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Japanese Business Etiquette Guide

When Japanese Visit Your Office

It’s important to be prepared when a Japanese customer, supplier or other guest is coming to visit your office. You can honor protocol and avoid cultural gaffes with a little advance planning. Here are some highlights:

Start your meeting on time. Do not keep your guests waiting for members of your team to straggle in.

Exchange business cards with care, at the start of the meeting. Standing opposite each person, offer your card with both hands. Do not toss your card across the table or hold it out casually with one hand. Receive your guest’s card with both hands and study it for a moment, then set it carefully on the table in front of your seat or place it in your business card holder. Never shove your guest’s card in your pocket!

Address your remarks to the most senior person on your guests’ team, even if a lower ranking person from their team is doing most of the talking.

Start out with small talk. Take a few minutes to ask your guests about their trip to help put them at ease. You’ll learn a bit about them and they’ll be less likely to find you pushy.

Provide a written agenda of the points you wish to discuss. Give each guest a folder with as much printed information as possible on your firm, products or services. Due to the language barrier, it can be hard to absorb everything in the meeting, so they will appreciate having the materials to refer to later.

Speak carefully, so that people can understand you better. Slow down and leave out buzzwords, slang and idioms. Don’t raise your voice, though – talking louder doesn’t make you any easier to understand.

Invite your visitors to lunch or dinner. It’s polite, and will give you a chance to talk in a more relaxed setting. Think carefully about where to take them, though. Avoid sloppy deli sandwiches, and anything heavy or fried. Favorites generally are steakhouses, Italian, Chinese, Indian and, of course, Japanese.

Japanese business etiquette training and seminars are a specialty of Japan Intercultural Consulting. Please contact us for more information on how we can help you prepare for successful interactions with Japanese clients, customers, and business partners.

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