Japan is the land of lowered voices – restraint is the order of the day. This also applies to ­business life, where personal interactions are more formal and obey stricter rules than in ­Germany. Here, we point out what you need to be aware of on your next business trip to Japan. 

Tip 1: Punctuality

There is practically no other country where punctuality is taken quite so seriously as Japan. Here, punctual means arriving five to ten minutes before the time of an appointment. If you are going to be late, even by just a few minutes, you are expected to inform the person you are meeting by phone, SMS or e-mail. A short sentence and sincere words of apology suffice. Longer explanations are thought of as excuses.

Tip 2: The right greeting

In Japan, it is traditional to bow when greeting someone. Men place their hands on their upper thighs and bend forward straight with their upper body. Women cross their hands in front of their body. The more polite one wishes to be toward the other person, the deeper the bow. For western business partners, it is usually sufficient to bend forward and give a clear nod of the head. If you are unsure, wait to see how the person you are meeting behaves.

Tip 3: A paper with weight

Business cards (Jap. Meishi) are a must in the Japanese business world. The proffered business card is always accepted with both hands and one’s own is passed over in the same way together with a slight bow. The card is then read attentively and a question may be asked to show your interest in the other person. The business card is then respectfully put away. But most definitely not in your trouser ­pocket – that would be considered impolite.

Tip 4: Business meals the Japanese way

“Itadakimasu” is the phrase spoken at the start of a meal in Japan. However, this has little in common with the western “bon appétit” or “enjoy your meal”. Instead, it expresses your humble thanks for the food offered. It also indicates that you can now begin to eat. Speaking with your mouth full or slurping, in particular when enjoying a Japanese noodle soup (ramen, soba, udon), is not considered unseemly. On the contrary, it is even expected and considered to be a sign that you are enjoying the meal.

Tip 5: Stay in contact

After your business meeting – preferably within 24 hours, if possible – you should send a short e-mail to express your gratitude for the meeting and the time taken by your business partner. In Japan, maintaining relations is the be all and end all. Keeping in regular contact, even if there is nothing pressing to discuss in relation to business, is a sign of continued strong interest. Also do not hesitate to issue an invitation to Germany.

Picture: istockphoto.com/stockstudioX