Rockefeller Group Business Centers Blog

Japanese Business Etiquette

Posted by Yoko Uchida on Dec 10, 2015 12:28:00 PM

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5 Tips on Japanese Business Etiquette

Ever wondered what it takes to do business with international clients? Doing business with Japanese clients often comes with a lot of challenges due to the language and cultural differences. If you have a Japanese business lead or some interest in doing business with Japanese companies, check out below for some quick tips on Japanese business etiquette.

1. Bowing

It is such a stereotypical perception on the Japanese people or business. In reality, Japanese people do understand it is not a custom outside of Japan to bow. So, if you don’t bow, you won’t be in trouble or it does not mean you won’t get a deal. However, if you do, that’s an extra point in terms of building a relationship. It shows you understand and respect the Japanese business etiquette, and culture, and that you made an effort to build a relationship with them.

2. Business cards

In Japanese business culture, business cards represent the business entity itself. This may sounds exaggerated, but in Japanese business etiquette, a person will lay out the business cards on the meeting table if the business cards were newly exchanged before the meeting. It is good Japanese business card etiquette to show how you would treat the business, by showing how you treat their business card. Again, you don’t have to be perfect on the mannerism, but if you do make an effort it would be great way to make a lasting impression.

3. Hierarchy

Japanese culture is very hierarchically driven, and this is true in the business scene as well. The junior staff members are supposed to wait for the senior staff to do everything before them. So for example, the junior staff won’t sit before the senior staff do, can’t leave the office before senior staff leave, or exchange business cards before senior staff do. Usually, it is pretty easy to tell who is senior, as they step ahead when exchanging business cards. At the meeting, do wait until the seniors sit first, then sit afterwards, and focus your eye contact on the senior staff first, before looking at the junior staff members.

4. Gifting

If you are visiting a headquarter in Japan or their office in US or elsewhere, bringing a box of little something will also make your company stand out. This is not just etiquette; this is a common practice to show that you care about them. It also doesn’t have to be a big thing, just a little box of chocolate that they can share with their team later.

5. Business Off Site

Japanese business deals often close in an uncommon setting or place compared to western businesses. In many occasions, sales reps in Japan will take their potential clients out to drinking parties, or some other outings like golfing, to build up trust and relationships with the new client. While this is not a necessary step to close deals in Japan, if you were ever asked to join, it is proper Japanese business etiquette to join and fully participate in the events.

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Topics: Entrepreneur

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