Early this year (January 2012), I had the opportunity to visit Japan for a number of business meetings and the launch of the brand, Brooks Running. The Japanese are extremely detailed and finely tuned in even the most minute aspects that we commonly overlook. Because of the cultural differences, understanding, acclimating, and performing Japanese business practices and interactions require skills that take time to foster. Let me preface by saying I am, by no means, an expert in Japanese business. However, I immerse myself in their culture, their values, and their thoughts. Here are some of my thoughts:
- Touching? Japanese people are no accustomed to touching. This, of course, has evolved quite significantly in the last 5 years. Any businessman currently engaged in business, have adapted to touching, but still a handful of people prefer a no-touch policy.
- Introductions? Asian culture encourages bowing when they greeting both strangers and acquaintances. This is a culmination of thousands of years of cultural development. Handshakes are more common now, but you will consistently see Asians bowing to each other. This is a means of respect. Typically, the lower the bow, the more the respect.
- Shoes? What do shoes have to do with business? Maybe because I’m in the shoe industry, I do this; however, a great deal of businessmen have similar practices. When Asians bow, they consciously examine the apparel and the shoes the opposing party is wearing. Make sure you shine your shoes to give an extremely presentable first impression.