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Japanese business etiquette

It is difficult to cover a topic as important and broad as this one in 700 words. We hope the following helps maximize your chances of success in Japan.

It is difficult to cover a topic as important and broad as this one in 700 words. We hope the following helps maximize your chances of success in Japan.

Meetings are usually formal and scheduled well in advance. While Japanese are reluctant to deny a meeting, a long delay in replying or in choosing a date likely signals a lack of interest. Before the meeting, send an outline of what you would like to discuss. Most important of all, be punctual.

Your Japanese counterpart is likely accustomed to shaking hands, but if he or she bows, you must reciprocate. Return any bow with a bow from the waist of 15 to 30 degrees. Generally, bow longer and deeper for an elder or someone of significant social standing.

Carry lots of business cards. At a first-time meeting business cards typically are exchanged with considerable ceremony. Present your business card with both hands. When meeting several people at the same time, which often happens, endeavour to present your business card to the most senior person first. Have one side of your card translated into Japanese, and present the Japanese side face-up. When receiving a business card, accept it with both hands saying ?thank you.? Take a few moments to study the card, and if the opportunity presents itself, comment on it. Place the business cards you receive on the table in front of you arranged in the same order as the people are seated.

Rank is very important. When meeting your Japanese counterparts, your group leader should enter the room first and introduce the members of your group to the group leader in descending order of rank. Seating will also usually be dictated by rank. Attendees will usually be seated in ascending order of rank from the door inward or with the most senior in the centre.

Gift-giving is common. It expresses gratitude and acknowledges that the relationship is valued. Gifts need not be expensive, but should be nicely wrapped and presented with both hands and a slight bow. Usually gifts are not opened when received. Certain types of gifts (like certain flowers and potted plants) are considered bad luck, so take care in choosing gifts. ALWAYS take extra gifts with you! Of course, the most expensive gift is given to the leader of the Japanese group.

It is safest to refer to your Japanese counterparts by their surnames until invited otherwise. You can use Mr., Mrs. or Ms. and the surname of the person or you can use the surname and add the suffix ?san? (e.g., Suzuki-san). Using the suffix ?-san? is useful because it is the same for both men and women. This may avoid embarrassment in written correspondence. If you are addressed by your first name with the suffix ?-san,? this conveys a warm connection and respect.

Successful business in Japan is predicated on personal relationships. Expect to spend time during your first visit to Japan building or strengthening the relationship through dinners, visiting and gift-giving. Patience is a virtue! Japanese do not expect to rush into substantive negotiations. Serious discussion of business issues will often not begin until a personal relationship has first been established.

Moreover, it may take a long time for your Japanese counterparts to arrive at a decision. Also, remember that ?face? is very important. Take care not to do anything in the course of your dealings that might cause someone to ?lose face.? You can ?give face? by sincerely praising someone for a job well done or expressing appreciation.

Finally, be aware that your Japanese counterparts may be reluctant to say ?no? directly. Instead they may use phrases like ?it is under consideration? or ?it is inconvenient.? These generally mean ?no? and it is wise not to press further.

In order to facilitate getting to know you, your host may invite you to dinner at a traditional Japanese restaurant. Drinking is also a part of Japanese culture and you may be invited to a bar or a karaoke club. If you are invited to a Japanese person?s home, it is customary to bring a small hostess gift. Bringing a gift for each member of the family is appreciated and interpreted as showing you are interested in the family as a whole, not just the business relationship. ?