When doing business in a foreign country it is always vital to understand differences in culture. This helps to avoid misunderstandings and allows development of positive and long-lasting business relationships. Knowing the differences in business etiquette between British and Japanese culture could be what lands you a lucrative contract or a lucrative new job. While Japanese businesspeople understand that you will not understand all of their culture and business etiquette they will notice and appreciate your genuine efforts.
The Japanese generally do business based on personal relationships. Being introduced by a person who has a good relationship with the company is very helpful. You may be given a small trial to prove yourself. Even if this request is non-profitable, completing it quickly and well helps develop a long-term relationship.
Gifts are very important in Japanese culture. Always give a small gift at the end of a meeting to the most senior member. Consult with a Japanese person on an appropriate gift. Many flowers such as camellias are associated with death and potted plants encourage sickness. If you receive a gift, do not open it in the presence of the giver.
Meetings should be arranged by telephone well in advance. Punctuality is imperative. Seating is arranged with the most junior member nearest the door and the most senior furthest away. Do not be surprised if meetings contain several people, even if you thought it would be a one-on-one meeting. You will be expected to have a document containing information about your company, testimonials from customers and other companies and newspaper or magazine articles. It is best to come to a meeting with your best offer, as this is what will be expected.
Consensus and group decision-making is the norm in Japanese culture. Questions should be phrased in such a way that even negative answers can be given with a yes. For example Do you think this is a bad idea? rather than Do you agree?. Japanese businesspeople may be silent while considering issues and may close their eyes while listening carefully. Confrontational negotiation styles such as raised voices or anger will be frowned upon. Contracts are generally broad with room for re-negotiation and flexibility rather than rigid and point-by-point. However, written contracts are always expected.
Japanese business culture is quite conservative and avant-garde fashions will not be appreciated. Conservative business dress is always appropriate in Japan, especially for women. Suits should be dark-coloured without flashy accessories.
Business cards are very important in Japanese culture and you should always have a ready supply. The quality of your business cards and their condition is highly important also. When you receive a business card examine it carefully and treat it with respect. After meetings, place received business cards in a special case. Investing in business cards written in Japanese is a gesture of goodwill that will be appreciated. Give and receive business cards in both your hands and with a small bow.