One of the most in-demand Japanese business practices is the exchange of business cards, which can be very unique.
In other countries, a business card may just be a card with your contact information on it, but for a Japanese businessperson, a business card is so important that it could be considered a part of their personality.
In other words, a business card is treated with boundless politeness, and there is a variety of etiquette in the exchange of business cards. Of course, when Japanese find out that you are not Japanese, you will be forgiven for not knowing the right business card exchange.
But if you can do that in the right way, they’ll probably think something like this.
”He’s/She’s used to exchanging business cards and seems to have a good knowledge of the Japanese business culture which puts me at ease.”
”Even though Japan has many unique business practices, he/she is able to exchange business cards correctly, so he/she may be able to adapt to other business practices and do business with us without stress.”
To help you succeed in business in Japan, here are some rules of Japanese business card exchange that you need to know.
In many countries, there is no set timing for exchanging business cards, but in Japan, the first step is to exchange business cards. If they understand your culture and are willing to shake your hand or give you a hug, it’s fine to reciprocate. However, in Japanese business practices, a polite exchange of business cards is the beginning of a new business relationship. When the person you’re meeting with takes out a business card, you should do the same. Put your business cards in a place where you can get to them quickly so you are ready for the exchange.
It is common practice to always stand when exchanging business cards. If you are waiting for him/her in a meeting room, stand up when you hear footsteps. Since the exchange of business cards will begin immediately, stay standing when you meet him/her. However, if there isn’t enough space to exchange them standing up, you are allowed to remain seated as an exception.
The reason why you should not exchange business cards across the table is because it is preferable not to put anything between you and the other person. It’s a good idea to step away from the table a bit when you meet him/her. However, if space is limited and you can’t do that, say” Please excuse me, from across the table.” making a good impression.
When you give your business card, hold it in a way that he/she can read it. Giving it to them in a direction you can read is just as startling as giving it to them with the scissors pointed at them! First, make sure your business card is facing the right way before you give it to him/her.
Since you’re making an appointment, they should already know who you are and which company you work for. However, in Japan, when you give a business card, it is customary to say, “I’m XX (your name) from XX (company name). Never give your card away without saying anything. Also, when you receive his/her business card, you can say “Chou Dai Shimasu or Arigatou Gozaimasu” which means “Thank you”
If you don’t give your business card in the right way, you may not make a good impression. By holding your business card out lower than his/her position, you can give the impression that you are a humble and polite person. If both parties are offering their business cards at the same time, do the following:
At this time, hold their business card very carefully, as if you were holding an expensive diamond. Also, when accepting the other’s business card, your finger should not cover the name of the company or name printed on it.
Writing something on someone’s business card is the same as scribbling on their face. Don’t do it at all. If you would like to write a note on it, do that after you are away from the person. However, if the information on his/her business card (e.g. the phone number) is wrong and he/she asks you to correct it, it’s okay to write on it.
Japanese businesses tend to emphasize the importance of hierarchy, so business cards are exchanged in order, starting with the other person’s boss. Don’t worry if you don’t know which person’s position is higher when you first meet them. The right person will be the first to step forward to do so. When you and your boss meet them, both bosses will exchange business cards first. Don’t let your subordinates exchange business cards first.
Please remember his/her business card is the proxy for that person. Don’t tuck it into your pocket or notebook in a casual manner. And even more so, don’t put it in your back pocket, as it’s very rude to do so.
When the business meeting begins, place your business card case to the left, parallel to the table, and put his/her card on top of it. Since your card case becomes a seat cushion for his/her card by placing it one level higher, you are showing respect for him/her. If you have more than one card, it’s better to arrange them on the table so that they are paired with where they are sitting. Placing them in seating order makes it easier to match their names with their faces. Be careful not to place their business cards on top of each other.
When the business meeting is over, you should hold their business cards with great care and put them in your business card case. Don’t bend or fiddle with the card unnecessarily.
If you bring business cards written in Japanese, you will have the following advantages
This is especially useful for spellings that are difficult to pronounce.
You will probably need to exchange business cards every time you meet a Japanese businessperson. Also, if you meet with several people for a business meeting, you’ll need to exchange business cards with them one by one. It’s not a good idea to give your card to just one person and ask him/her to share your information with others later.
You may think there is a lot of etiquette to remember, however, if you can do this, you have the opportunity to create good relationships through the exchange of business cards.
Summary of the rules for exchanging business cards in Japan