Japanese business culture is wrongly perceived as the biggest obstacle to starting business in Japan for many foreign companies thinking of entering the Japanese market. Many foreign companies never do start business in Japan (or only enter the Japanese market through a distributor) simply because of the misconception, fueled by those infamous myths of doing business in Japan, that dealing with Japanese business culture is somehow too risky. Fortunately, Japanese business culture is not an impenetrable barrier to successful business in Japan, as proven by the very substantial Japanese market share enjoyed by Yahoo!, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co. and many others. Inevitably Japanese business culture is different than that of the US or Europe, but the differences do not make it any more risky to do business in Japan than elsewhere in the world. In fact, certain aspects of Japan's business culture, especially the very stable long-term relationships resulting from the conservative Japanese sense of loyalty to trusted partners, can be very beneficial for those foreign companies that understand how to swim with the cultural tide as opposed to vainly struggling against it.
[...] Japanese sense of loyalty to trusted partners, can be very beneficial for those foreign companies that understand how to swim with the cultural tide as opposed to vainly struggling against it. Making Appointments If you want to make an appointment, but don't have a connection, a personal call will be more effective than sending a letter. Moreover, a letter requesting an appointment might go unanswered. Punctuality is necessary when doing business here; the Japanese believe it is rude to be late. [...]
[...] If it is necessary to discuss bad news, use an intermediary, such as the one who introduced you to the company. Outbursts of laughter are not always indicative of mirth in this culture. Laughter is also used to mask feelings such as nervousness, shock, embarrassment, confusion, and disapproval. Periods of silence lasting between 10-15 seconds during meetings and conversations are considered useful rather than uncomfortable. You may find that your Japanese counterparts will not be specific about what they expect from you. [...]
[...] People will also take offense if you are in the presence of a group of people and give a gift to one person, but fail to give one to the others who are present. Gifts are opened in private, because if the gift turns out to be a poor choice, “loss of face” will result. Also, if several gifts are presented to people of different status, opening them privately prevents any possible comparisons. Before accepting a gift, it is polite to modestly refuse at least once or twice before finally accepting. [...]
[...] Visitors are encouraged to incorporate these kinds of remarks into their conversation. Exercise a few caution while asking Japanese people certain questions. For example, English speakers would give a negative answer to the question the document available?” by responding The intended meaning is the document is not available.” The Japanese interpretation is different. The answer would be meaning, the document is not available.” If the response to your question is “probably”, or thinking about the answer is likely to be consider however, is often indicative of a Don't make accusations or direct refusals. [...]
[...] People who focus only on work-related matters will find that they cannot make friends or successfully conduct business in Japan. Bow often, when appropriate. In Japanese business culture, bars are popular venues for business entertaining, particularly “karaoke” bars where patrons are encouraged to sing along to taped popular songs. If you are invited out to a karaoke bar, you will be expected to sing along. It doesn't matter if you can't carry a tune, but remaining gracious and co-operative is essential. [...]
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