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Japanese etiquette at the office

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Or rather: “Japanese etiquette at the office that ticks off Japanese office workers“. The Japanese website R25.jp has conducted a poll to find out which, out of the many Japanese business etiquette rules, annoy them the most. Two hundreds Japanese office workers were polled. An opportunity for you to get familiar with the Japanese business world (then again, this is only one small window to it, focusing in drawbacks).

Even though you may not have been in Japan yet, you surely know that Japanese bow to express respect. Japanese courtesy also requires one to accompany a client and see them off. That, actually, should be a universal custom. But in Japan, employees must keep bowing until the clients cannot see them anymore – respect being proportional to the time you keep bowing. That can become troublesome if the elevator doors is slow to open and close – in all seriousness, it can.

Another custom is being offered a beverage (usually tea, of course). Here again, this is a custom that should be universal. But this is also where Japanese politeness gets a bit extreme – if one may say that politeness can get “extreme”. Not wanting to take the first sip, all meeting participants may leave their drink untouched, regardless of how thirsty they may be (eventually, when the meeting is nearing, one will budge first). Not a big deal … but the fourth most annoying custom according to the survey.

“No more than two rings”. That’s a very important phone habit in Japan. While it makes sense to pick up the phone as soon as possible when one deals with customers, this may take too much importance in Japanese offices according to office workers.

The one office habit that bothers Japanese employees the most is the fact that “if you are on time, you are late”. In other words, one is expected to come to work earlier. At the very least 5 minutes earlier.

Should such a poll be held in other countries, there is no doubt that people would also have complaints to express. However, the habits cited by the overseas office workers may not be as homogeneous as they are in Japan. That’s because, as we all know, Japanese is subject to many (unwritten) rules and customs. All things considered, Japanese people are just like all of us. They sometimes complain. But it is worth noting that in that survey, half the people had no complaints at all. Not sure sure that number would be as high in many other countries. So much for the clich├ęs !

Learn more about working in Japan while you study. Click here.