Japanese Business Culture Communication Tips for the International Entrepreneur
Effectiveness of your cross-cultural communication can help, or hinder, business productivity. Especially doing business with an international company that puts a lot of emphasis on culture like Japan. It can be intimidating when you are faced with cultural differences. In this blog, we will share some insights for Japanese business culture and the style of the communication, in hopes of helping mitigate issues that may arise when conducting business with Japanese companies.
1. High Context vs. Low Context
When it comes to communication style, Japanese business culture often communicates on the high context level, meaning many things are unstated because you are expected to know or assume. On the other hand, US and many other western cultures communicate on the low context level, where it is more explicit and straight-forward. So vague terms could often be a “NO” but it could be interpreted as a “YES” and this happens a lot between Japanese and western business interactions. When in doubt, it is recommended to get on the phone and talk and figure it out.
2. Avoiding Conflicts
Japanese business culture often avoids tension or conflicts. This applies to a meeting or boardroom, and this is one of the factors causing Japanese businesses to be slow in making decisions. People prefer a consensus instead of arguments, and business decisions are also made on the consensus level. So be careful not to strongly oppose any point, or be too straightforward because while for western business culture these arguments are strictly business and not personal, it could be a personal matter to some and it could offend some people in Japan.
One of the things that impress a lot of foreigners in Japan is that a train is never late. If it’s one minute behind, they will make a clear announcement that they are behind 1 minute and apologize to the passengers. Being on time is a big deal in Japan, especially for the Japanese businesses. When promising to deliver something on time, you have to make it or it can be a deal breaker. Always make sure you are not over promising, and are confident about the deadline or meeting arrangement.
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