Cultural diversity is what people seek to embrace in an effort to get on well with people of different backgrounds. Tolerance is expected while in foreign countries though at times culture shocks are inevitable. Japan is a rich country in terms of culture and technology and it is important to fully comprehend their way of life to be able to mingle with them. What is acceptable in one country maybe considered disrespectful in others and it is therefore important to learn about the customs, practices and the general lifestyle of the Japanese people.
This case study seeks to highlight the lifestyle of the Japanese people in terms of social interactions, etiquette, and style of doing business, customer preferences as well as sensitive matters that must be approached with caution. Japanese etiquette According to Mishima (2010), the Japanese are very respectful people and one custom they observe is bowing their heads down. This bowing culture is known as Ojigi and it applies as a form of greeting and also as a sign of respect. It has taken root in Japanese greetings, something which almost replaces the handshake.
Foreigners are however pardoned for this and they will receive a rather weak handshake as Japanese stay away from close body contact. While in Japan, it will be considered impolite if people do not return the bow and it is therefore epitome to learn how to do so as it may cost business. Another important fact to note about the Japanese people is that they do not like physical contact with others since it seems to make them uncomfortable. With changing times however and them playing host to many visitors, the Japanese people may shake hands with foreigners.
Bowing is taken seriously in Japan and the Japanese people view it as respectful, as a way of showing gratitude as well as a way to apologise. When dealing with older people, the bow is normally deeper and longer and this shows total respect. Casual greetings take a shorter bow while a business bow is done at an angle of 30 degrees. To show gratitude or give a formal apology, the bow angle changes to 45 degrees and this may also be used to express respect to senior people. When executing the bow, men must have their hands on their sides while women are supposed to place their hands on their thighs.
What to avoid while in Japan According to Williams (2010), the Japanese people are very direct when it comes to foreigners and people must pardon them if they ask personal questions such as how much money they make or how big their houses are. The Japanese people expect loyalty in business relationships and failure to this may mean no business at all. They love people who are good dressers and so if people are to make a point over that business meeting they must dress to impress. The Japanese business scene requires businessmen to dress up in conservative suits in a dark shade. Dressing casually to a business meeting is not welcome and this may cost people a contract.
Removing shoes is second nature in many Japanese settings and it is therefore advisable to wear those that are easy to remove. Businesswomen must wear minimal accessories and dress conservatively. Women must never wear trousers to a business meeting as the Japanese men will take offence. The Japanese people also believe that women must wear low shoes as they do not like the idea of being towered over. When it comes to wearing the kimono, the left must always be over the right since wearing it otherwise signifies death and it is forms a basis of being misunderstood.
The Japanese are conservative and the use of large gestures by the hands considered. People must steer clear from funny facial expressions or any move that attracts unnecessary attention (Williams, 2010). During a business meeting, it is important to stay away from the “ok” sign since the Japanese always translate it to mean money, according to Williams (2010). Pointing at people as well as blowing the nose publicly is not acceptable in a Japanese territory. Business cards are very important to the Japanese in business and they are given and received with both hands.
It is important to print it in Japanese on one side and in your home language on the other. When presenting it, the part printed in Japanese must always face up. After receiving this card, people must not write on it or slip it into their wallets. The Japanese consider all these actions disrespectful and they would be pleased if the person took time to read the card and examine it carefully. This phase is so important that no business transactions will take place until business cards have been exchanged. The Japanese refrain from using the word ‘no’ and in many circumstances may give a “yes” answer to mean “no”.
It is therefore of essence to understand this since failure to do so may lead to several disagreements during business negotiations (Williams, 2010). Social interactions According to the U. S. Library Congress (2010), the Japanese are harmonious people who have great value for self development and order. Among the values they hold close to their hearts is living peacefully with others be they spiritual or human beings. They believe strongly in everyone fulfilling the social obligations set for them by the society.
The Japanese believe in gods and they extend the belief to what befalls people. The gods are believed to have a huge influence in the Japanese lives and they are believed to have the power to control human emotions. The Japanese believe that they are rewarded by the gods if they do good things to others and that is why they highly condemn antisocial behaviour. The Japanese are highly social animals and this culture is developed from an early age. Interdependence is the core of the Japanese people survival and it is encouraged right from the home to the community.
The Japanese disregard open competition and in the same breath do not work well with competition. They practice high self-control but at the same time work hard in cooperation with others in an effort to meet their personal obligations. Decision-making is not a one person thing and this brings them together to chart the way forward and they value group work and association with others. They value strong business relationships and work hard to maintain them though hierarchy occurs naturally. In business meetings, the Japanese are keen to exchange business cards as they value it as a tool for interaction.
The Japanese style of doing business According to Lafayette (2003), the Japanese often view other people as dishonest especially those from the western countries. The major reason behind this assumption is a disparity in the understanding of what is right and what is wrong. Their perceptions are varied and this makes other people look bad before them. As evidenced by Lafayette, the Japanese are very wary of their business interactions with other people and in their speeches always urge them to be sincere in the transactions.
By emphasizing on sincerity, the Japanese have harmony in mind which will include each person contributing fully to meet his or her obligations to make the dealing successful. They also emphasize on the correct choice of words to avoid confrontations and unwanted excitement which may lead to loss of business. It is typical of the Japanese people to be more concerned with the manner and form in which the business is being transacted. On the other hand, westerners are more result-oriented and this could cause friction between both parties.
Japanese people in business tend to care more about personal relationships and these calls for a deeper understanding which prompts deep discussions of every minute detail (Lafayette, 2003). Root binding must be done in an effort to nurture the business ties formed since over the years, distance may grow between the two parties as each side tends to interpret the agreement differently. According to Lafayette (2003), this is caused by differences in perception rather than deviousness. The Japanese business people also belief that naturally the business ties will change just as circumstances change over a period of time.
The trick here is therefore being flexible enough to adjust as the business relationship may prompt if business ties with any Japanese are to be maintained. Japanese customer preferences According to Cordell (2010), foreign products are subject to intense customer evaluations and they better be good. Other than the resources used in production of the commodity as well as the cost benefits, a foreign product must gain an edge in the market if it is to compete with other local products. The common notion is that products from industrialised nations of the world are valued higher than those from developing countries.
The product will therefore be perceived either positively or negatively depending on the country of origin. A brand name is what sells and in most cases, Japanese consumers will go for a product that comes from a reputable company. Marketing of a new product in a foreign land therefore needs be strategic if it is to sell and the company has to aim at maximising its profits. This therefore calls for intensive knowledge of the product as well as assuring the consumers of high quality judging from the fact that Japan is very advanced in industrial and technological matters.
Conclusion Japan ranks second in the world’s superpowers’ list and being able to penetrate her territories for a business venture is the best that could happen to any business. It is therefore important to understand their cultural value as it is a step towards understanding how business flows on the other end. Being a foreigner in Japan can be a great experience while at other times it can be stressful. This will happen if people do not take time to study the lifestyle of the Japanese and this may lead to collisions with them.
When it comes to the product, it must be well researched and well packaged if it is to survive the stiff competition that Japan offers. It must have an edge on the products already in the market and the marketing-process must also be well researched to address the market needs. The product must be well presented by its marketers in an attractive and practical package and it must have the potential of competing fully with its predecessors in the market. However, a blissful business relationship is bound to develop if people respect their lifestyle and make adjustments to suit in their midst.
Courtney from Study Moose
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