Japanese people give a high level of value on etiquette and protocol during any type of business affairs. This rule applies also to foreigners.

However, the Japanese are generally very forgiving to foreigners as long as they show respect and an effort to understand the Japanese culture and business etiquette. Often the Japanese host will offer to help you in any way that they can.

Japanese society is ethnically homogeneous. Order and harmony are highly respected and regarded as prime virtues of the society. Japanese people not only share a common language and culture, but they also have gradually adopted common social values.

Regional and occupational differences do exist, but the country is intrinsically much more unified than any Western industrialized nation.

One distinctive feature of the Japanese style is step-by-step negotiation, which is based upon the hierarchy of order within a particular company. The general practice is that, whether at home or in a foreign country, a Japanese company always begins the negotiations with lower ranking company staff who are responsible for the projects involved.

First meeting

It is important to honor the Japanese cultural traditions. You should first bow and wait to see if your Japanese counterpart initiates a handshake. Although your Japanese host will likely offer a handshake, it is not as natural for them as bowing.

It is important to understand this principal and demonstrate it to your Japanese counterpart.

Another important rule to remember is that you do not want to be the first or only one sitting. You don’t have to wait for the instruction to sit down, but if none of your Japanese hosts are sitting than you should not be the one to break the ice.

This rule applies to mostly all actions that may occur during a meeting such as speaking, drinking, eating, and others.

It is very important to show interest in the meeting and acknowledge every members input. It may help to take notes or repeat an idea to clarify. This will keep you involved in the dialog and also make you look like you are very interested in what is happening.

Dress etiquette

Clothing for business, men wear conservative suits, more often dark blue, with a white shirt and a conservative tie. The appearance is much like a uniform.

It is safe for a woman to wear a suit, a dress, or a skirt and blouse. A woman may wear pants for business if they are part of a well-tailored pantsuit.

When meeting for any type of business affairs you should always play it safe and dress formally. Business casual attire is not always accepted in Japanese business etiquette.

Of course there are situations where it is appropriate to dress casually such as a sporting event or activity, but you would never want to be the one who is underdressed in comparison to the group.On the contrary, it never hurts you to be overdressed for any occasion, therefore, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Business cards

When handing over your business cards or other documents politely, you better follow Japanese customs. Business cards and documents are handed over holding the item with both hands and simultaneously bowing your head back.

Be prepared and be on time

Be on time and well prepared for meetings. Use Japan’s train systems and subways, and make sure you check out the time tables online. Traffic jams are no excuse to get late to meetings in Japan. Unless there are earthquakes, typhoons, or suicides on the track, Japan’s trains have typically much better time keeping performance than anywhere else in the world.

Do your homework

It is Impolite not to do your homework (market research) about the companies and people you are meeting. Your position will be weak if you have not done your preparations. There are many famous cases of foreign companies which lost billions of dollars and failed in Japan ultimately because they did not do sufficient market research and preparations.

When you visit a company you will be guided into the honored guest position in a Board Room at the top floor of the building – or into a small vendors meeting room outside the security entrance of the building – depending on status and the purpose of your visit and your rank.

Person’s name and titles

Do not use a Japanese person’s first name. It is egregiously impolite to be so familiar. Call a Japanese person by his or her last name suffixed by -san (meaning Mr., Mrs., Miss, or Ms.), for example, Suzuki-san (meaning Mr. Suzuki, Miss Suzuki, etc.).

Eye contact

As tradition dictates, if a meeting is conducted with a “higher ranking” business person, a Japanese business person will not usually look at the higher ranking person in the eyes. They often look at the person of higher rank around his/her neck or shoulder.

On the telephone

Telephone manners are also important in Japan. The company secretary who answers your telephone call will be using extremely polite language. Phone etiquette in business is taken seriously and with utmost caution.

Fonte: a cura di Exportiamo, di Morvarid Mahmoodabadi, redazione@exportiamo.it


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