The night that Naoto and I met (a story for another time) the one big conversation catalyst was my job at a Japanese company. Because our offices interacted so often with Japanese colleagues, part of my training involved Japanese business culture. And, because I grew up in a town that was 99.9% white and was never a Japanophile before I started working there, I found this training so fascinating. As it turned out, part of Naoto’s job at that time was to deliver Japanese business culture trainings to doctors who would be traveling to Japan for conferences. Naoto and I had a great conversation comparing notes and stories of accidental rudeness. We laughed as we presented our business cards to each other that night. We followed the strictest Japanese protocol in the middle of that coffee shop, all while snickering at the bows and the close inspection of each other’s cards. (Okay, we weren’t really following strict Japanese protocol…)
The exchange of business cards (meishi) in corporate Japan is a huge deal. It is almost ceremonial and it is filled with all sorts of social nuances. These are the basic “rules”:
- Business cards are exchanged right after introductions, often in order of “rank” with the most highly ranked associate presenting his/her card last.
- Cards are presented with two hands and with the information facing the recipient.
- Upon receiving a card, you should take the time to read it carefully.
- When you are done reading the card, you should place it carefully in a business card holder. (Don’t just shove it in your pocket or purse.)
- If you receive cards during a meeting, you can leave them on the table as the meeting is conducted, but remember to carefully pick up each one at the end of the meeting and place them in your business card holder.
- Never write on, fold or damage anyone’s business card in from of him/her. Business cards are seen as an extension of the person.
- Never present a damaged card to someone. Again, the card is an extension of yourself.
- Always carry plenty of cards. It would be rude to be caught without one.
- Have a business card holder. (And probably one that’s a little more professional than my old Chococat one!)
I have never missed working in corporate America, but I do miss the exchange of the business card since I do not often have the opportunity to exchange cards in person very often these days. I should make a point to get them out more often and practice my meishi exchange.
This week, I am sharing some little aspects of our multi-cultural marriage in celebration of Loving Day on Wednesday.