Japanese culture is quite different from the western one, starting from greetings. It wouldn’t be nice at all to greet a Japanese person shaking hands, instead, people usually bow at 45° or 30° depending on the hierarchy, or they will just make a sign.
During job meetings pleasantries are very important for the Japanese. Normally Japanese people don’t answer questions just by saying “No”, they would probably use a formal and long way to say “NO” after some compliments.
Therefore, the success of an economical proposal will be the result of an elaborate and long conversation. Also if the process is via letter or e-mail, it’s better to avoid going directly to the point. For Japanese people, the approach is “somehow holy”!
Normally all the staff work together in the same office and on the same floor. The manager has a privileged position from which he/she can observe all employees while working. Working-time goes from 9 a.m till 5 p.m.
During the months of July and December, the Japanese exchange presents. I should open a parenthesis about presents. Presents can never be wrapped with white gift-wrap, because it symbolizes death. Also the gift is never to be opened in front of the person who gives it.
Japanese people make a strong difference between the external and internal environment. Before entering a Japanese house one must take off their coat and then their shoes. The woman who accompanies the man will place the shoes facing the exit. The guest will be accommodated in the furthest room from the entrance. Remember that a Japanese house, as in the traditional ones, not the skyscrapers that you find in Tokyo, are made of wood, with a characteristic sliding door and at least one tatami room.
Obviously, at restaurants people walk over tatami floors without shoes, eating traditional meals with hashi, wooden sticks with which you should never pierce the food. It’s possibly the worst offense you can make.
Inside the restaurant you don’t ask for the menu because the meal is exposed in the display cabinet. Japanese cuisine is definitely one of the world’s most international cuisines, because Japan, in particular Tokyo, is one of the countries which symbolizes finance and business in the whole world. This is a typical week: Monday (western lunch), Tuesday (Chinese lunch), Wednesday (traditional Japanese lunch), Thursday (sashimi), Friday (curry), Saturday (vegetables or sea food), Sunday (tempura). Tipping is not a common Japanese tradition because this service is already included in ryokan (typical Japanese hotels) and restaurants’ bills (more or less 10-15% of the total amount). So you don’t need to tip.
To conclude, Japan is also well known because it’s a very safe country. It’s normal for women to walk alone day and night and to see kids taking the subway on their own. No one would worry about a forgotten jacket, bag or wallet in a restaurant because no one would ever dare to steal them.
ROBERTO COLELLA, Esperto di Protocollo e Cerimoniale Nazionale e Internazionale