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Japanese Business Etiquette - The Ins and Outs of Looking Good in a Business Deal

Proper Japanese business etiquette can be the cornerstone of building good relations with your business partners, school owners, principals and to some extent students as well.

Learning a bit of Japanese for greetings is pretty much how everything starts off. So the greeting is quite standard and goes like this "hajimemashita" Smith desu. Yoroshikuonegaishimasu. 
Nice to meet you, I am Mr. Smith...

Now the yoroshikuonegaishimasu part is difficult to translate because it is conceptual in nature. It means both please and thank you depending on the situation. But it is more of a soft or gentle way of getting someone to do something for you. In a way it is a kind plea of sorts.

As this is a site on teaching I will use a teaching example to lead with. If your teaching contract stipulates you don't work on weekends but your boss needs you to work on a Saturday. He may very well say "yoroshiku" ie he knows he is pulling a favor and so he says it.

In the business world if you are going to have a business party for the company your boss might say yoroshiku to you. Meaning please call around and find a restaurant that will seat 15 people at one table and has a decent menu etc. Again he is pulling in a favor using this term.

Or if a student cancels a lesson on you he or she might say "yoroshiku" and it means something like "I'm sorry and thank you for understanding." In a business sense when you are going to take on a new job or position  you will often hear "yoroshiku" and in this context it is a gentle plea, if you will, to work harmoniously together in good friendship. So you see depending on the context it has various meanings and hence it is contextual.

Japanese Business Etiquette - The Business Card

The business card or "meishi" as it is called is an important tool in your tool box of business etiquette in a bunch of ways. So let's dig in.

  • Have them. They are not expensive and can actually be made on your own printer. I had 100 made for about 600 yen. If you shop around you can get adequate quality and fast delivery. Mine were made in 1 hour.

  • Buy a holder for them called "meishi ire". It doesn't have to be expensive but should be something you're comfortable with. A fairly nice one can be bought for 1,500 yen.  When you have them printed have them printed in both English and Japanese. So 1 language 1 side. More here.
The one thing you do want to avoid is whacking your professional image by having some candy-ass illustration of Goodbye Kitty oops... Hello Kitty on it. Plain Jane business card cases are just fine.
Japanese Business Etiquette. Oops! I Did it Again??Japanese Business Etiquette. Oops! I Did it Again?

The one thing you definitely need to avoid is to keep your meishi in your pocket or something and hand your boss or business partner a crumpled piece of crap.

The next and slightly more complicated part of Japanese business etiquette is how you handle the business card. Don't just take it and put it in your shirt pocket. When you are handed one, hold it by the edges so as not to obscure the name of title of the person and take a moment or two to "study" it. In other words give it adequate attention. Then place it on the table for a bit before putting it into your business card holder. And when you do put their card on top of  your card.

Also don't fidget around with the card or "play" with it and heaven forbids don't write notes on it. That's why God invented note pads.

When you give them your business card again just like  you receive their card, hand your card to them with both hands. Don't push it across the table to them. Carefully place it in their hand.

Japanese Business Etiquette - Honorable Mentions

  • If tea is being served and it almost always is, wait for your superior to sip his tea first before you do. It is a sign of respect and is quite central to proper Japanese business etiquette.

  • Wait to be offered a seat, don't just arbitrarily decide where you want to sit.

  • Also be sure to remove your outer jacket when you enter the school or office (of course you can keep your suit coat on.)

  • When getting into an elevator allow the head teacher or your superior to get on first so don't step ahead of them.

More Related Articles...

Japanese Etiquette: Piles of tips and advice on minimizing slip-ups.
Japanese Dining Etiquette: Here we'll touch on the most common breaches of etiquette and talk a bit about good etiquette to impress your students or clients.
Chopstick Etiquette: Advice, do's and don'ts and the ins and outs on how to use them as the Japanese do

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