Worldwide customs - Japan

Japan has a different culture compared to the rest of the mentioned countries, difference helped by their isolation, landscaping and language.
Japanese people are known to live in overpopulated cities and the concept of a chain society comes from them. This means that every Japanese will learn to become dependent by the other society members, even in the childhood when they keep their children with them in the same room until they are 2-3 years old.

Japan prisoner of its own language ?

The language is also different and like Benjamin Whorf who emitted a theory about languages, every culture or country is influenced after the characteristics of its own language. So the Japanese is considered as ambiguous, letting free spaces to interpretations and with impersonal verbs, when long impersonal phrases are followed by the main proposition. A very unique thing is about taking and giving a message, if anyone refuses to transmit a message even if it’s a secretary than it’s a Japanese. The same secretary will tell you to call the person back to hear the message instead of just transmitting it to you. This because it’s so easy to interpret wrong a message that no one wants to be blamed by transmitting wrong anything. Their language is really a barrier even between them not to mention with others. So learning another language it’s a real challenged since the entire model is so different. That’s why Japanese understands just partly a foreign language including English and this for us could seem unbelievable but for them is normal. How to solve such a unique problem ? Very hard to say, but for sure knowing it will give you an extra effort to assure you understood each other.

Things to know in business meetings

So we have a powerful conditioning environment for our Japanese business partner. Having such a different language the process of translation in their mind from any other language is very complicated and even stressful.
First meeting
Keeping in mind the infos above we can understand why the first meeting or bringing a new person to a second meeting is not a pleasant thing for a Japanese. In their own environment they already know who is who, how to talk and treat any person from the chain, so a new person it’ a challenge. Same goes with the normal American behavior when everyone is so opened and comes for a handshake, this stresses the Japanese terrible if he was not presented properly to the new person.
Same goes whit decisions since in a chain society the group decision is very important.
Going back to meetings, exchange of business cards it’s a good start but still not enough information for the normal Japanese.
To understand better let’s see a comparison between how a Japanese and an American presents himself:
“American: I am John Smith managing partner to Hixxxx Comp.
Japanese: Within the Xxxx company, department of foreign relations, the GM assistant I am Yamamoto.”

Going to a meeting in Japan the business man can be welcomed by a huge group where he needs to presents himself to everyone of them, which is annoying for the occidental but for the Japanese it’s necessary.
Same goes with decisions, the typical American representatives want quick decisions and often they push the negotiation process, but a Japanese can’t do that and if it’s forced will retreat silently from any further negotiation. If you compromise yourself to a meeting you won’t gain nothing and very likely you won’t see that person again. Every discussion must start with an introduction where the values of what you want to present are described. Jumping to the point of the meeting will be seen like disrespectful and will be refused. This is the most important thing to know in negotiations, they negotiate as well but in a different manner where politeness and courtesy is very important. They will respect more the fidelity to a company than efficiency of the person.

Be aware about the “no” word. Like in the countries discussed before we find the similitude here as well. They will never say no to you even if they refuse the offer. But you will know that by never seeing the person in charge again after that meeting.
If you have a first meeting with a manager in Japan don’t be surprised if he will close his eyes and listen to you for the first 10 minutes until you present yourself.

Negotiation characteristics

Japanese negotiate in teams and every team member has a different specialty.
But the team can grow or become more diversified in time because they prefer to involve more and more company members to know you and take part of the final decision.
Your first contact from a company will be always present to the next meetings.
The main leader will be present and lead the strategies but unlikely will be the main participant in communication where the other players will put questions inside their expertise area. The meaning of the questions is related to information not decisions. They will put all the information together and decide with the company, not just that team, and not on the first meeting, possibly not on the second.
The flexibility is very limited and changes are hard to be made since the team represents a company strategy which can’t be changed before another meeting with the “head”.
Keeping in mind the language barrier same issues can be discussed many times to assure them the real meaning, this can be confusing for both parts, hard to know if you get the message exactly.
But all this long process is meant to cover everything correctly and create a long term relationship in business. They are not interested in short term visions. They want to stick with their partners many years to come.
Anyway after the decision made the action time is completely different, here they expect quick actions and they will do the same, being harsh with delays.
If everything goes well they are willing to make changes from their original plans, but just in case you were polite, respectful, protocol keeper and patient. Harmony is a main word. So it’s not everything about logic and statistics, it’s also about sympathy and emotional acceptance.

Better product with higher productivity. This is what’s important, that’s why they were silent when many companies accused them by stealing their products and remade them cheaper and better. Japanese consider that it’s just a waste of time to invest money in new inventions if they can take what it’s on the market and just make it better afterwards. Some people considered them with inferiority complex. Actually is the opposite since they have some racist behavior about Afro Americans and Indians.

Short briefing about what to do for a successful meeting
Be well dressed in a conservatory way (black, grey, white); be ultra-polite; bow to show your respect especially to the chief; apologize a lot for things you never made; be kind and serious; avoid jokes which no one will understand anyway; be well prepared to illustrate your company and the representatives of the company; adulate them as much as you can; be quite instead of saying no; be patient and avoid being too direct; repeat many times the important points of the meeting to be well understood; how you represent yourself is more important then what you are saying.

No comments:

Post a Comment