How To Learn Japanese Business Protocol and Etiquette

Conducting business in a foreign country presents many unique challenges, especially when it comes to intercultural communication. Words and actions that are fully acceptable, or even expected, in some cultures might have negative effects in other cultures. This is particularly true when it comes to dealing with people from tradition-rich countries such as Japan, where a great deal of emphasis is placed on ritual. In order not to inadvertently offend your Japanese associates, it would be wise to learn about acceptable business protocol and etiquette in that country. Here's how to get started.

  1. Read several books on the subject. Your favorite bookstore or library likely has an entire shelf full of books dealing with Japanese business protocol and etiquette. Spend some time checking the tables of contents and reading some excerpts from the books that look the most promising, then select a few titles that specifically address the issues you are interested in learning about. Be sure to choose books that have been printed within the last five years or so because business customs in Japan are slowly evolving with each new generation. Anything written more than five years ago might contain outdated information.
  2. Attend a corporate seminar. There are numerous consulting firms that can give you a crash course in the basics of Japanese business protocol and etiquette. Depending on the particular firm you choose to work with, the seminar can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Most consulting firms offer a variety of delivery options, and are even willing to travel to your office to hold the seminar onsite.
  3. Enroll in a college course. If you have enough time before your upcoming business trip to Japan, you might want to consider enrolling in a formal course at a community college or university in your area. Many colleges and universities have an academic division called Continuing Studies, which is intended to serve the needs of non-degree seeking students. As such, Continuing Studies classes are held in the evenings or on weekends in order to accommodate the schedules of working adults. A sizable percentage of Continuing Studies courses are business-related, so you'll have an excellent chance of finding a class dealing with Japanese business etiquette and protocol.
  4. Take a class online. In the event that you can't find a seminar or college course in your area, you may want to check into some of the online offerings that are available. Many reputable institutions have expanded their services to include online versions of their regular courses. The flexibility of an online class could be just what you're looking for, especially if you don't live near a major metropolitan area with access to other resources.
  5. Scour the Internet. If you are really pressed for time, you could also review some websites that are dedicated to the topic of Japanese business protocol and etiquette. When doing so, you'll have to exercise your own judgment in regards to the information you find. While some websites are maintained by professionals and have terrific advice to offer, others are maintained by hobbyists and may contain information that is misleading or inaccurate.


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