When communicating with Japanese business people, American business people sometimes feel uncomfortable, puzzled, lost, irritated and the like, based on some unfamiliar customs and behaviors demonstrated by the Japanese business people. Nothing is more comfortable and secure than understanding the cross-cultural aspect. Understanding can facilitate communication and avoid misunderstanding. Understanding then can also make the Japanese business people feel comfortable. This also enhances business communications.
When it comes to communicating dealing with the Japanese business people, they negotiate with the American business people, bringing their own cultural background. In many cases, what may be considered to be acceptable by American standards may be unacceptable to the Japanese. Japanese and American cultures doe not seem to have many things in common. At the same time, no Japanese would give American business people a single clue. informing them that what they have done might not have been acceptable.
Although minor mistakes are permissible, misunderstandings and failure to recognize important cultural subtleties may lead to stagnation or dismissal of the communications. In reference to the cross-cultural aspect, more strict rules must be observed for the Japanese culture than for the American culture.
In this paper, many cross-culturally related areas in business communications are discussed. They are gift exchange in communications, values, exchanging business cards, and the like.
Naturally, these cross cultural areas are not the entire core of the cross cultural business communication. However, the initial understanding of the Japanese cross cultural business communications may be a good start.
BUSINESS PRACTICE AND CUSTOMS
In this section, three areas are discussed: (a) business suits, (b) business card
exchange, and (c) gift exchange (temiyage).
Many Japanese businessmen tend to wear dark suits of navy blue, dark gray or
brown. They consider these colors to be acceptable at business meetings, for working in the company, for meeting their client, and the like. The suits and neckties that they wear are quite conservative.
A Japanese businessman usually fastens the high button of his suit when he comes into a room to meet with his American counterpart to discuss possible business communications. Based on Japanese business practice, it is common for a Japanese businessman to fasten that button before he greets his partner for the first time or when he talks to a superior or an older person, while standing. However, it is permissible for him to unbutton it while he is sitting in a chair. If his superior or a client comes in to introduce him to another person while he is seated, it is also a common practice for him to fasten the higher button first and to stand up in order to talk to them.
Business Card Exchange (meishi)
Among the Japanese, when businessmen meet each other, business begins with the exchange of business cards.
"Each day in Japan, an estimated 10 million to 12 million of the 2-by-3-inch meishi (business cards) are passed in a precise ceremonial exchange of bows that help keep this status-oriented society together.:" (Arizona Republic, 1986)
Taking Out a Business Card
There are many different methods of taking a business card out of a business suit. One way is to keep some business cards in a small pocket located on the lower left part of the inside of the jacket. Another way to take out a business card is to keep the cards in a small wallet. Either way is acceptable as long as the businessman does not spend too much time looking for his business card, thus making his partner wait.1
When giving a business card, picking up papers from a briefcase, putting papers back into a briefcase and the like, it is considered very important to the Japanese not to make one's counterpart...