Business Etiquette in Japan

In this part we would like to give you some basic ideas of the appropriate business manners when meeting Japanese business partners, especially for the first time. Don’t worry, Japanese business men know that other countries have other manners and they will forgive you minor mistakes.

Here are the 10 most important things you should keep in mind.

1. Politeness

Being polite is important everywhere. In Japan politeness is very closely connected to respect. Treat even the youngest attendant of the meeting with respect and they won’t forget it, when once leading the company you are doing business with.

2. Business Cards

You might see your business cards just as information, but in Japan you should treat the cards you receive like they were a part of the person. Show your respect by giving and receiving the cards with both hands. Don’t write on them, don’t flick them, just keep them on top of the table and confirm you are pronouncing the name correctly.

Keep your own cards and those you receive in an appropriate case and carry enough of them with you for a business trip.

3. Greeting

As you might know, Japanese don’t shake hands, but bow. Japanese who are not used to Europeans might get very unconfident when you rush onto them, shaking their hands. Wait for their reaction. If they offer you their hand, it is okay to shake it. If they don’t and bow to you instead, mimic that movement just slightly to show your respect. Don’t worry how deep you’d have to bow, your business partners don’t expect perfectness, but only politeness.

4. Outfit

You’ll be fine with formal business attire, just as you would expect your European business partner to wear.

5. Interest

It is important that you show your interest in your business partner. You’ll probably do research on the company you want to work with in advance, anyway. But if you take a lot of notes during a meeting and make a lot of inquiries about the company and projects, your business partner will appreciate it a lot.

6. Distance

Keep in mind, that the first meeting with Japanese might feel a little bit stiff, because they need to get to know you first. So keep your distance, physically and don’t touch your business partner either. If you are getting along, in later meetings the feeling of distance might change a lot, so just be patient.

7. Time for Preparation

If you wish your business partner to sign a document or take a look at some data, he will much appreciate it, if you send the documents as early in advance of a meeting as possible. Especially when you are not directly meeting the head of a company, decision and revision take time on the Japanese side.

8. Unknown Rules

If you are unsure of some rules or just don’t know they exist, for example where to sit, wait for the action of your business partner and until he tells you where to sit. This is not only the safest way not to violate rules, it will be also recognized as politeness and respect.

9. Business Dinner

It might happen that the real talk about business starts in a restaurant or bar. There are a lot of rules around eating and drinking. Here are two you should consider: Never stick your chopsticks into your food, but place them next to your plate. If your cup is empty, your business partner will fill it again. If you don’t want him to, don’t empty your cup. When he emptied his cup, it is much appreciated if you, in turn, refilled his cup.

10. Reliability

Needless to say, reliability is the base of trust and cooperation. So be on time. And if you can’t be, tell your business partner well in advance. Also, if you call him one hour prior to the meeting, telling him you are on your way, that makes you more reliable. Always stick to the timetable and take care of deadlines. Last but not least, prepare the meeting’s contents well, for the Japanese companies’ timetable is very strict and you won’t be given more time than agreed on.

For further information regarding business manners, feel free to contact us.

Posted in Business.