Japanese Work Ethic

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The work ethic of Japan could not be more different to the work ethic of Canada. Japanese culture is very different from the Canadian. All aspects of Japanese life, especially business relations, are governed by strict rules of etiquette. A foreign business person who is either ignorant of, or insensitive to, Japanese customs and etiquette needlessly jeopardizes his company's prospects in this country. It goes without saying that the Japanese work ethic and culture greatly affect doing business with other nations in this way. In the following, the most important features of Japanese culture and work ethic will be discussed, and the consequences of neglecting those features as a Canadian business person will be analyzed. A very important part a Canadian has to understand when entering the Japanese business market is the ¡¥Uchi-Soto¡¦ (Us and Then) concept. The Japanese have been brought up to think of themselves as part of a group, not individuals, and their group is always dealing with other groups. Interacting with Japanese on a one-to-one basis usually comes very easy to foreigners, but dealing with Japanese as a group can be a different matter altogether. And no matter how nice you are, or how good your Japanese might be, a foreigner will always be treated as an outsider. Many westerners see Japanese as aloof, shy, and always walking on eggshells. There is a lot of truth in that -- Japanese are extremely sensitive to what others might think of them and are very hesitant to do something new, different, or independent. Being ostracized is one of the worst things that can happen to a Japanese, who is raised to be part of a group and depend on others. Therefore, when making requests, it can often take more time then what we might be used to since the person asked usually consults others in the group to reach a consensus. As a Canadian, one might get really frustrated and annoyed about this attitude where groupthink and group consensus have first priority. A businessperson coming to Japan has to be extremely careful not to criticize this groupthink. What is really important for a foreigner who wants to succeed in Japan is to stay polite, disciplined and tolerant toward this attitude. A lot of ¡¥biting your tongue¡¦ and patience is advisable, otherwise a Canadian¡¦s business in Japan might be over sooner that it had begun. The way Japanese view non-Japanese has always been a subject of debate. Often it cannot be determined for sure what they really think. There is a mixture of admiration, suspicion, and most often a lot of nervousness about dealing with someone who doesn't look or act like the Japanese. It is very hard for non-Japanese to get an apartment, or a loan, credit card, etc in Japan. There is no logical or rational explanation for this conflict -- since Japanese do not think in a logical, rational fashion, at least in western terms. If you look at Japanese TV advertisements, the first thing you'll notice is that there are westerners in about a third of them. There are also half a dozen fluent Japanese speaking foreigners endlessly recycled on TV variety shows, constantly ingratiating themselves and amusing the Japanese enough to want them back. Their only real talent is speaking Japanese well, and many long term ex-pats see them as intellectual ¡¥whores¡¦ since they must go through the same problems others do, yet they know the rule of getting invited back is to never bite the hand that feeds them. Yet, there are also periodically TV infotainment shows following the cops and catching those ¡¥awful foreigners¡¦ committing crimes in ¡¥our country¡¦, with sinister background music shrieking away. Japanese youth generally show positive attitudes about foreigners; from others there is often indifference. And then there is the racial question. Many people coming to Japan wonder if the Japanese are racist and cold to westerners. (Japanese Culture ¡V A primer for newcomers. (n.d.). Retrieved November 22, 2006, from...
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