5 Tips for Conducting Business in Japan as a Foreign National – Kavan Choksi

Doing business in Japan can be a challenge for foreign nationals. The language barrier, the complex business etiquette, and the fact that Japan is such a homogenous society can make it difficult to establish trust and build relationships. However, according to business experts like Kavan Choksi, if you keep the following five tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to success.

Do Your Homework

Japan is a huge and diverse country with a long and complicated history. Therefore, before you start doing business there, it’s important that you take the time to learn about the country and its people. This will give you a better understanding of the business environment and help you avoid cultural misunderstandings. Furthermore, many Japanese businesses place great importance on personal relationships, so you must take the time to get to know your potential partners before starting any formal negotiations.

Be Patient

Japanese business negotiations can be notoriously slow, so you must prepare for a long, drawn-out process. Don’t try to Rush things along; instead, take your time and let the negotiations unfold at their own pace. If you try to force the issue, it will only damage your relationship with your Japanese counterparts.

Respect Hierarchy

In Japan, hierarchy is everything. Therefore, when conducting business meetings or negotiations, always show proper respect to those with more experience or seniority than yourself. For example, when entering a meeting room, be sure to bow first to the most senior person present before taking your seat. Likewise, always defer to those with more authority than yourself when making presentations. By showing proper respect for hierarchy, you’ll gain the trust and respect of your Japanese counterparts.

Be Prepared to Compromise

Japanese businesses typically prefer long-term relationships over short-term profits, so they are often willing to compromise to maintain harmonious relations with their partners. As such, don’t be afraid to give ground on some of your demands in order to reach an agreement that everyone can live with. Simply put, sometimes it’s better to take a little less now to get a lot more later on down the road.

Understand Non-Verbal Communication

In Japan, much of communication is done through non-verbal cues such as body language and facial expressions. As such, it’s important that you pay close attention to these cues when interacting with Japanese businesspeople. For example, maintaining eye contact while speaking shows honesty and sincerity; conversely, averting one’s gaze shows disrespect. Similarly, smiling while speaking indicates friendliness and approachability; by contrast, maintaining a stone-faced expression conveys seriousness and professionalism. By understanding and responding appropriately to non-verbal communication, you’ll improve your chances of doing successful business in Japan.

Final thoughts

Doing business in Japan can be tough for foreign nationals due primarily to cultural differences; however, by following these six tips—doing your homework, being patient, respecting hierarchy, being prepared to compromise, understanding nonverbal communication, and learning some basic Japanese phrases —you’ll be well on your way towards success. Good luck.