Business Etiquette In Japan (How to Make a Good Impression on the First Day)

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Starting a new job can be daunting, but by doing some research you can easily arrive feeling well-prepared and ready to have a successful first day.

Japanese culture has some specific etiquette that is important to consider. 

Business Etiquette In Japan
Japanese business etiquette

Let’s take a look at how to make a good impression on your first day in Japan.

Dressing Well

Dressing well is incredibly important in Japanese culture. There is a strong emphasis on formality and professionalism.

dressing well for a business day in Japan
Formality and professionalism

Here are some tips to help you:

  • Dress conservatively: For men, this means a dark suit is best, paired with a plain, white shirt and a tie. For women, a dark, simple dress is ideal.
  • Pick conservative colors: Bright colors should be avoided, as well as patterns and flashy accessories. Good color choices would be navy blue, grey, beige, and black.
  • Consider your footwear: Closed-toe shoes are best; flip-flops and open-toe shoes are too casual and should be avoided in the workplace.
  • Minimum jewelry: Avoid wearing too much jewelry if you can, especially larger pieces, which may be viewed as too flashy for the workplace. An example of acceptable jewelry would be a simple watch, a wedding ring, and stud earrings.
  • Keep hair and makeup simple: Flashy hairstyles, unnatural hair colors, and bright, distracting makeup should all be avoided. Hair should be neatly groomed and tidy, and makeup should be light and natural.
  • Personal hygiene: In Japanese culture, good hygiene is incredibly important. Make sure you are freshly showered, neat and well-groomed before your first day.

If you wish to bring a bag, a small bag would be sufficient. Avoid backpacks, large flashy purses, or bringing gym bags into the office.

The key is to always dress conservatively and professionally. This is especially important on your first day as you want to give the best impression.

Introducing Yourself

When starting a new job in Japan it is customary to introduce yourself properly on the first day of work.

Introduce yourself properly on the first day of work.
First day of work

Here are a few tips to help you plan an introduction:

  • Bow: Bowing is an important part of Japanese culture. This is especially true on your first day in a new job. Bowing to your colleagues shows respect and thanks.
  • Use respectful language: In Japan, polite, respectful, language is known as keigo, and it shows you have respect towards your colleagues and your employer.
  • Introduce yourself with your full name: In Japan, this means starting with your family name followed by your given name. So, if your name is Lucy Brown, you would say “Watashi wa Brown Lucy to moushimasu”.

As well as a good self-introduction you should also be mindful to express gratitude to your employer for the chance to join the company and work with your new colleagues. It may be wise to slip in a positive comment or two about your new surroundings as well.

Sharing a bit of information about yourself warms people to you, so this is a great idea to do on your first day in a new job. You could start with where you’re from, where you studied and tell your new colleagues a bit about your family.

Make sure you give your best effort, and ensure your new workmates know you intend to work hard and work as a team.

Maintaining a respectful and humble tone when you are talking about yourself is important too, and even though you may be nervous, try to smile! By talking to your new work colleagues, you will likely pick up on office etiquette, such as how to answer the phone, etc. This will all be helpful to you.

Good impression on your first work day in Japan
Make a good impression on your first day in Japan

If there’s anything you are unsure of, ask for help! It’s much better to clarify things with your coworkers at an early stage, rather than get to work on something and then ask for help.

Being open to learning helps you to learn about the company culture, your role, and your colleagues. It’s important to take the time to listen to others and learn from any mistakes.

You may be asked to take off your shoes. This is common in some workplaces in Japan. If this is the case, make sure to bring some indoor shoes or slippers with you.

Your desk says a lot about you, so on the first day only bring a few items that you may need for the next day or so. It’s important to see the other desks in the office, so you can gauge what is acceptable to bring in and what isn’t. Usually, one small photo of your family would be allowed on the desk.

Take a small amount of time to review any paperwork, and company policies you are given. This should tell you about any guidelines regarding cell phone usage and vacation time etc.

Work Ethic

In Japan, it’s important to show that you have a strong work ethic from the very first minute you step into your new office. This ensures you give your new superiors and colleagues the best impression.

By arriving early, you will show that time is important to you and that you are responsible and going to take your new role seriously.

japan business Etiquette tips
Being open to your new work colleagues

You should always be polite and respectful when greeting your new employers; hierarchy is important in Japanese culture. Remember to use honorifics when speaking to your superiors.

Prove your dedication to your role by being diligent and hardworking. You could do this by offering to take on additional responsibilities. This shows you are a team player, which is highly valued in Japanese culture.

Paying attention to small details shows you are conscientious and will be appreciated. This attention to detail is reflected in Japan’s manufacturing industry, known worldwide for its high-quality products and excellent customer service.

The most successful employees in Japanese culture show they are dedicated to the role at an early stage. They show commitment to the role, often work long hours and weekends, and take very little time off.

It is therefore no surprise that it is common to put work before personal interests. This can take some getting used to. Changes are happening in Japan regarding this, which means less emphasis is placed on such long working hours, but this is likely to be a slow process.

Japanese business culture
Have a strong work ethic

Generally, the work ethic in Japan places high importance on dedication, teamwork, and hard work. A successful first day will set the tone for your remaining time in the workplace.

Making Connections

Meeting your new work colleagues on your first day can be exciting and daunting at the same time.

After all, you are about to be spending a lot of time with these people so it’s in your best interests to get along.

new work connections
Get along with work colleagues

Here are some tips and reminders that might help you get off on the right foot when forging new work connections:

  • Be punctual: Punctuality is highly valued in Japan, and your new colleagues will be grateful for you turning up on time, or a few minutes early.
  • Dress appropriately: Formal, business attire only as we discussed earlier.
  • Introduce yourself with a bow: This is the customary Japanese greeting. Remember if someone bows to you it is respectful to bow back.
  • Use honorifics: In Japanese, the suffix “san” is a civil way to address someone, while “sama” is an even more respectful form.
  • Remain harmonious: Confrontation or direct criticism should be avoided at all costs.
  • Consider bringing a small gift: If you are joining the company from another country, you may wish to bring something from your home country as a way of building new relationships.

Remember, it is important to greet your new colleagues and superiors with a polite greeting the Japanese call “aisatsu”.

The most frequently used aisatsu in the workplace setting is “hajimemashite”, which translates as “nice to meet you” in English.

Final Thoughts on Japanese Business Etiquette

By simply remembering to be punctual, respectful, and smartly dressed you will set yourself up for an excellent first day in your new role.

Spend time learning from your new colleagues and be ready to discover more each day about the wonderful culture of Japan!

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