Copyright c JETRO 1999 All rights reserved. This publication may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, by mimeograph, photocopy, or any other means, nor stored in any information retrieval system, without the express written permission of the publishers. (For Distribution in the U.S.) This material is distributed by the U.S. office of JETRO (Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco) on behalf of Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), Tokyo, Japan. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.
Misunderstandings caused by different communication styles often lead to lost business opportunities for foreign businesspeople dealing with Japan. This booklet is intended to fill such gaps. We asked Dr. Ernest Gundling, an intercultual specialist, to be the author to leverage on his extensive research and hands-on experience in this field. We sincerely hope that this booklet will help businesspeople from all over the world be successful in doing business with Japan. International Communication Department JETRO
It is a pleasure to be able to offer this introduction to business communication with Japanese. I hope that each reader will find useful tips for his or her work, and quickly build bridges towards strong mutual understanding. The personal and professional rewards of working with Japanese counterparts are well worth the effort. Dr. Ernest Gundling Managing Director Meridian Resources Associates Special thanks to: Ruth Sasaki (research and writing) David Dickey (research and writing) Masaaki Aoki (illustrations)
Communicating with Japanese in Business
TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. INTRODUCTION 2. CULTURAL FOUNDATIONS OF JAPANESE COMMUNICATION STYLE a. Group Orientation b. Hierarchy c. Form and Formality d. Situational Behavior e. High Context Communication 3. COMMUNICATION GAPS CAUSED BY BUSINESS CUSTOMS a. Decision-Making b. Contracts c. Information-Sharing d. Customer Relations e. Meetings f. Feedback and Issue Resolution 4. COMMUNICATION GAPS CAUSED BY LINGUISTIC DIFFERENCES a. Indirect or Ambiguous Expression b. Unintended Tone c. Japanese English d. Grammar, Word Choice, and Pronunciation e. Nonverbal Communication 5. CHANGING JAPAN: INCREASED OPPORTUNITIES FOR BUSINESS APPENDIX: TYPICAL BUSINESS IDIOMS IN JAPANESE 4
5 5 6 7 8 8 10 10 12 14 16 18 20
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As companies continue to expand beyond borders to develop global markets and standards, we are living today in a kind of "virtual reality" -- one can see the same products, the same logos, whether one is in London, Bangkok, or Rio de Janeiro. A French businessperson may work with a Japanese to sell products designed in Israel, manufactured in California, and assembled and tested in Malaysia. Add to this communications technologies such as videoconferencing and e-mail, and the world indeed seems to be shrinking. In this climate of international collaboration, surrounded by the illusion of sameness, we may easily assume that "business is business," and that, when dealing with business associates in the same industry, we "speak the same language" despite cultural differences. This can be a dangerous assumption. Yes,yes...
In fact, the more experience a nonJapanese has in doing business with Japanese, the more aware he/she becomes of the difficulty of communication as an obstacle. As Japan has become a key part of the intricate global business environment, the foreign businessperson working in Japan or with Japanese companies outside of Japan may encounter a wide variety of communication gaps arising from differences in cultural values and assumptions, business customs, and language.
We'll think it over... It's a Forget it! done deal
This booklet is designed to provide practical insight and strategies for navigating the seemingly opaque waters of business communication in Japan. The next section describes the underlying values and...
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