Travel Etiquette Guide: For JapanThere are many unwritten laws regarding etiquette and manners that apply to Japanese business cards. Although no one can expect a foreigner to know and/or abide by all of these strict codes of conduct, knowing a few of the basics will help go a long way toward smoothing the path to success in Japan. When meeting anyone in a business environment for the first time, it is customary to exchange Japanese meishi (pronounced "MAY-SHEE" meaning business cards). It is important to show respect when receiving another person's Japanese meishi.
Japanese Business Card Translation Etiquette:* Japanese Meishi (or Japanese business cards) have a much greater significance in Japan than in Western culture. In a society where an individual is less important than the group to which he/she belongs, meishi provides access to its bearer's identity.
* If you are visiting Japan on business, double-sided Japanese & English business cards are a must. They show potential partners that you are serious, and that you understand and respect their culture.
* The small effort on your part of creating dual-sided Japanese business cards in their native language helps to establish trust, and maximize your opportunity for excellent results.
* It is essential that you have a large number of cards on hand wherever you go.
* To appear at a meeting without a business card does almost irreparable damage to the business relationship; it is tantamount to refusing to shake hands at a Western business meeting.
* Before presenting your Japanese meishi, you should make sure that it is clean and neat; no dog-eared corners or smudges allowed.
* To be truly polite, the card should be removed from a leather or professional business card case.
Japanese Business Card Exchange:* It is best to stand up when exchanging Japanese business cards.
* When presenting your Japanese business card, make sure that you hold it Japanese side up, facing your contact so that he/she can read it.
* A small quick bow will suffice to show your respect.
* Exchange Japanese business cards one-by-one, individual-to-individual, and use both hands where practical.
* NEVER distribute (or toss) your Japanese business card in a manner similar to dealing playing cards.
* NEVER place a stack of your cards on the table and offer others to take a card from the stack.
* On receiving a person's Japanese meishi, accept it with both hands and then study carefully what is written on it. Very often Japanese business cards will have Japanese on one side and English on the reverse, so carefully examine each side where applicable.
* Even when meeting a large group of people, it is considered polite to take a moment and read each individual's business card upon exchange.
* When you receive a Japanese business card, unless you are fluent in Japanese, read the English side first but definitely turn to the Japanese side for the reasons noted earlier.
* Check the name/title on the Japanese side, even if your Japanese knowledge is limited. Note the title of each person you meet. You will sometimes meet two people in the same division with the same title. In this case, by checking the Japanese kanji, you can often determine who is senior as there may be additional titles, subtitles or words in Japanese.
* If you are in a formal situation, it is proper to place the meishi face up on the table in front of you and refer to it when necessary.
* DO NOT shove the card into your back trouser pocket.
* DO NOT write comments on another person's business card, in their presence. You may write on your own name card to add information (e.g., email, home phone number, etc.).
* If it is in a less formal setting, you may put the meishi away after looking at it, but put it somewhere suitable. Just dropping it into a pocket may be seen as rude.
* Note that Japanese people are known by their surname (family name) and not their first name. For a man, this is then followed by "San" which is used in the sense of "Mister".
* Never refer to the person you are meeting by their first name.
The Setting in Japan:* As the honored guest, it is important that you take the seat furthest from the door (although that may be modified if it is a big conference-style room)
* You should stand up and bow or shake hands when someone comes in the room.
* The Japanese hand out their business card at the drop of a hat. Don't be left out! Give your card to anyone that you want to hear from again. You'll likely go through a lot more cards during your trip to Japan than you would back home.
To get an idea of what some Japanese business cards look like when fully translated and localized into Japanese, please visit our Japanese business card translation samples page.
Video on the Etiquette of Exchanging Business Cards in Asia:There are many dos and don'ts for exchanging business cards in Asia. In this video you will learn the proper ways to conduct a business card exchange in Asia. This etiquette & exchange video covers the proper way to present, receive, and observe Asian business cards.
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