Although Japan has been very slow in adopting globalization, the number of foreigners working in Japan has seen a bump over recent years.

However, working in Japan is not always a great experience for foreigners. Some foreigners, for example, have been forced to work in Japan as they are transferred here.

It is critical to understand how foreign nationals feel about Japan in order for them to live comfortably and productively in Japan. As a result, in this article, we shall discuss a foreigners’ perspective on Japanese business culture.

  1. Questions that foreigners have about Japan
  2. The good parts of Japan from a foreigner’s perspective
  3. Language Barriers that stand in the way for foreigners
  4. Conclusion

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1. Questions that foreigners have about Japan

AIM-SEAL Inc. has conducted a survey on the most asked questions foreigners have about Japan (see below). The following questions are the results:


  • Many people are stereotypical. They have a hard time adjusting their view towards each individual
  • They don’t answer clearly with a simple, “I like it!” and it is hard to tell if my work is right or not.
  • They say, “That’s a lot of work,” but they don’t really mean it.
  • Feel a strong wall between co-workers.
  • Their answers are too far-fetched. They do not answer directly.
  • There are real intentions and also pretenses.
  • There are too many drinking parties.
  • There is a strong sense of diligence in work and little conversation in the workplace.
  • Lack of liveliness.


  • Bosses must be respected.
  • Newcomers must ask for instructions from their seniors before doing their work.
  • Different people say different things.
  • There are some comments and actions that make me feel that they want to avoid their responsibilities.
  • Some people want to avoid their own responsibilities.
  • Superiors do not listen well.
  • Even if someone were to report, the responsibility lies with them.
  • If someone is asked to accomplish something, yet refuses to do so.
  • When someone is considered an “apprentice,” they receive no instruction or support and are expected to learn on their own.

Sense of Time

  • There seems to be a sense of time from the beginning to the end.
  • A perspective that one will be working late anyways, so it will be best to just take work easy and slowly.

How to think about work

  • When asked to contribute more than one’s salary to the company.
  • Japanese are “Life for Work”; Americans are “Work for Life”.
  • Hospitality is only when it is a host-guest relationship.
  • There are too many rules at work.
  • There are too many unspoken rules.
  • The unspoken rules, whether they have no purpose being imposed or have any merits, those rules will never change.
  • There are too many arrangements, hence lots of unnecessary extra work..
  • If things are done efficiently and you have no work, you will be perceived as slacking off.
  • Being taught the same thing over and over again by various people.
  • Newcomers have to pick up the phone.


  • When everyone is doing the same thing, all others should do it as well.
  • When everyone is suffering, all should suffer together.
  • Thinking about the team, but not about each member.

There is a long list of workplace rules that are usually a cultural characteristic of Japan. Many foreigners seem to have doubts about these rules that Japanese companies have and tend to go against these policies. When companies are not able to adapt to their employees from a different cultural background, they tend to see their employees dissatisfied with the environment and leaving the company. This is why many companies need to open up to individuals who think outside the box if they would like to adapt to the future of business.

One of the most common topics of conversation amongst foreigners is that Japanese people work too much. The term “Karoushi/Karoshi” has become widespread overseas, and Japanese people are perceived as continually overworked. This is one of the biggest reasons why some people would prefer not to work in Japan.

From an outside standpoint, working long hours is valued more than working efficiently in Japan which is true to some degree. This is simply nonsense from a Westerner’s perspective. If you do not have work to do, you should be able to go home and enjoy time with your family. Having to stay long hours just to impress your boss but having nothing to do is a complete waste of time and many foreigners would prefer not to work in Japan because of this.

Also, many foreigners who saw images and videos of the Japanese commuter rush hour were shocked to see Japanese people burying themselves in crowded trains when the doors were open and station staff were pushing passengers inside. Transportation in urban areas where the population is concentrated may be one of the things that foreigners want to avoid as there is no personal space or privacy.

2. The good parts of Japan from a foreigner’s perspective

While we have introduced some of the questions that foreigners have about Japan, there are of course some positive comments that praise Japan.

For example:

  • Japanese people are polite.
  • Japanese people behave in an orderly manner.
  • Japan has a well-developed infrastructure.
  • Trains and buses run on time in Japan.
  • Japan is economically affluent.

Many foreigners value these traits, and many of them feel comfortable living in Japan. When dealing with foreign nationals, it is necessary to respect the other person’s culture and way of thinking, but if you pander to them, you may disappoint foreigners who are drawn to the Japanese character and way of thinking.

3. The Language Barrier for Foreigners

One of the reasons why foreigners hesitate to come to Japan is because of the language barrier.

The Japanese syllabary ―hiragana, katakana, and kanji are all used daily. It is rare to see multiple characters used in a single language, and since it looks extremely complicated for non-natives, many foreigners have a tough time learning Japanese.

Because many Chinese characters are common, the barrier appears to be somewhat low for people from countries where Chinese characters are used, such as Chinese speaking countries, but it is quite a challenge for people from places where the alphabet is the main writing system, such as in the Western world.

Furthermore, the English ability of Japanese people is also a language barrier for foreigners. It has been a long time since English became the lingua franca of the world, but it is well known that the Japanese struggle with English. It is also said that foreign tourists have been unable to communicate with Japanese people on the street in English and have been unable to get help from them.

If this language barrier can be eliminated or lowered, it will be easier for talented foreign workers to choose to work in Japan. In order to achieve this, it is important for foreigners who are considering working or have worked in Japan to learn about Japanese culture and the Japanese language, as well as for Japanese society as a whole to deepen its understanding of foreign languages.

4. Conclusion

In this article, we have introduced the impressions of Japan held by foreigners. There are the goods and the bad parts of Japan. If you are planning to hire foreigners for your company, it would be a good idea to understand the characteristics of Japan as perceived by foreigners.

Hiring a foreigner with a different culture and language can be more difficult than expected for an unfamiliar company. If you have any questions about hiring foreigners or visas, please feel free to contact us for total support in hiring foreigners.