I’ve got a business trip planned to Tokyo this month and as a result I’ve been doing research into appropriate etiquette.
As Americans, we’ve downplayed formal etiquette so much, especially with our bosses, that it’s blurred lines between authority. We’ve dressed down to t-shirts and jeans, especially in more creative or technological settings.
But in Japan, I believe the men are still wearing suits, are clean shaven, treat business cards with respect, and rarely remark poorly on associates, competitors, or bosses.
As there are a few of us going, I’ve thought that not only getting business cards printed in Japanese would be a sign of respect, but that each one of us should bring a gift as well as one from our company.
You may have heard scotch is big in Japan, or maybe thought Sake was the thing to drink, but in fact it’s more Bourbon. So we’re getting some things you can’t find in Japan.
But what about shaking hands, bowing, and speaking Japanese? I think you follow the other person’s lead, and I’ll be studying up on some Japanese so I can converse at a basic level, but I think it all comes down to basic human principles.
Treat the person across from you with kindness and respect and forge an ongoing partnership. Not this stuff you see Kevin Spacey preaching in House of Cards. That’s a different game entirely. One that I’ll always “bow” out of.