Japanese Business Meeting Etiquette

January 13, 2015

Proper Japanese business meeting etiquette is particularly nuanced and, in some respects, differs significantly from business etiquette of other Asian countries. Here are some Japanese business etiquette tips to help you appropriately interact with your foreign colleagues:

 

  • Avoid abrasive language, as the Japanese tend to value and trust business people who present themselves as compromising, appeasing and humble. Being confrontational, openly disagreeing with someone and/or putting people on the spot are considered rude and will make a bad impression on your Japanese colleagues.

  • Be prepared for direct questions, such as "How much money do you make?" or "How old are you?" Japanese business people tend to be direct in their questions in familiarizing themselves with a new person...If you are not comfortable giving a direct answer, find a gracious way to deflect and try not to show offense, as such questions are commonplace and are not considered rude in Japan.

  • Exchange business cards at the beginning of a meeting. Be sure to have a Japanese translation of your card on the flipside, as this shows your respect for and desire to do business with your Japanese colleagues. Bow slightly when handing out your card, and be sure to hand it with the Japanese translation facing up and toward your colleagues so they can easily read it.

  • Take time to read all Japanese business cards before putting them away. The way you handle a Japanese business card will show your colleagues how much you value your relationship with them. As a result, NEVER quickly shove a card into your pocket or briefcase. Instead, read it over attentively and only then carefully put it away.To impress your Japanese business colleagues, ask how to pronounce their names (if applicable) and try to refer to the cards (which you can also place neatly in front of you) during the meeting.

 

Other helpful etiquette tips for Japanese business meetings include:

  • Bring a Japanese translation of all informational company documents, as this will establish your legitimacy and credibility.

  • Bring some of your colleagues with you unless you are prepared to field all potential questions that foreign associates may have.

  • Don't be alarmed if your Japanese colleagues go silent (and close their eyes), as this shows they are thinking critically about something.

  • Hire a Japanese interpreter if you aren't fluent in Japanese, as this will indicate that you are willing to go the extra mile to do business with your Japanese colleagues.

 
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