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Japanese culture is very well defined and firm, and the fervor with which the Japanese hold on to their culture is worth emulating and admiring. Japanese society has many interesting customs, and knowledge of these could bring a deeper understanding and respect for the Japanese people (Tsuda, 2006).
Knowledge of Japanese culture would be most helpful to businessmen, because such knowledge could make or break a business deal. Even if one is going to Japan for leisure, it could never hurt to know the proper way of interacting with the Japanese so that one would not appear snobbish or unrefined.
Any person who is new to Japan may be surprised by the homogenous nature of Japan (JobMonkey, Inc., 2007). Japanese people cannot be expected to look beyond the color of the skin of a foreigner and treat him as a fellow Japanese. Indeed, it is common to see instances of racial discrimination in Japan, such as experiences of unfairness in looking for an apartment (JobMonkey, Inc., 2007).
Japanese people put a premium on dressing properly based on the occasion (InternationalBusinessCenter.org, 2007). Therefore, one should be careful when dressing up and consider whether he is going for a business meeting or a social call with the Japanese. One cannot afford to be a sloppy or lousy dresser, otherwise such lapse I judgment could cause the Japanese to look down on him and make him leave a bad first impression for the Japanese. Japanese people believe in the adage that one should “dress to impress (InternationalBusinessCenter.org, 2007).”
Thus, in a business meeting, both men and women should wear conservative suits (InternationalBusinessCenter.org, 2007). The latter could wear dresses, but they should remain conservative (InternationalBusinessCenter.org, 2007). For the former, the most acceptable attires are business suits in dark hues (InternationalBusinessCenter.org, 2007). Casual clothes are never acceptable, in business meetings in Japan.
It is important to note that women should be more cautious when dressing up. First, they should never war pants in a business meeting or other business function. Japanese men find it offensive (InternationalBusinessCenter.org, 2007). Second, they must not wear high heels in order to avoid towering over men, which can also offend them (InternationalBusinessCenter.org, 2007). In instances where it is proper to wear kimonos, they should wrap them left over right, because doing otherwise then it would symbolizes death (InternationalBusinessCenter.org, 2007).
Even the shoes worn in Japan should involve serious thought. Since it is their custom there to remove shoes most of the time, one should pick a pair that can be removed easily, such as slip-on shoes (InternationalBusinessCenter.org, 2007).
The Japanese custom of removing shoes dictates that one remove them upon entry to many Japanese buildings, such as schools and homes (JobMonkey, Inc., 2007). The rationale for this custom is based on practicality, as removing the shoes maintains the cleanliness of the insides of the building (JobMonkey, Inc., 2007). Therefore, it is also necessary to make sure that one has nice, presentable socks, lest they bring shame on him when he is required to remove his shoes. Moreover, when one is provided with slippers, he must remove them before walking on tatami mats, and he must leave them when he leaves the house (JobMonkey, Inc., 2007).
In Japanese culture, probably the most well known custom is the bowing (Synodinos, 2001). Where people from the West use handshakes when meeting or parting with another, the Japanese bow (JobMonkey, Inc., 2007). They also bow in many other social situations, such as expressing gratitude and showing deference to superiors (JobMonkey, Inc., 2007). While one is not be expected to bow because he would be arriving as a foreigner, assimilating this culture could do wonders in expressing kindness and respect for another’s culture (JobMonkey, Inc., 2007).
When a Japanese greets a person by bowing, he should return it, and make sure that he bows as low as the Japanese did (InternationalBusinessCenter.org, 2007). Bowing has different kinds, based on the relationship between the people involved. How low the bow was is an indication of the relationship between the inpiduals concerned (InternationalBusinessCenter.org, 2007). Finally, one should remember to keep his palms flat next to his thighs and keep his eyes low (InternationalBusinessCenter.org, 2007).
Venturing in business or simply visiting another country is never an easy task. It is important to know vital information that would ensure the venture’s or the vacation’s success. The Japanese have very distinct customs, and a visitor or tourist must always adjust and adapt to such different customs, if only to show respect for such culture.
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