits, and adequate ventilation should be considered when designing enclosed meeting areas, as it is acceptable to smoke during meetings. You may prohibit smoking in your exhibit, but you must communicate that policy. Don't be outraged if someone violates it unknowingly.
➤ Contact the Russian Organization on Collective Management of Rights of Authors and Other Rightholders in Multimedia, Digital Networks & Visual Arts (ROMS) at www.roms.ru and the Russian Society of Copyright (RAO) at www.rao.ru to license music that you plan to play in your booth. Show management can help you with this.
Greetings and Culture
➤ In general, typical Western customs apply, such as a firm handshake. Women often shake hands weakly.
➤ It is polite to refer to people using both their first and last names.
➤ Russian women add the letter "a" on the end of their surnames; Medvedev's wife would be Mrs. Medvedeva.
➤ In-booth hospitality is prevalent.
➤ Popular drinks: wine, champagne, vodka, tea (green tea is very popular), water, juice, coffee, bottled water, and soft drinks. Tea is always served without milk. Beer is considered a health drink, almost like an herbal tonic.
➤ Popular food: sandwiches, chips, nuts, pretzels, cakes, candy, cookies, and fruits.
➤ Most of the larger exhibits set up bars or bistros where they serve food and drinks, often native to their respective homelands.
➤ English is not widely spoken. If you do not have local staff available, hire a translator. If your product or service requires a lot of technical information, forward general terms to the translator in advance.
➤ If you are using a translation service, advise your translator on dress code prior to the show.
➤ On the space above an in-line booth or shell scheme, the company name usually appears in both English and Russian in plain, non-branded text. Other than that, it is not common to translate brand names or logos.
➤ All other signage should appear in both languages.
Venues and Resources
➤ In Russia, getting into the venue past the security guard is more of an issue than proving to anyone you are competent enough to build a stand.
➤ Be advised copyright is a fluid issue in Russia and is very rarely enforced.
➤ The main Moscow venue, Expocentre, is poorly serviced by public transport. You need to take a subway and/or a bus and will need to speak a few words in Russian to do this. Taxis can be arranged from your hotel, but tend to be overpriced. It may be best to hire a private driver.
➤ Standard U.S. business attire is acceptable. Men and women wear business suits, but Russian women are comparable to Italian women. They tend to dress more flamboyantly than American women. It is common to see female booth staff in very high heels.
Installation and Dismantle
➤ No strong unions exist. In Expocentr, where many Moscow exhibitions are held, there is a five Euro surcharge per square meter if you do not use the in-house approved contractor.
➤ Until recently, anyone could walk in and build any kind of stand, pop-up, or custom booth. Now you need to apply for a contractor pass on the same form you use to book space. The pass will get you through security and into the venue during setup.
➤ Russians are big on security passes – and security guards are allegedly big on taking bribes from people who don't have the right passes.
➤ Booth-construction personnel tend to dawdle during the first couple of days. Monitor them closely to avoid paying for extra hours of labor.
➤ If you do not use the organizer's official freight forwarder, there are likely to be extra charges to negotiate drayage and customs clearance of goods on site. Usually, none of this information will be published, and is negotiable on site.
General Facts and Tips
➤ About 50 percent of the shows in Moscow are joint ventures with experienced Western organizers, such as Messe Dusseldorf (Germany), and ITE (United Kingdom). That means they follow U.K. or German health and safety policies to some extent.
➤ Be sure to have plenty of business cards. One side should be printed in English, the other side in Russian.
➤ Contrary to the stereotype, most Russians do not drink copious amounts of vodka. There may be an occasion to celebrate a negotiation or a deal with a handshake and a shot of vodka (or other hard liquor such as brandy), which could be considered the Russian version of a gentlemen's agreement before the formalities are signed. Refusing a Russian's offer to drink a toast after a deal is struck could be construed as mistrustful.
➤ Beware of people trying to steal your promotional items, particularly during setup or the first day of the show. There are professional gangs (often older women) who enter the show floor to take freebies and sell them on the street.
➤ It is considered rude to stand with your hands in your pockets.
➤ The American "OK" sign and shaken-fist gestures will be interpreted as vulgar.
➤ Patience is an extremely important virtue among Russians; punctuality is not.
➤ To avoid import tax on literature, arrange local printing, or transport small amounts yourself in carry-on hand luggage and don't declare it at customs.
Note that some shows now use an ATA Carnet system, the international customs document that allows the duty-free and tax-free tem-porary import of goods. Contact show organizers to find out if the system applies to your particular show.
Natasha Litinov, managing director US, Exhibit in Europe/Global Assistance Partners-US, Chicago; Drew Powers, president, Global Resource Network, Hoschton, GA; Harvey Friedman, investment partner, Global Resource Network, Hoschton, GA; Loraine Comans-Martinek, vice president, Europe, E.J. Krause & Associates Inc., Duesseldorf, Germany; Ekaterina Davydova, senior marketing manager, Primexpo Exhibition Company, St.Petersburg, Russia; Olga Denisenkova, marketing director, E.J. Krause & Associates Inc., St. Petersburg, Russia; Howard Klein, managing director, Russia, Reed Exhibitions, London; Julia Start, business development manager, Market Expo Ltd., Honiton, Devon, England; Olga Denisenkova, director, E.J. Krause & Associates Inc., St. Petersburg, Russia