When you do business overseas it can sometimes be very challenging. The main issue is often the culture. It is very important that you are aware of all the cultural differences to avoid losing a fantastic business opportunity. And what’s more simply showing that you have insight on the country, that you can adapt to someone else’s culture and way of life shows civility, grace and consideration of others.
This is especially the case with Japan as it is a very different culture compared to the western ones. Cultural elements can have a profound impact on decision-making and, ultimately, on the effectiveness of a business relationship. Proper behaviour has even become the paramount law in the country.
In this article we will give you some tips so you can be prepared to face your Japanese interlocutor.
Silence and Patience are golden.
When having a business conversation, silence is more important that a large amount of talking. Silence represents emotional control and wisdom and is seen as a sign of credibility. You might want to favour a more introvert and formal speech and when you fell some tension, stop and use silence to relieve the tension and then go onto a different topic… And be patient. Don’t try to rush anything and put pressure on your interlocutor. You want to build trust with each other and not put pressure with deadlines.
The importance of Group Solidarity.
Group solidarity is extremely important in Japan. They view a group as a symbol of strength and find individualism embarrassing. When you praise a company, don’t single out one person but mention the whole team or the whole company. The singled out person will feel highly embarrassed and won’t thank you for doing so.
Business Cards are to be treasured.
For Japanese business professionals, a business card is an extension of their identity. You have to be extremely respectful towards the business cards. You should accept it with both hands read it and very carefully place it in a cards holder or leave it on the table for the entire duration of the meeting. NEVER put it in your pockets, it will be regarded very badly and can affect your business relationship.
The small details matter!
Observing the small details of politeness is a big way of showing respect in Japan. For example, giving a small gift to your business partner is extremely appreciated. But be careful with that as some gifts might be of a very bad taste: white flowers especially as they are used for funeral services. Buying gifts in fours or nines is to be avoided as they carry a negative aspect. Also, blowing your nose in public, such as in a meeting room, is considered in poor taste. You want to prefer excusing yourself and do it outside the room. Remember too to take your shoes off before entering someone’s house and wear the slippers provided by your host. And if you are wearing a kimono ALWAYS wrap it left over right as the other way around is reserved to corpses.
Privacy is valued.
Finally, remember that privacy is of the utmost importance. Japanese people are very private and reserved both in private life and at work. So avoid asking personal questions during a meeting as it can be seen as very rude.
For more cultural differences on other countries that we have available on our website then please click here.