Business Traditions in Japan
For foreign nationals doing business in Japan it is very important to inform oneself of the customs and traditions as soon as possible.Both the Japanese as well as non-Japanese businesses want to have a successful business experience. To ensure that this happens, the host country’s customs and traditions must be respected. Preparing to better understand Japanese business etiquette [in german language], the process of negotiation and protocol are highly recommended to avoid a clash of cultures. One of the first things to remember is the importance of silence. Westerners tend to be more verbal and feel uncomfortable with incorporating long periods of silence into their daily lives. In Japan however, silence is necessary for contemplation, both in the private as well as the business world. Business negotiations are followed by periods of silence and should be respected by newcomers to this culture.
Along with remembering the importance of silence, the Japanese place importance on compromise and self-discipline when doing business. This means that loud and pushy behavior is not considered respectful behavior. Emotions should be kept at bay while business preparedness is highly looked upon. The Japanese will ask many questions and expect the answers to be readily available.
Respectful behavior is shown towards individuals in a senior position. This applies to their age, position in the company, family background and company status quo. Westerners are not required to bow as is the custom in Japan but respectful attire and body language is expected. Using proper titles when introducing oneself or in greeting someone is important to establish that individual’s status quo.
To the Westerner these might seem to be unnecessary niceties but for the Japanese whose culture goes back many centuries, these traditions and customs have proven themselves to be valuable over time. For this reason they must be maintained by passing them on to the younger generations. This ensures that the culture continues in the same vein.
Japan is an island nation and maintaining tradition and custom are well-founded reasons to ensure the healthy preservation of the collective. The land mass is small and one must respect their neighbor’s space and place in society.
Doing business can be very rewarding. Learning how to do this will help establish a strong foundation for future business dealings in Japan. Foreign business people should consider themselves as ambassadors of goodwill and a genuine sincerity to bridge cultural gaps.