5 Top Mistakes to Avoid When Doing Business in Japan

Doing Business in Japan


by Teva Serna

Doing Business in Japan? Costly Mistakes to Avoid

Planning a business meeting in Japan or dealing with Japanese partners? The Japanese business etiquette has been the subject of many books and studies, but in many ways, there are many similarities between the Japanese and British business cultures. The main difference lies in the degree of formality, which is higher in Japan. We have put some tips together to help you improve your chances of success in the Japanese market. Here are the top 5 mistakes you should avoid at all costs:

1. Adopting a Hard Sales Approach

High pressure and aggressive sales tactics are ineffective in Japan. By staying objective and adopting a conservative and sober approach, you will be taken more seriously than if you are brash. Just like in the UK, confrontation should be avoided. Instead, try to express disagreements in an indirect and subtle manner. The Japanese rely mainly on non-verbal cues and will pick up on your reservations even if you express them indirectly.

2. Congratulating an Individual

Japan, like most other Asian countries, is known for placing the group above the individual. As a result, you should always avoid praising a single individual. Both the individual and the rest of the group will feel uncomfortable, and it could cause tensions within the group.

3. Forgetting the Hierarchy

Unlike in most Western countries, in Japan executive seniority is dependent on age. The hierarchical system is strong and older executives should be treated with slightly more deference than younger ones. You should always introduce yourself to the oldest person in the room first.

4. Not Reading a Business Card

Business cards are a key part of someone’s identity and the ritual around them is very important in Japan. When accepting a business card, take it with both hands, briefly read it and carefully place it in your cardholder, not in your pocket. You should always have business cards ready. Have your cards printed in both English and Japanese, and present the Japanese side when giving your card. Never slide or throw a business card across the table, and avoid writing on it.

5. Expecting a Decision to be Made During Meetings

Perhaps the most important point to remember, meetings in Japan are held to collect information, not to make decisions. Your Japanese partners will meet you to listen to what to have to say, not to finalise the outcomes. Trying to reach a final decision during a meeting could harm your relationship with your Japanese partners. Decisions will however usually be made swiftly after the meeting due to the growing competition across Asia. Additionally, verbal agreements are traditionally favoured over written contracts. As a result, your Japanese counterparts should not be pressured into signing documents.

How to be Ready: Cross-Cultural Training

Having Japanese language skills will help you develop business partnerships in Japan. But being culturally aware will optimise your chances of closing a deal and establishing strong business relationship. Cross-cultural training will help you develop key cultural awareness skills for doing business in Japan. At Cactus Language Training, we offer several options that you can combine together to be fully trained and ready:

Business Japanese Training
Cross-Cultural Training

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To receive more information about how Cactus Language Training can increase your profits, or to get a quote, simply call us or contact us with any questions you may have. Cactus also offers a free no obligation language consultation for corporations and individuals.

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