For exhibit and event professionals  

Dos and Don’ts in Japan

June 29, 2014 By Editor

Two Businessmen Bowing and Business PeopleExperience shows that good fair stand construction and logistics are not the only factors leading to success. Doing business with the Japanese requires patience, service-orientated thinking and at least a rudimentary understanding of the Japanese culture. There are countless potential pitfalls.

1. In Japan ‘face saving’ is vital. Hierarchies are important and should always be strictly respected, despite their often being difficult to understand.

2. Clear statements such as ‘yes’ and ‘no’ should be avoided. Pay attention to the gestures of your counterpart: if his head is slightly tilted, and he at the same time touches the nape of his neck and draws breath through closed teeth, he means ‘no’. Practice it yourself!

3. Always hand over your business card using both hands, holding it so the recipient can read it without turning it. By the same token, when you are given a business card take it with both hands and bow slightly. On no account should you put it straight into your pocket. Instead be sure to read it attentively and say thank you again.

4. When entering restaurants and private homes shoes are removed and placed tidily so that they can easily be slipped on again when leaving. If you go to the toilet you will find special shoes there, which you must take off again before returning.

5. Never throw cigarette stubs onto the street. In the absence of public ash trays, Japanese smokers dispose of their stubs in small airtight containers, which they carry with them. These pocket ashtrays can be found in any department store. If you smoke, buy yourself one.

6. In Japan the Tenno is still the highest authority. Until the end of World War II the Emperor of Japan was of divine ancestry, and this still applies to some extent. Never make jokes about the Japanese royal family.

7. Avoid eye contact with others and never cross your legs when seated.

8. Slurp when eating. This is not at all a sign of bad upbringing, but rather demonstrates that you are enjoying your meal.

9. When seated, never point the soles of your feet towards others. This is considered very impolite.

10. Show restraint and never pour yourself a drink. Always let your host fill your glass.

11. In Japan it is bad manners to use a handkerchief in public. The Japanese just sniff. Do the same while there, but be sure to revert to a handkerchief when you return to Europe!

12. Never give tips. Japan is the country of service par excellence, and excellent service is the rule everywhere. A tip is not expected and will not be taken.


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