When conducting business in a foreign country or while corresponding with foreign associates, it is important to remember that cultures across the globe vary in numerous ways. In the United States, it is considered polite to meet an associate with a handshake, and even with a simple handshake native customs follow specific rules. For example, in America a handshake must be firm (to display confidence and portray a sense of control and dominance). A weak handshake is considered meek and will earn the person giving the weak handshake less respect from their business associate. However, handshakes are not universal forms of communication in all countries and are certainly not received in the same capacity around the globe as they are in the United States. This paper explores the important rules of business etiquette in Japan as well as important customs of the Japanese culture.
It is important to be mindful of local customs and native business etiquette rules because paying attention to the small and large details of an associate’s culture reflects well on you, your company, and will also win over a foreign client in business negotiations. Some countries are a little more forgiving of misadventures in business etiquette, but not Japan. Japanese culture is founded on respect and mindfulness, so it is important to pay attention to Japanese culture and tradition when conducting business in Japan. One of the first things to remember when conducting business in Japan is that age is very well respected in the country. In Japan, age is equivalent to social status and societal rank. Therefore, when entering a conference room or beginning a business meeting, greet the oldest persons in the room first; address the eldest associates first when beginning conversation. Greetings are very important in Japan and also very dissimilar from the handshake greeting seen in the United States. In Japan, shaking hands is almost unheard of. Instead, Japanese people bow. A bow is seen as a formal greeting. Bows can come in many forms. For example, a slight bow, or a subtle nod of the head, is a casual greeting, as it requires the least amount of effort. This type of bow is considered to be informal. A more formal greeting is a complete bow to the waist, which is seen as a sign of implicit respect. When greeting an associate, first remember to acknowledge the eldest person first, but also try to match their bow. If one are required to bow first, they should bow somewhere in the middle, not just a slight head nod and not so far down as the waist.

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Business cards are another important facet of Japanese culture that is directly related to business. In Japan, business cards are seen as an extension of the cardholder’s identity. Therefore, except business cards with care. Similarly, when presenting a business card, give it with care. Never throw or slide a business card to a Japanese associate.

Another important Japanese custom is the removal of shoes in homes and important historic landmark sites and buildings. This might not directly apply to business meetings in downtown office settings, but if invited to an associate’s home, it is important to remove one’s shoes as a sign of respect.

The Japanese boast a very formal culture. Respect, honor, and mindfulness are rooted deeply into many aspects of the culture and are represented in various ways in Japanese business. When conducting business in Japan, it is important to remember that acknowledging and following these traditions will go a long way to further and even augment business relationships. Finally, a good way to make a good impression on Japanese associates is to always keep respect in the forefront of one’s mind and to always make a sincere effort. Even if one fails to meet traditional customs in some instances, being observed as making a sincere effort will still leave one’s Japanese associates with a positive impression.

  • Martinuzzi, Bruna. “Doing Business in Japan: 10 Etiquette Rules You Should Know.” N.p., 05 Aug. 2013. Web. .