It’s a well known fact that respect is a huge part of Japanese culture. When traveling to Japan for the first time, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the ways in which respect manifests itself into Japanese daily life. Different industries require different displays of etiquette. If you’re looking to travel to Japan to conduct business, it can be difficult to discern what is considered as appropriate business etiquette in Japan and what is not. Luckily for you, we have put together a comprehensive list of the proper Japanese business etiquette practices that will be expected of you on your next trip!
Make sure to prepare your business card: In Japan, business cards are always exchanged at meetings. The way you present them, their design, and the time at which you put them away are all very important aspects of Japanese business etiquette. Always include a Japanese translation on the card, as there is always a chance you will meet with someone who does not speak the language. Cards are expected to be in mint condition with no folds, scratches, or rips. Do not store them in your pants pocket, and make sure to present them with both hands by holding the corners between your thumb and pointer fingers. Make sure to keep their card on top of yours when you exchange, otherwise you risk offending your counterpart.
Remove your outer coat before entering the building and fold it over your arm neatly. This is to ensure you are not taking up space in the lobby or doorway as you fumble with your coat.
Knock three times before entering a room: It is important you knock three times, as two knocks is reserved for checking a bathroom stall’s occupancy.
Wait to be invited to sit: You wouldn’t enter your neighbor’s house without being invited in, right? It is a sign of manners that you wait until the person conducting the meeting says something along the lines of, “please, have a seat” before doing so.
Don’t down your tea: Once you are seated, someone will likely bring you a customary cup of green tea. But don’t drink it too fast, because this could be perceived as impolite. If you take a sip too early, it could be interpreted as though you only took the meeting for the free tea. It is a good rule of thumb to wait until your counterpart takes their first sip before taking yours.
Remember to be self aware: There are many little poses, actions, or pleasantries that you might find yourself doing out of habit that are looked down upon in Japan, like putting your hands in your pocket, pointing for emphasis, blowing your nose, or asking too many personal questions. These such actions can come across as rude or improper, so remember to stop yourself from getting too comfortable during the meeting.
Gifts are welcomed, but...The numbers four and nine are considered to be unlucky in Japan. The word four in Japanese (shi) also means “death,” while ku, the word for nine, also means “suffering.” It is for this reason that it is imperative your gifts do not come in sets of four or nine. With that in mind, make sure to check out the Bokksu market for any and all of your corporate gifting needs!
Bow until the elevator door has closed: Your counterpart will likely escort you to the elevators, as it is the polite thing to do. Bowing always accompanies a goodbye, so make sure to wait until the elevator is leaving before ending the conversation with a long, respectful bow.
Adhering to proper business etiquette in Japan is the best way to ensure your meeting goes smoothly. As long as you follow these tips, you’re guaranteed to do good business! Just remember, the more respect you demonstrate to your counterparts, the more they will respect you.
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