Business Card Etiquette in Japan
Japanese society is much more focused on belonging to a group, whether it is a family, company, or political organization. Individuality is secondary to the group in Japanese culture. The business card, or meishi koukan, is an opportunity for the individual to retain some identity in Japanese business culture. Therefore, the business card has great personal significance. The way you present your business card, as well as the way you accept the cards of others, is a representation of the way you view yourself and them, as individuals. This understanding of business card etiquette in Japan will help you build better business relationships and avoid embarrassment for yourself and those with whom you do business. This is true of business etiquette around the world.
The process of business card exchange, in Japanese business culture, is structured and formal. It’s important to know the proper procedures, to avoid embarrassing yourself and disrespecting your Japanese counterparts.
Prepare For Japanese Business Card Exchange
- Always take plenty of business card, translated on one side into Japanese, and have them ready ahead of time.
- Never carry them in your pocket, this is considered rude. And, trying to find your cards in front of the other person will give them the impression that you are typically unprepared for business.
- Place your business cards on top of your business card case. Make sure your cards are facing the receiver and that the translated side of the card is facing up.
- Use your right hand in picking up your business card, holding it by the corners, careful not to block any of the information on the card.
Proper Japanese Business Card Exchange Protocol
- The highest ranking members of the group always exchange business cards first.
- Business cards should always be offered facing the person being presented with the card.
- The ranking member of the visiting party would offer their business card first, using both hands. The other person will then offer their business card, using both hands.
- As the cards are exchanged, you will continue to give the business card with your right hand, while receiving your counterparts card with your left.
- Lower ranking members of the group will then exchange business cards, following the same two-handed procedure. This has the added benefit of letting you know who the ranking members of the group are, and who the decision makers in the meeting are likely to be. In keeping the business card, it makes sense to keep them in the order you received them, to more easily remember who is most important and on down the line.
- Give a very brief introduction of yourself, as you present your business card.
- It is polite to repeat back the name of the other person, as you thank them for their card.
- Do not put the cards away until after the meeting has concluded. Business cards represent the individual person, and putting them away too quickly is disrespectful.
- You can arrange the card on the table in front of you, reflecting the seating order, or place them on top of your card holder. Leaving them out in the order of seating can help you remember who is who, while continuing to show respect for the persons who offered you the cards.
Business Card Etiquette in Japan
As with any situation involving individuals, the actual process may vary at any given time. It is more important to remain respectful and calm. Go with the flow, rather than becoming rigid about the rules of etiquette that you cause a scene. Remember to be prepared with a sufficient number of dual translation cards, at all times. And, be prepared to exchange them with appropriate attention. This will show respect for the individual and leave you able to build business relationships in the future.