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Japanese culture


Is anyone Japanese or accustomed to dealing with Japanese people?

I am due to meet with a Japanese organisation to discuss our possible input for a training programme they are planning to run. I have very limited knowledge of Japanese people and their culture and would not wish to give offence by saying and doing anything inappropriate. Can anyone give me any tips on putting my clients at their ease or any general advice about dealing with Japanese people?

I would very much appreciate any offerings.

thanks, Jo
Jo Patten-Walsh

5 Responses

  1. I did a short piece of work in Japan 2 years ago
    At the end of 1999 I was self-employed and had a piece of work for 2 weeks in Tokyo helping a Japanese company learn about innovation.

    The research I did told me about bowing when you meet someone; I found myself bowing quite alot more than I had expected but it didn’t feel wrong. Next thing is to exchange business cards and you will see that the Japanese recipient of your card will actually read it and you should do the same with his/hers. I was told that blowing your nose in public is an absolute no-no!

    Not a very scientific reply but I hope, helpful.

  2. Japanese Culture
    Two books worth reading are:

    Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands (or How to do Business in 60 countries) – only 7 pages on Japan but very informative. Price £19.95

    At the other extreme, if you want to know everything about Japanese culture, there’s a paperback called Culture Shock: Japan.
    Each title in this series covers a single country in depth, looking at social and business etiquette, and is divided into useful chapters. Price £9.95

  3. A few no no’s!!!!!
    Dear Jo,
    I very much agree with the below, but want to add a few additional comments.

    As well as not blowing your nose in public, you should also not sneeze, and if you feel one coming turn your back on everyone, if possible go to a corner and snif back as much as possible. Sniffing frequently is perfectly acceptable.

    Whatever you do when making a toast do not use ‘Chin Chin’ or ‘Bottoms Up’. Chin chin in Japanese being very rude, and Bottoms Up translating to something very rude.

    As a woman, unless you are dealing with a very westernised company, get a male translator to work with you.

    Do give gifts. I’ve worked quite a lot with Japanese people all around Europe, though never in Japan strangely, and I’ve been given some amazing gifts over the years – it oils the wheels and is a sign of valuing someone.

    If you’d like to chat through my experiences, and what I’ve learned that isn’t in the books, please give me a call on 07970 922984.



  4. Recent article by Japanese cross-cultural consultant
    Kiyoko Naish, my partner in life and work and a bilingual consultant, recently wrote an article on this for the Nottingham Chamber of Commerce magazine. I am sure she would be able to send it, or answer your burning questions! She is on 0115 8492769.

  5. Planning is the key
    Hi Jo,
    All the comments given so far are very useful and informative. I have worked in Banking and Sales with Japanese partners and the most important thing I have found to put them at ease is planning. Make sure they know everything before they arrive or you get there. Send documentation about the agenda and content of the trip down to the last minute and make sure its translated correctly. The Japanese culture demands efficiency and this is shown by the apoligies given at train stations should a train be more than 2 minutes late etc. Make sure you know about the people you are meeting. In one sales meeting in Osaka I spent 3 weeks researching the personal background of the company director I was to meet to secure supply of a product, the meeting consisted of talk (in my pigeon Japanese) and gifts i.e. how is you son doing at Tokyo university I believe he is studying sociology, and please accept this small gift of scottish fly’s for your fishing. Because I had sent the details of my business proposal first we did not need to talk about business and he told me when we were having dinner later that he looks forward to recieving my first order! If you need some help in running any courses I would be happy to assist you.
    Tavis Stewart 07775 523120


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