Văn hóa Kinh doanh Nhật Bản ( English)
1. Introduction about Japan culture
No country in modern history has moved so swiftly from worldwide adulation to dismissal or contempt as did Japan. In the past 15 years, amid crushing stock and property markets, mountains of dud debt, scores of corruption scandals, vast government deficits, and stagnant economic growth, Japan mutated from a giver of lessons to a recipient of lecture, all of which offers recipes for its reform and revival…Now, however, the time for lectures is over. Japan is changes. Japan is back.
a) Historical perspective overview
Geographically, the Japanese archipelago in located on Asia’s east coast, consisting of four large islands (Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku) as well as approximately 4000 small islands. Honshu, the largest islands and culture center, has about 50% of the population, including five major cities, the capital of Tokyo, as well as Yokohama, Osaka, Nagoya, and Kyoto (its ancient capital). This relatively small landmass has contributed to a collective mind-set paradox-insularity and expansionism.
Indeed Japan is an ancient society. The majority of its people are descendants of migrating Mongolians from the northeast; its minority population of Ainu inhabitants concentrated in the north supposedly descended from Caucasoid types from the northern Asia.
Since its beginnings, Japan has been influenced by Chinese and Korean cultures, as well as by Shino, a dominant philosophy entwined with the state. Japanese feudal society lasted until the nineteenth century, when Commodore Perry’s voyage forced Japan to open to the West. Typically a series of change images about the Japanese people and culture emerged and can be grouped around stages.
b) Some general information about doing business in Japan
Japan is a ‘high context’ culture that thrives on subtlety and consensus. Its people manifest high educational abilities, formidable technological skills, and powerful social coordination. In all they undertake, they are usually meticulous and methodical. The following general insights may prove helpful when dealing with the Japanese, whether at home or abroad.
The Japanese language is complex, subtle, and predictable. By the time a native speaker is halfway through a statement, a Japanese will translate simultaneously and likely know how the sentence will end, whereas that same person interpreting from English will wait until the foreigner has finished before beginning the translation into Japanese. Communications in Japan are usually marked by the following characteristics.
- Dress and appearance
Neat, orderly, and conservative attire is recommended for managers. Ordinary workers and students frequently wear a distinctive uniform and even a company pin, which managers also may sport. The ancient, classical dress, the kimono, is becoming less common even in the privacy of the home and is retained for ceremony events. Western formal dress is used for important state occasions. Traditional native dress is sexless. The colors are often neutral, with women sometimes tending toward flowery patterns.
- Food and eating habits
Eating in Japan is ritualistic, communal, and time consuming. The interaction is considered as important as the food. While the traditional diet emphasizes rice, noodles, and fish, youths tend toward popular Western foods. The alcoholic beverage of sake often accompanies the main or ceremonial meal so as to facilitate conversation.
Tokyo is said to have a restaurant, bar, or cabaret for every 110 members of the population, with many international foods represented. Fast-food establishments are everywhere and popular.
- Time, age and rewards
Japanese are punctual and need time for connections to make proper contacts. Yet they expect to wait for group decisions that also take time to arrive at consensus.
Traditionally, they respect seniority and the elder. There is a sense of order, propriety, and appropriate behavior between inferiors and superiors.
Young managers, recruited from the universities after stiff examinations, are expected to stay with a company until they are 60 years of age, conforming, doing what is expected of them, and showing respect and deference to senior or older employees.
The tendency is to reward and recognize the group or organization rather than individual in Japanese organization. One achieves and is recognized through the group in ever-widening circles: family, team, department, division, company, and nation.
Great emphasis is placed on security and the social need for ‘belonging’. When traveling abroad, Japanese stay within their own group, generally avoiding individual contact with the locals.
A nation the size of California, Japan is cohesive and crowded, which accounts for its rituals of bowing and politeness in crowded urban areas. Japanese relationships are familial and group oriented, instead of individualistic; Japanese value group relations and harmony. Group leadership is more highly regarded than individual initiative. There is tendency toward clannishness based on family or group connections know your place and be comfortable with it. Thus, the drive is toward agglomeration, combines, and clustering of organizational relationships.
In business relationships, there are two Japans: officialdom and the intellectuals. In both, decisions tend to be group mulling for consensus, give-and-take inconclusiveness, and the traditional authority pyramid. There is symbiotic relationship between government and business-cozy but not constricting. This is still an unsolved issue.
- Attitudes and beliefs
The typical Japanese character is diverse, with a sense of poetry and of the ephemeral. There is a concern for the transitory, inconclusive qualities of life, for nature, and its observation. It is actively curious, energetic, and quick, with a sense of delicacy and wistfulness. One manifestation is in the art of flower arrangements.
- Values and standards
The Japanese personality generally is self-confident and flexible, demonstrating a sense of order, propriety, and appropriate behavior. There is a tendency toward diligence and thrift, balanced by a fun-loving approach, which, at times, seems almost frivolous and extravagant. In outlook, the Japanese are cautious and given to stalling tactics. They are also insular, which is manifested by the in-group tendency. The rigid, ossified Japanese class system, by which each person has his or her place as superior or inferior, is disappearing.
Japanese society also values training and education, especially of the young. It also esteems as spirit of intensity and craftsmanship manifested by a quality of deep penetration and pride in work no matter how humble.
2. Introduction about Japanese company’s culture, norm, value
Company should bring information about the Japanese brand company’s strategies; values; norms; culture and rules for the expatiates by meetings, video clips or visiting some Japan companies to know more about Japanese culture and get experiences.
3. Guidelines and tools to deal with cultural differences
After introducing to expatriates the national culture as well as business culture of Japan, the next step is to inform them of the differences between two cultures in term of communication, business etiquette, working style, negotiation, etc. and also give them the guideline and tools to cope with the matter of cross-culture.
3.1. Business etiquette
Not surprisingly, Japanese clothing is more on the conservative end. Usual business wear is dark suits for men, and conservative dresses and suits for women. The excessive use of jewellery, perfume, clothing, and other accessories are usually more “censored” in Japan. Due to cultural customs, shoes are removed frequently, and wearing slip-ons can come in handy. On a more peculiar note, women can wear high heels as long as they are not taller than their Japanese counterparts. Due to their group-oriented nature, dressing alike is important because it shows harmony. It is important to note that all white is worn only for mourning.
Vietnam is more flexible in wearing clothes during daily life and doing business. However, Vietnamese people tend to dress formally when they participate in meetings or some official events to show respect to the others. Businessmen often wear ties and suits whereas business women wear dresses, suits with appropriate accessories. Women are free to wear high heels or not. Expatriate should dress more carefully and avoid the white colour when attending to meetings or important events in business.
The typical Japanese greeting is a bow with palms down on the sides of one’s thighs. The depth and length of the bow has intricate meanings. For example, people of equal standing bow for the same depth and amount of time. However, if one person is senior, then the other person bows deeper and longer. These gestures and movements to remember may seem minimal to many, but can give a bad impression if not done by showing a lack of preparation. In fact, at times it can even be confused with a lack of care to learn about the culture, or even disrespectful. If an expatriate is not aware of this and only shakes hands, it does not necessarily mean that business will fail but it is a start on the wrong foot. On the other hand, if the expatriate does do this well, it can be a pleasant surprise that gives more credibility. In addition, the lower-ranking person is introduced to the higher one first, and the last name is used with the word san.
In Vietnam, it is typical to greet by waving hands in daily life and shaking hands with taking bow in doing business. Expatriate should adapt quickly with Japanese way of greeting and show your respectful attitude toward the other, especially to the seniors.
3.2. Verbal Communication
First and foremost, if the expatriate does not speak Japanese, it is vital for them to understand that the people they are speaking with do not speak English as their first language. The expatriate therefore must consider that the person he or she is speaking with has to listen to the message, process it, and translate it into their language. The expatriate should keep this in mind constantly, for it is a task that might require repetition. Japanese is a highly status-oriented language, in which lower status people speak politely to higher status ones. Japanese business people are likely to say “Yes”. This might not mean that they understand, agree, or approve, and can simply just indicate “I hear what you are saying.” Japanese people also apologize often and hardly ever say no. Instead, they tend to speak other phrases which is a ‘no’ in disguise. For example, “I’ll consider it,” or “That is difficult” are phrases that often indicate a “no” response. Silence in the Japanese culture is seen as many things. It does not, however, indicate disagreement. It is used to show respect, to carefully consider what to say next, to convey truthfulness, to show defiance, or to convey embarrassment.
In contrast to Japan, Vietnam is not a highly status-oriented language. Vietnamese people are willing to learn the second language to have their work done, in this case, it officially is English. They tend to use English to communicate with foreigners instead of speaking Vietnamese. Moreover, Vietnamese people rarely make silence. They tend to be talkative during their work and much straightforward than Japanese people. If there exists any embarrassment or dilemmas, Vietnamese often smile to hide their feelings. Expatriate should show their respect toward Japanese colleagues and learn Japanese language to understand fully what Japanese saying and thinking. Whenever Japanese people are silent, we should consider carefully when communicate with them based on the real situations.
3.3. Nonverbal Communication – Facial Expressions
In Japan, not using eye contact is encouraged and seen as showing respect to the person you are speaking with, and vice versa. Japan is a high-context culture in which the signals that are sent between Japanese people are often missed by people from Western culture. Laughter can mean many things, from amusement to embarrassment. For the purposes of conducting business there, it is very important to know that the Japanese keep facial expressions at a minimum, not showing anger or irritation. Also, smiling can mean many things from pleasure, displeasure, or embarrassment.
Similar to Japan, Vietnam is also a high-context culture. However, it’s better to look into the opposite’s eyes during the communication. It shows the respect toward the opposite and makes the listener feel more trustful for what they are hearing vice versus. In addition, smiling mostly means that Vietnamese people are satisfied or embarrassed. Expatriate should minimize the eye contact and their feelings during doing business in Japan.
3.4. Working style
3.4.1. Space & Time
The Japanese are a no-touch culture and prefer more room for personal spaces. They hold punctuality very important, and the opposite, impolite. In fact, the attitude towards time is influenced by rank, with those employees of a lower rank not going home for the day before their bosses do. Japan has been having slight changes, with shaking hands and more touching during business deals. But, their culture is not likely to be changing any time soon. Despite talk about Japan becoming more westernized, it appears as though Japanese hosts are initially entwined in many Japanese rules and codes of business. The Japanese still prefer their distance.
The Vietnamese are generally quite punctual and expect foreigners to be the same. That said, the Vietnamese can be very flexible and accommodating when situations occur that are beyond the control of one of the parties involved (for example, a washed-out street, traffic jam, etc.).
For Japanese, it is considered more important for the whole team to work together to accomplish a goal. Each individual will know the limit of their responsibilities and what is expected of them, and will work selfishly to complete that task in hand. Many meetings and discussions will take place to ensure everything is going as planned and nothing will be rushed or pushed through. In the meeting, Japanese always read carefully the document and they only discuss after careful preparation. The concept of “thinking out of the box” or looking for a quick result is very rare indeed and is often frowned upon. However the Japanese approach does ensure the end result will be something that is unanimously acceptable to all and is as complete as possible. Because of this group mentality, individuals feel a need to stay with a task as long as necessary to provide their colleagues who are still working on the assignment with all the help or support them may need. This sense of solidarity often means that even those who have already completed their work, stay late at the office.
Meetings in Japan are punctual and usually take place in an office, restaurant, or bar. Office meetings will only be business related and decisions will not happen quickly because the Japanese usually want to discuss proposals amongst themselves before responding. Meetings can be planned or set spontaneously, can take place in a bar or restaurant, and serve the purpose of building a relationship and discussing business issues. Moreover, alcohol consumption is part of meetings, and it is considered rude if one does not participate. Note taking, as in many cultures, is a sign of appreciation. In Japan, making and maintaining business connections is vital and assists in getting appointments and negotiating business deals. The vertical nature of Japanese society places a high value on saving face and avoiding interpersonal confrontations. Losing face is detrimental and discouraging and embarrassing. Due to their group-oriented culture, individual performance compliments are not common, and the group as a whole is complimented instead. It is even considered rude to single out an individual for recognition or reward. Generally, the Japanese respond to positive persuasion instead of hard-sell techniques.
Meanwhile in Vietnam, meetings are often not that punctual and held in both official and non-official places such as office, meeting room or restaurant, café. So expatriates should be very concern about the punctuality.
3.5. Business Negotiation
There are also many differences in business negotiation between Vietnamese and Japanese which expatriates should know. The first fact is that the Japanese are non-confrontational. They have a difficult time saying ‘no’. It is best to phrase questions so that they can answer yes, for example, “do you disagree with this?”. Japanese prefer to express by acts. So you must be carefully vigilant at observing their non-verbal communication. Some Japanese close their eyes when they want to listen intently. Losing temper or raising voice during negotiations is not acceptable in Japan culture. Unlike open Vietnamese, Japanese often remain silent for long periods of time. At that time, be patient and try to work out if your Japanese colleagues have understood what was said.
Group decision-making and consensus are very important in business negotiation in Japan. Japanese prefer broad agreements and mutual understanding so that when problems arise they can be handled flexibly. Another thing that expatriates should aware of when they do business with Japanese is that written contracts are required. Japanese have very high uncertainty avoidance index (90/100), almost triple Vietnam’s. For them, certainty can not be missing in business.
In Japan business culture, using a Japanese lawyer is seen as a gesture of goodwill. Note that Japanese lawyers are quite different from Vietnamese lawyers as they are much more functionary.
The Japanese seldom grant concession. They expect both parties to come to the table with their best offer. The Japanese do not see contracts as final agreements so they can be renegotiated.
These are some helpful negotiation tips for Vietnamese expatriates working in Japan:
- Time is absolutely rigid. Meetings begin and end on the dot. Even if you have not finished discussing an item, the meeting will finish all the same. This is because Japanese executives usually have a very full business diary.
- The Japanese appreciate information. Presentations must contain lots of detail, figures, technical data, etc. All the numerical data that you present must be accurate; otherwise they will quickly detect the mistakes.
- In most negotiations there is one person in the Japanese negotiating team who takes the initiative. It is usually a middle manager, who knows the market and competitors well and who studies the negotiations of prices and figures in depth. Once he has been identified, you should establish a good relationship with him.
1. Language training
To live and work in a strange country, company will provide expatriates with language training course. This training will prepare expatriates for living in Japan for long periods of time. Trainees will learn how to speak languages in business settings as well as in more casual settings. Expatriates also receive information on acceptable business customs and etiquette of Japan. It can help expatriates avoid embarrassing communication issues. Expatriate benefits from language training not only increase the professional capabilities of expatriates sent abroad, but also help them integrate better in their new environment. Ideally, the language training should start well in advance of the relocation.
- Geert Hofstede cultural dimensions, www.geert-hofstede.com
- Japan – Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette, www.kwintessential.co.uk
- Vietnam – Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette, www.kwintessential.co.uk
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