The Japanese know that for the gaijin (foreigners) their country is complex, from many points of view: the language, the culture, the ways of relating. Therefore, they do not expect from us a perfect knowledge of the language or of cultural codes in Japan. However, if business is the topic, the Japanese expect the gaijin to know their business culture and empathize with him.
Tips to Make Your Business Relationship Easier
Pay Attention to the Keywords: Embarrassment and Respect
Do not look a Japanese in the eye: he may feel embarrassed. Similarly, a Japanese rarely makes eye contact for a reason of respect (he wants to give importance, at that precise moment, to listening and the words spoken, not to the aesthetic aspect)
Be on Time
It is estimated that a Japanese train accumulates, on average, 1 minute late in a year … To say that punctuality is essential is almost trivial, but it really is. There is no worse disrespect than arriving late to a meeting.
The “No” Does Not Exist
It is very difficult for a Japanese to say a sharp “no” during a meeting or during a working relationship. The advice is to arm yourself with patience and try to understand in detail what the Japanese counterpart expects. It may take several meetings to get a clear answer.
Avoid “Excessive” Behavior
These are some behaviors considered excessive, and therefore to be avoided: speaking too loudly, being too direct, expressing one’s emotions through physical contact (zero kisses & hugs, please), blowing your nose in public (better go to the toilet).
Take Off Your Shoes
Are you a guest at a friend’s house, or a work colleague? Take off your shoes! For the Japanese there is no greater act of trust than inviting a gaijin to their home: living in extremely small houses, many feel ashamed of their situation. The house is an intimate, sacred place, and shoes can “pollute” the purity of the place.
Don’t Lose Your Patience
Many apparently “incomprehensible” situations will happen to you and can make you lose patience: the pushes on the subway, the Japanese colleague who keeps his eyes closed while listening to you, the meeting that lasts for 4 hours … Remember that for the Japanese every gesture, every movement, and therefore every behavior, is studied, weighed. For example, the colleague keeps his eyes closed to focus on listening, so he is showing maximum attention.
The Japanese Are Not “Cold”
False myth par excellence. They are reserved and with a greater sense of intimacy than ours, true. However, it does not mean that they are unwilling to socialize. In Japanese culture, showing emotions, both positive and negative, is considered a weak point of the person and therefore the Japanese grow up learning to repress their moods. The poor knowledge of English is an additional brake: they fear that their pronunciation will put them in difficulty by causing embarrassment.
We therefore suggest that you immediately apply these simple tips of ours, fundamental to obtain the best results if your work leads you to work in Japan.