6 Things You Need To Know About Doing Business In Japan

6 Things You Need To Know About Doing Business In Japan

If you’re interested in expanding your business to the Japanese market there are several things that you’re certainly going to need to know. The way of doing things in Japan is very different, and Japanese culture can be very difficult for anyone from the West to understand. With this in mind, here are the six things we believe you should bear in mind if you’re serious about making your move East a success.

  1. The Japanese Style Of Communication Is Frequently Indirect

In the West, we tend to be direct in terms of communication. If we want something we ask for it. However, this isn’t how the Japanese do things. Rather, the Japanese take meaning from the things that aren’t said, relying instead on context.

So, for example, if you’re at a business dinner with Japanese clients and you’re uncomfortable about using chopsticks, don’t ask if you can have a fork instead. This could signal unintentionally to your fellow diners that you don’t want to know more about their culture. Rest assured that your table mates will be watching you and will pick up on your discomfort, asking the waiter to bring you a fork so you can eat more comfortably.

  1. The Japanese Will Say Yes When They Really Mean No

You need to be aware that the Japanese are keen to keep harmony, save face and avoid confrontation as part of their culture, but that doesn’t mean that they agree with everything you’re saying or asking. While the Japanese may physically be saying yes, they’re sometimes actually meaning “no”.

The key to success is noting the signs that indicate disagreement, even if the actual word “no” never gets mentioned. Some indicators that the answer is “no” include silence on the other party’s behalf, a rapid change in conversation topic, the raising of something that could go wrong, or the suggestion of an alternative solution.

  1. The Approach To Business Is Gentler

If you arrive in Japan with the intention of hard-selling your product or service you’re going to meet failure. The business culture in Japan is far gentler than it is in the West. Rather than taking a confrontational approach, be gentle and calm while pitching your new idea. Also, avoid pushing for deadlines as this too is detrimental for business.

  1. Meetings Are For Information Not Making Decisions

In the West, we usually hold and attend meetings to come to decisions about matters. This isn’t the case in Japan, where meetings are mostly held for the purpose of acquiring information. Ideas will be discussed and decisions will be made, but not in one meeting. If you try to push a speedy decision your enterprise will be doomed to fail.

  1. Older People Deserve More Respect

In Japanese culture, the age is respected and is synonymous with business ranking hierarchy. It’s important to therefore show more reverence to senior executives than to younger ones. Always great the most senior person before greeting anyone else to avoid showing unintentional disrespect.

  1. Privacy Is Important

In Western countries, we often ask others personal questions in order to build up a rapport. If you do this in Japan, though, you could cause offence. Privacy is extremely important to the Japanese, so avoid asking for any personal opinions at the start of any business relationship.

As you can see, there are many differences between Japanese culture and cultures in the West. Using the services of a professional Japanese translator can help you to avoid problematic issues surrounding communication styles so that your business can be a success.

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