Why grope so often in Japan

Rules of etiquette for Japan: How to avoid blunders

Each culture has its own code of conduct, although some countries are stricter than others. It is always very bad, however, when you feel completely in the wrong place and possibly unintentionally annoy a host. This can have fatal consequences, especially in business life. The customs in Japan are particularly strict, both in the private and in the business area, which is why you can make mistakes quickly. One could certainly fill entire books with business etiquette for Japan, but we would like to bring you closer to some of the most important etiquette for Japan.

What is expected and what is not?

Of course, the Japanese are also aware that a foreign counterpart is not necessarily familiar with all the customs and etiquette of Japan. Nobody expects that either. Compliance with certain basic rules is, however, a prerequisite. This is particularly difficult for western visitors because some of our usual rules in Japan etiquette can lead to offending the other person. For example, you should never express direct criticismwhen discussing a project with business partners. Many travelers to Japan acquire some language skills before visiting Japan in order to get along better in the country. In principle, that's okay and even very welcome. However, one should know that the Japanese expect from a visitor who speaks the Japanese language, the correct observance of all customs in Japan and presuppose that these are known. However, this is not expected of a foreigner who does not speak Japanese.

What does Japan etiquette say about clothing?

The exterior has a very high priority in Asia in general and in Japan in particular. Often one inferred from clothing and the rest of the appearance of the person. The saying “clothes make the man” actually applies here. For business etiquette in Japan, this primarily means correct business attire, i.e. the classic suit and tie for men. Women should wear a trouser suit or a subtle costume for business occasions if they want to be taken seriously by business partners. However, women still do not have the same status in Japanese society as men, which should also be considered. You may not like it, but the customs of Japan are what they are. It is very important that the clothing always fits correctly and makes a well-groomed impression, which is particularly important with shoes and socks.Under no circumstances should stockings with holes be put on - even if you would not see them under your shoes. It should not be forgotten that in Japan shoes are taken off on many occasions. This not only applies to private rooms, but also, for example, to traditional restaurants and hotels, medical practices and temples. Special slippers are often available for guests in hotels and restaurants.

Hygiene is good form in Japan

Hygiene is very important in Japan. You should wash your hands as often as possible, but especially before (!) And after using the toilet. Here, too, the shoes are usually taken off and exchanged for special slippers, which should never leave the toilet exit. If tatami mats are laid out in a room, neither shoes nor slippers are tolerated; here you walk barefoot or in socks. Incidentally, hygiene does not mean covering yourself excessively with fragrances (such as with after shave or deodorant).It is essential to avoid unpleasant smells from others - This is especially true in public transport. Incidentally, we have written our own article about the special characteristics of Japanese toilets, which provides important and useful information in this context.

Punctuality and a correct greeting are among the most important rules of behavior in Japan

In business, time is equated with money. It is no different in Japan than in Europe or America. But in Japan it is also associated with the reliability of the business partner. The “academic quarter”, which is often granted in this country, is an absolute no-go in the business etiquette of Japan.It is a good idea to show up about five to ten minutes before the agreed appointment, often even half an hour to an hour. Arriving on time is sometimes tolerated. If you are delayed by even a few minutes, it is imperative to notify the waiting person and to give a time when you will arrive. This can be done both over the phone and by sending an e-mail to a cell phone. If you are late, you apologize briefly and sincerely, but do not make any rambling statements, as are often presented in Germany, for example. The Japanese would rather see this as a lame excuse.

The already mentioned hygiene also plays an important role in the greeting. Although the western handshake is no longer completely inappropriate, traditionally people bow to each other. The more politeness you want to show, the deeper the bow should be, but without overdoing it. In business life, an angle of about 45 degrees is appropriate, whereby foreigners have also fulfilled their duty with a slight bow (such as a clearly perceptible nod). When it comes to salutation, the “san” appended to the (surname) name is also known in the West. The suffix “sama”, which is generally also used in business e-mails, is more polite. These suffixes are only used when dealing with strangers or those of higher rank; For example, if you talk about a family member or a colleague from your own company, you don't use this form of politeness or use more collegial suffixes such as “kun”.

Business cards are ubiquitous

The handing out of business cards is one of the customs in Japan that have also become established in private life. If someone hands over a business card, it is accepted with both hands with the greatest respect and interest (this is how they are presented). The card should be read carefully. It is customary to ask a question or make an appreciative comment. If the business card is presented at the table, it is placed on the same; in all other cases the card is inserted after a while. It is essential to ensure that it is not bent or kinked and that it is not handled carelessly. You don't scribble notes on your business card or put them in your pocket.

Favors are more common than in Europe

As a guest you bring in Japan Gifts With. However, there are some differences to German customs. On the one hand, the gift must not embarrass the recipient with too high a value, but on the other hand it should of course not be too cheap. In Japan, it is particularly important to have a good brand name and a good reputation for the product. It is less important to give in an original or particularly imaginative way. Perfect wrapping in wrapping paper is very important, and it is best to have it done in the shop. Under no circumstances should the wrapping paper be black, because black is also the color of mourning in Japan. Another faux pas: The number four (shi) is read in the same way as the Kanji character for death (shi) and is therefore considered an unlucky number, so should also be avoided. Incidentally, gifts are usually not opened in the presence of the giver. So neither push nor wait for that. The reason is that showing surprise or disappointment would represent a significant loss of face.

Mobile phones are subject to special rules

Japan's rules of etiquette for cell phones would suit some in the West as well. At a company meeting, the telephones are always openly placed on the table and are made silent. Vibration alarm is allowed. Answering calls is only permitted to those of higher rank. Ideally, they should leave the room for the phone call. In general, it is good form not to make phone calls in public.If you are called on the train or in a meeting and answer the call, you hold your hand over your mouth and speak so softly that others are not forced to overhear. The best thing to do is to tell the caller that you cannot speak now or not to take the call at all. In high-speed trains with locked compartments, you should leave the compartment during a phone call.

Maintaining contacts is part of business etiquette in Japan

After a meeting, you should send an email to thank you for your business partner's time for the meeting within 24 hours - this custom is also appropriate in private life, by the way. You should get in touch every now and then later, as maintaining contacts is an important element in Japanese business life. There does not have to be a specific reason for this. If you travel to Japan again later, you should ask to meet again to refresh the old contacts. Of course, an invitation to your own home country is also appropriate.