Customs in Japan

Japanese is the official language of Japan, spoken by over 99% of the population. It is also the 6th most spoken language in the world.

The currency in Japan is the Yen (JPY) - ¥

Japanese is a hierarchical society; the oldest in a group is always honored. In social situations, the eldest will have drinks poured for them and be served first.

Customs and Etiquette in Everyday Life and Social Situations

As a foreigner, an acceptable greeting is to shake hands and bow your head slightly.

If you are invited to a Japanese home for dinner, arrive on time. You should dress business casual unless you are told otherwise. Always remove your shoes upon entering the home. Bring your hosts a nice gift of good quality candies or small cakes. If you bring flowers, avoid white flowers of any kind, lilies, camellias and lotus blossoms as all are associated with funerals. Give items in odd numbers, but avoid the number 9. If the gift was bought in Japan, have it wrapped in pastel paper.

Remain standing until you are shown where to sit. If you know how to use chopsticks, that is an excellent advantage; if not, it would be wise to learn before you go. Try everything which is offered to you, and when you have finished, place your chopsticks on the chopstick rest or on the table, not over the top of the bowl. To show you have had enough rice, eat all the grains in your bowl as leaving a small amount will signify that you would like more.

When it comes to gratuity, tipping is not a customary practice in Japan.

Customs and Etiquette in Business

If you are attending a meeting in Japan, it is highly recommended that you take the initiative to hire a translator.

It is necessary to make appointments with plenty of advance notice. Be prompt, as punctuality is very important.

Getting to know their business contacts is very important to the Japanese; expect the first few meetings to be a bit more casual until you are better acquainted. Provide plenty of literature for each person attending the meeting regarding your credentials, your company and client testimonials. As a token of your esteem, bring a small gift to present to the most senior person in attendance at the end of the meeting.

Business cards are exchanged with great ceremony. Have yours translated into Japanese on one side as it shows great respect and attention to detail. Also make sure printed on your cards are your business title, advanced academic degrees and company founding date. Each time you are given a card, examine it carefully and with great interest and approval; present yours with two hands, a slight bow, and the Japanese printed side up.


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