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Japan is known for having a unique and distinct corporate culture. Many readers of this post may be interested in learning about the differences in business practices when hiring foreign nationals or working with foreign affiliated firms.

To better understand the contrasts between Japan and other countries, this article will focus on business practices in Japan.

  1. What foreigners think about Japan’s unusual business rules
  2. Business culture differences between Japan and other countries
    • Differences in business manners and etiquette
    • Differences in relationships amongst employees
    • Drinking culture
    • Perceptions on overtime work
  3. Conclusion

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1. What foreigners think about Japan’s unusual business rules

Japan Advertising Industrial Arts Ltd. introduces 30 differences in business rules between Japan and other countries in its “Textbook for Working People” (see参照 ). Here are a few of them.

  • How to grasp the “possibility of achieving a goal“
  • Speed of making a decision
  • Views on meetings
  • Proactiveness in adopting technology such as video conferencing
  • Views on retirement
  • Views on work-life balance
  • Views on bowing and courtesy
  • Rules regarding drinking
  • Complexity of honorifics
  • Barriers between employees

As you can see from the above, there are significant differences in business rules and manners between Japan and other countries. Differences can be a plus rather than a minus, but it is a good idea to understand each other’s ideas in order to work more efficiently.

2. Business culture differences between Japan and other countries

There are many differences in business etiquette between Japan and other countries. Here are some of the most important ones that you may need to pay attention to:

  • Business manners and etiquette are different

In other countries, when meeting someone for the first time, you may shake hands at the same time as exchanging business cards, while in Japan, it is common to bow along with exchanging business cards.

If a foreign national who is not accustomed to Japanese customs uses foreign manners when greeting a client, the client may be surprised and in some cases may have a negative impression of you from the start.

A common mistake is to think, “The person has worked in Japan before, so he/she must know Japanese business manners,” and not give any guidance. This can have a negative impact on subsequent negotiations, so it is always a good idea to refresh non-Japanese employees when it comes to Japanese business etiquette.

  • Differences in Relationships amongst employees

Hierarchical relationships such as a boss (superior) and subordinate (junior) exist in other business cultures, but they aren’t as prevalent as they are in Japanese organizations. A lack of hierarchical relationships means that people of various ages and positions can communicate freely in other countries.

In Japan, on the other hand, people highly value order and hierarchy. For example, in Japanese culture, it is widely accepted that new hires are not permitted to voice their opinions on the judgments and ideas of their bosses. Bosses are allowed to give feedback to their employees, but companies rarely establish a structure where employees may give feedback to their bosses.

Subordinates in other countries, on the other hand, are more likely to bring out the errors or mistakes to their bosses, respecting their country’s business etiquette. There are numerous methods in place for subordinates to rate their bosses.

As you can see, the relationship between bosses and subordinates differs greatly in other countries. As a result, many people believe that hiring a foreigner demonstrates a lack of respect for their supervisor because they do not tolerate an overly friendly attitude.

  • Drinking Culture

In Japan, it is not at all uncommon to have drinking parties with colleagues or business partners, in fact, it is accepted as a matter of business. In other countries, however, there usually isn’t a mandatory drinking culture, and it is common for people to have their own time off after work. For this reason, many foreigners seem to be surprised or uncomfortable with these “drinking parties.

Although drinking parties are basically free to choose events, some companies will force you to participate by tacit consent. As a company, you need to understand that some foreigners may not feel like participating and you should not mandate these unecessary parties.

  • Views on Overtime Work

In Japan, there is a term called “service overtime,” and Japan’s overwork deaths have become a topic of conversation overseas, and foreigners seem to feel that Japanese people work too much.

On the other hand, in other countries, it is common to leave the office as soon as you finish your scheduled work hours. For this reason, many people not only do not understand the Japanese custom of overtime work, but also consider it to be an inefficient way of working.

What is normal in Japan is not normal for foreigners, and the culture of overtime work can seem strange to them. If overtime is to be required, it is important to explain the reason for the need for overtime and allow for benefits, if necessary, and to request it based on mutual agreement.

In particular, if there is no clear statement about overtime in the employment contract and you are required to work overtime, be very careful, as this can lead to problems dow

3. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced some of the business culture differences between Japan and other countries. While Japan’s unique business manners and customs are highly regarded around the world, they are often seen as strange by foreigners who actually work in Japan.

Simply applying Japanese business rules to foreigners will not allow them to fully utilize their abilities. To maximize the productivity of foreign workers, it is critical that rules are made with their understanding.

We offer a variety of services related to employment and visas for foreign nationals. If you have any questions regarding working with foreigners, please feel free to contact us.