Risk-averse, hierarchy, apply-rules, indirect, attention to the details, conflict avoidance….
These are some of the general Japanese characteristics that are embedded in their subconscious mind, influencing their behaviours.
Some are quite an opposite to the Dutch and I receive tons of questions about the Japanese business culture. Today, I share some Japanese business “rituals” that will be handy to know when you are welcoming your Japanese business relations to your office.
1. Ritual of Preparation 準備
Preparation for any action is considered highly important by the Japanese, as it contributes to an immaculate result and success of any performance or action.
The Japanese invest ample time and energy for preparation, from wearing Kimono, making Sushi to conducting business!
Preparation helps their risk-averse nature. Good preparation would avoid making mistakes and pitfalls. The Japanese will do utmost to be well-organized, on time and prepared for the visit. They would request for the information and details related to the topic of meetings and a thought-through schedule of the day.
Business agility is what many professionals opt for in this era of digital transformation. Japanese style of preparation may seem too much burden or even a destruction to your routine. But by responding timely to their request, you will save much time to do business with them later. Laying a good foundation for later business.
Always it is appreciated to provide extra information such as your company culture, dress code in the office(formal, informal), surroundings (sightseeing possibility? ) and the weather. So there will be no surprises and have an idea what to expect!
2. Ritual of Greeting 挨拶
You may have heard millions of times about “Japanese business card rituals”, dedicating some moments to introduce themselves by presenting and receiving a business card in two hands, accompanied by a light bowing and some silent moments too. It is beautiful as they do with our full attention and good intention and we all feel the good vibe during this ceremonial exchange.
Not only because it is a highly appreciative “business manner” in Japan, but it is also the momentum of an opportunity for anyone from any cultural background to connect from your heart, and build trust in a matter of a minute or so.
The Japanese, treat business cards with respect, as an extension of ourselves which has our name, position, company are stated.
If you don’t carry your business card, that is OK, but take a good respectable moment to receive business cards and introduce yourself.
It is an instant mindful moment that you can benefit from and connect to your self first and connect to the others.
This ritual of greeting is a “Trust at First Sight” moment and seeding for a good relationship.
3. Ritual of Meals 食事
From breakfast, lunch to dinner, from a small simple dish to a gourmet dinner, Japanese take much pleasure and appreciation to have a meal. It is quality over quantity. It can be a quick meal, but something that we can look forward. For lunch, in Japan, we enjoy “Bento box lunch” with rice and artfully arranged small portions of meat, fish, and vegetable. It is an art of foods. We will not take a long lunch and a one-hour lunch break is normal. When your Japanese business relations are on a visit to your office, they would probably be looking forward to lunch and are curious to try out the local specialty. Please do remember the importance of taking time for a meal.
Eating together and sharing your food culture is the moment you can make bonding with the Japanese.
4. Ritual of Souvenir お土産
Art of giving a gift is an important part of Japanese culture, especially bringing a souvenir on a visit. It is a gesture of appreciation and gratitude of any stage of relationships. In a business relationship, it is likely that the Japanese bring a small token of gift, something like beautifully wrapped cookies that can be shared in your office. Ask permission to open it, and unwrap the paper gently and never roughly tear it, as the wrapping is also a part of the gift and treat it gently.
From your office, you could also prepare a small gift, a box of cookies or chocolate, your local specialty as a souvenir to their visit and a token of starting or deepening your business relationship.
Written by Azumi Uchitani, Feb. 2019
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