Experiencing Japanese Culture First Hand

From my observation, the way we back in the U.S. do business has some small but very important differences. Because I  came over here to work I would like to point some of those out.   Americans who seek business with the Japanese must  have a thorough understanding of the traditions and customs of Japan; otherwise, they will be doomed to failure. Even minor points of protocol might spell trouble for the unwary foreign entrepreneur. For example, a business card that does not clearly state the person’s rank and position in his or her company could prove disastrous–without knowing where that person is on the corporate grid, a Japanese executive will not know how much deference to show. The presentation of a business proposal also is a question of protocol: one must be accurate, honest, and above all extremely well prepared; excuses about lack of detailed information receive silent disdain.

Americans–often an impatient lot–must learn to exercise patience with the Japanese. All too often, American corporate representatives arrive in Tokyo expecting to conclude their business in one or two weeks. When negotiations bog down (as they often do), they grow restless and impatient. That irritates the Japanese, who regard such behavior as a sigh of weakness. They have no time for short-term relationships–consensus and cooperation must be tested and nurtured, and that takes plenty of time.

Surprisingly, many U.S.corporations overlook the need for extensive planning when they contemplate business ventures in Japan. Frequently, they send representatives who lack adequate training in Japanese, or who do not have the sensitivity to understand and appreciate the cultural differences of the two countries. In that area, the Japanese are way ahead of the game. Typically, a person representing a Japanese company in the United States will have spent many years studying the language, politics, and culture. When he or she finally sets foot in the United States, he or she will already be an expert interpreter of our values, attitudes, strengths, and weaknesses.

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