Do's and Don't's of doing business in Japan

Personal contacts are of utmost importance in Japan where a strong local culture means Swiss firms needs to adapt business model as well as business customs. Our business guide provides an overview of everything you need to know.

Japanese business people

It is essential to look at the Japanese market very carefully and understand how business is done in Japan.

Even if something is completely logically understandable for Switzerland, or in any other country, it does not necessarily mean that the same is true for Japan. 

Most small and middle-sized Swiss companies stark working the Japanese market by entering a partnership with a local company. It is only possible to create the right requirement profile of your partner if you understand your customers, competitors and the nature of distribution channels in Japan. 

Further, personal contacts are very important for the Japanese. Once you have got a chance to meet your potential partner/customer, patience is required: The group decision-making process in Japanese companies where members of the middle management play great roles takes a lot more time than in Switzerland.

Japanese business customs are quite different from Western ones

Although between Japanese bowing is a usual way of salutation, a bow is not expected from a Swiss business person. Japanese with international experience will initiate a handshake.

The first thing after the initial greeting is to exchange business cards (called “meishi” in Japanese. The word belongs to the most important business Japanese vocabulary list).

Few Japanese people are sufficiently fluent in English in business communication. When never educated/employed outside of Japan, even those who are capable of speaking/writing in English, very often communicate in the Japanese way of thinking which can lead to incomprehension or misunderstanding.

Our business guide details the following Must-Knows

  • Finding and meeting your business partner
  • Terminating a contract with a business partner
  • Business cards and meetings
  • Names and how you adress Japanese people in business
  • Typical language pitfalls
  • Business attire
  • Online meetings
  • Essential practical information like travel, transportation, health care and more

Get ready for your new business in Japan

Business potential is huge in one of the biggest economies in the world: Let us help you handle the complexities and open doors together with our Swiss Business Hub in the Swiss Embassy in Tokyo - to prepare your market entry or support your challenges should you already be present in Japan.