Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Yes, well, none of my clients have subsidiaries in Russia

Today I put on a suit and went to a business luncheon entitled "Doing Business in Russia" that was hosted by the local chamber of commerce. Presumably I was sent because no one else from the office was available to go and was in no way a direct and striking correlation with my being born in the Motherland. At the event, the presentations on the economic climate, cultural differences, and practical experiences were sandwiched by awkward periods of attempted mingling and networking while hovering over the literal catered sandwiches from the Corner Bakery. With my skills in vaht yu kahl zis "networking", I may or may not be invited allowed again inside that building without a police escort. I think that I basically told one fellow networker, after he shoved his business card into one of my fists, that no, I was absolutely not interested in his travel services because we already have a travel service provider that I am absolutely thrilled with. Another Nervous Nelly told me that his ex-girlfriend's name was also Katya after I told him that I know nothing about doing business in Russia. Nervous laughter. Teeth gnashing. Off to a good start!

The presentations were actually pretty interesting. I was slightly distracted by the Pierce Brosnan look-alike at the table to my right, the vigorous nodder to the diagonal, and the loud itch-scratcher to my left. I learned that Russians are not necessarily punctual people, which shook my beliefs to the core and make me question Papa T's teachings. I learned that business in Russia is all about building relationships, and business is not just business, it's personal. I learned that having a business there can be a roller coaster ride since economic conditions can change so drastically and so quickly.

This event reminded me of an awkward Russian encounter I was going to willingly subject myself to. Back in Dublin, in my boredom and/or lonely periods, I planned and thought about all of the things I would do and accomplish once back in DC -- a list of museum exhibits (mostly all viewed), books clubs (plans in motion to have reinstated), and Russian conversation club (WHAT?!). I found this club that meets once a week at Brickskeller to practice speaking Russian. I imagine a small group of dorky Americans, who maybe took a language class or two in college or who are Russian literature or history enthusiasts, drinking beer and attempting to conjugate a verb and doing so incorrectly, maybe with one or two native Russian dorks peppered in around the table. I thought, well heck, I am not so good at kickball, but when it comes to speaking Russian, I am like a professional! I will totally be the star of Russian conversation club. I mean, I can speak Russian, English, AND English with a Russian accent, dare I try Russian with an English accent.

Basically I have not yet had the time or the cojones to make it out to Wednesday night Russian speaking club, but believe you me that you will hear about it when I do, because can you imagine the hilarity of that business luncheon, only the entire thing is in Russian, everyone is drinking beer, and I am not confined to "acting professional"?

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