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Japan: Bitesized Business Etiquette

By Josian Phillips, 

For those of you who need good information quickly and concisely, here is a list of 15 essential Japanese business tips that you need to know before that vital meeting in Japan.

  1. Good manners, politeness and sensitivity are essential. Japanese business is very formal and traditional.
  2. The Japanese have a good sense of humour, a cultural faux pas, or an attempt to speak Japanese could break the ice.
  3. Take plenty of notes during a meeting, it indicates interest, but NOT on the back of a business card.
  4. The Japanese seldom shake hands. A firm and friendly hand-shake is a definite no, it could make a Japanese person very uncomfortable indeed, they may avoid meeting you again!
  5. Never pat a Japanese person on the back or shoulder.
  6. Never be rude about competitors, or anyone.
  7. Always be polite.
  8. Do not blow your nose in a public place, and definitely not in a meeting.
  9. Gifts are good. Bring enough for assistants and subordinates too.
  10. Do not wrap gifts in white (death) or green (unlucky).
  11. Don’t turn your back on someone of higher status than you.
  12. Always carry business cards. See further information about business cards.
  13. Do not wear a black suit with a white shirt and a black tie to meetings, as this is funeral wear. October-April: Do wear a navy or black suit with white shirt and conservative tie May-September: A grey suit appropriate.
  14. Beards may be frowned on, Japanese companies do not allow beards, or shaved heads, worth considering!
  15. Businesswomen should dress in the same seasonal colours as the men (see above), trouser suits and longer skirts will earn more respect – as will shorter or tied back hair.

Further reading

Japan: The all important business card

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