Content - Business Trip and Etiquette

Business Trip and Etiquette

Cold calls do not work in Japan. Japanese prefer to do business with people they have been introduced to or met personally. To succeed in the Japanese market, you have to go and be there in person and make direct contacts.  

Most important for your Japanese partners are your exact corporate rank and title, your responsibilities within the firm and the credentials of your company. Most Japanese look out for a long term business relationship. So they prefer to make business with established companies with a good standing in the market.  

Business Card

An exchange of business cards is the introductory ritual in the corporate world in Japan. A business person does not exist without a name card – and it ceases to exist once it has lost its rights to a name card. You introduce yourself with your own name and the name of the company you are working for.  

Ideally, your business card has one side written in Japanese. Bring plenty of them because the Japanese tend to come in groups to meetings. Present the card with both hands with your name facing the recipient. Put the received cards on the table and arrange them according to the persons sitting opposite of you. Do not write on other people’s cards.  


If you feel uncomfortable with bowing or taking off your shoes, offer a handshake and select a meeting place where you can leave your shoes on. If you are unfamiliar with chopsticks, ask for fork and knife. If you do not want to eat something excuse yourself with personal reasons. As long as you are polite and modest, the Japanese side will respect this because you are a foreigner.  


Keep nodding when Japanese talk to you. They need a signal that you are listening and comprehending what you are hearing. Avoid touching other people. Keep jokes very simple. Dress smartly and conservatively. At formal occasion always wear a rather dark suit and tie. Women also should were conservative outfits and not too much perfume. In case you have to take off your shoes, you better wear fresh socks without any holes.  

Trust as Basis

In Japan, people want to know you as a person before they do business with you. So try to establish a personal relationship on the basis of trust. This is the starting point for actual negotiations and a future deal. Be prepared for some wining and dining in the evening and also an hour or two of Karaoke singing. Maybe you select ahead one or two popular songs which are easy to perform because the Japanese very often will sing songs they have practiced many times at home!  


If you are coming directly from Switzerland, it would be perfect to bring some small, not too expensive, but high quality gifts like chocolates or Swiss army knives. Wrapped brand name products are ideal. Bring enough for the first meeting because very often, there are more people than you expect. Do not rush things too quickly and push for results. Very often, decisions take time in Japan because many people are involved in the decision making process.  

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