Despite being a relatively ‘close’ country to the Philippines, Filipinos and other expats planning to work in Japan should be aware that the Japanese culture is way more distinct than just their quirky innovations and flair for convenience. This is especially evident at work and in daily life.
So if you plan to relocate to Japan anytime soon, make sure to read the rest of this guide. Here, we will discuss the things to consider to deal with culture shock in this lovely Asian powerhouse nation.
Consider These Things to Avoid Getting Culture Shocked in Japan
Expats may experience severe culture shock when living in Japan. Aside from the language barrier, which grows stronger, the further one travels from Tokyo, Japanese society has evolved a very rigid code of acceptable behavior, particularly in the field of business. Foreigners, or gaijin, rarely fit into this code without putting in a lot of work.
However, the Japanese are also exceedingly welcoming and friendly to international visitors, whom they regard as honored visitors to their nation. The ultimate responsibility will be on expats to learn the language, habits, and traditions if they wish to fit in and become a part of Japanese culture.
Here are the things you need to take note of to adjust and fit in the Japanese culture accordingly:
Language Barrier in Japan
If you want to go beyond the basics of communication, learning Japanese can be quite difficult.
Apart from the difficulty of learning to read and write Japanese characters, there are highly elaborate formal language systems that even native Japanese speakers find confusing and difficult to grasp.
In general, the Japanese are extremely forgiving of foreigners’ language errors, but it’s best to be exceedingly polite, humble, and cautious, especially in commercial situations.
Non-verbal Communication in Japan
Because the Japanese appreciate harmony, they are not the most outspoken of people. Facial expressions, tone of voice, and posture are frequently utilized to indicate one’s views about a topic. While someone is speaking, frowning can be regarded as a sign of dissatisfaction. Expats may discover that the Japanese retain an impassive expression when speaking.
As a tip, when speaking, maintain an indifferent expression. While eye contact is crucial, one should avoid looking into another person’s eyes for an extended period. This is especially vital when you are in the presence of someone senior in terms of age or status.
Work Ethic in Japan
The Japanese work ethic is something that many Westerners find difficult to understand. The workplace in Japan is competitive, and people are eager to go above and beyond to stand out.
A workweek of 70 to 80 hours is not uncommon, and Japanese people are very hesitant to take sick days. Overtime is considered standard, and it is acceptable to stay late at the office even if there is no work to be done.
Punctuality is highly valued in Japan, and people rarely arrive even a minute late for meetings or appointments. Arriving late or unprepared is considered impolite and inconsiderate.
Saving Face in Japan
In Japanese society, the concept of saving face is crucial. By putting someone on the spot, the Japanese want to prevent confrontation or shame. If expats have a personal concern with someone, they should discuss it discreetly with the person.
Negative emotions are quietly indicated by inhaling through clenched teeth, turning the head, or scratching a brow.
Many Japanese policies are built around the idea of ‘saving face.’ By putting someone on the spot, the Japanese want to prevent confrontation or shame. It is, therefore, impolite to decline an invitation or request. Instead of flatly declining, say you will think about it or offer an alternative.
Discipline is a Must
Aside from punctuality, you will note how disciplined the Japanese are. This could explain why Japan is so tidy and clean: people comply and appreciate the regulations. You’ll notice how strict they are when it comes to queuing, escalating and descending the stairs, and even dealing with their own trash.
Don’t be concerned. Once there, you will be able to effortlessly adjust to their way of life.
Integrity and Honesty are Values Commended by the Japanese
These are some of the unique characteristics that make the Japanese people more likable. Did you know that after a large earthquake and tsunami struck Japan several years ago, safety boxes and wallets were restored to their proper owners? That’s how truthful they are. Lost objects are handed to police stations or Lost & Found centers, so you know where to look if you misplace something.
Business meetings are very formal gatherings that reflect the group-oriented aspect of Japanese culture. The degree of decision-making power employees have is determined by their position in the hierarchy. Senior colleagues have the most say in decision-making, although they frequently delegate the finer points of negotiation to their subordinates. In all formal conversations, the Japanese want to avoid conflict by being indirect.
Treating business connections as though they were transactions is counterproductive. It is critical to cultivating strong ties with your business partners to foster trust. This may entail them asking you personal questions, such as those about your family.
In general, Japanese businesses are expected to act morally and to make genuine contributions to society, rather than focusing solely on profit and pleasing their shareholders. Finally, networking is an essential component of Japanese corporate culture. In Japan, there are several business groupings and professional associations.
As you can expect, there’s always the good and bad side to everything. While Japanese culture may seem impassive and bound by various social dynamics, there’s also the positive side to it which heavily values honesty, discipline, integrity, and dedication to one’s work. If you plan on working here in Japan sooner or later, make sure to keep all of the things listed in this guide in mind so that you won’t get negatively affected by culture shock, which is common among first-timers relocating here for work or business purposes.
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