Diary of a Russian Wife


Non-verbal Communication

"I wished the earth could swallow me up, I was so embarrassed of you", my husband said to me after our meeting with a client.

What is he talking about? What was wrong? I thought the meeting was quite a success. As it turned out, throughout my presentation I had been pointing to a computer monitor by my middle finger, which appears to be very rude in the US.

Since then, I am trying to watch myself, but still can't completely get rid of this habit. Do you think my parents never taught me good manners? Quite the opposite, they have. But it was in Russia…

In Russia even young kids know that it is rude to point by an index finger. If you don't have anything in your hand (like a pen or a pencil) to point with – use the whole hand or any finger but the index one. Numerous statues of Lenin set a good example for us. Granite (bronze, marble) Lenin was showing Soviet society their path to Communism using the whole hand, not an index finger.

Lenin LeninLenin

So, after you move to America, you will have to deal with difficulties in communication not only on a verbal level, but non-verbal as well.

Russians greet other people, raising a hand.


In the US this gesture is used for an oath, as a promise to tell nothing but the truth. I had to face much perplexity from my colleagues when I used this gesture to greet them.


By sticking your thumb out, Russians express approval – "great, wonderful, I like it."


Americans use this gesture to hitch-hike.


One more important difference in the system of non-verbal signals: Russians wear a wedding ring on a right hand while Americans use a left hand for this purpose.

And this is just an interesting observation: in the event of a fever, Americans put a thermometer in the mouth or ear while Russians put it under an arm.

Get the American Point of View


  • I am an American. I found your blog because I am doing research on verbal and nonverbal cues of Russians. Thank you for posting it. I would like to add that Americans also put thermometers under the arms and use a thumbs up to mean that they like something or "good job".

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:47 PM  

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