Audio, Why are cross cultural skills crucial for international business with Japan?

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【My business life started improving dramatically
after a cross-cultural training of Japan】

Please enjoy an interview of Ms R, an executive of a major Japanese company in Mexico, who enthusiastically talked about the reasons why the cross-cultural training is a major key to success in international business with Japan.
(By the way, this is my first interview in the audio file!)

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  • Interested in our cross-cultural trainings, coaching and consulting to move forward business with Japan? Please talk to us.

 

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Dutch formality in Japanese eyes

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【This wouldn’t happen in Japan】

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Please take a look at the photo below. This is the shot that impressed me most during my stay in a conference held in the suburbs of Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

The session was attended by Professor Geert Hofstede, who is well known to the world for his work of the Six Dimensions of the National Cultures. His theory is taught as the basis of international management in business schools worldwide. He is the man on the right side in the photo.

Inviting the great Professor, the session must be formal, at least if the same happens in Japan.

This was not at all the case the Netherlands in my Japanese eyes.

Amazing point 1: Do you see a red package at the bottom of the lectern? This is the gift for the Professor just passed to him a few minutes ago. As the gift is heavy, the MC of the session (the lady in the middle of two men in the photo) took it from him and put here.

I knew she did it for kindness but couldn’t believe it. In front of the distinguished Professor, putting the gift for him on the floor? If it were in Japan, she would have carried the gift with both hands in respectful manners and put it on the distinguished cushion placed on a side desk prepared for this purpose.

What amazed me more was the fact that The Professor was not upset at all. Look at how calm he was in the photo.

Amazing point 2: The second gentleman from the right in the photo is a senior executive of IBM BeNeLux. He was a keynote speaker of the session. He was dressed in jeans in such a session in front of the great professor!

I know I was looking at this scene in the Japanese value set.

I know I shouldn’t judge the Dutch culture applying the Japanese criteria.

It’s a great fun to see in what ways attitude to the power and authority appears in different countries.

I enjoyed the relaxed Dutch ways!

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Contest of cars with anime characters painted all over

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Pick of the week from Japan, 21 – 25 August

21 Aug. Brilliant photographs! 200 of Itahsa contest in the Shimizu Port with the Mount Fuji and the ocean in background

SISFES (Shimizu Itasha Seaside Fes), a festival of cars decorated by characters of animations and Manga, called “Itasha“, was held in Shimizu Marine Park and its surrounding areas (Shimizu-shi, Shizuoka.ken) on 20th August. Approximately 170 cars, and approximately 30 motorcycle got together from in and outside the prefecture including metropolitan Tokyo area and the Western regions of Japan.

Enourmous nergy of manga and anime lovers contributes to the regional economy.

A number of events of Itasha are held all over Japan every year, in cities and rural areas, even such remote spot as a water dam site. What an energy of those who are enthusiast of cars heavily decorated by anime characters!

What’s behind of these flourishing Itasha festivals is the need for great events that will provide business for local shops, restaurants, hotels, etc.

 

 

痛車

 

  • The news items referred here are picked up from “Asahi Digital”, and translated by Europe-Japan Dynamics. The cited titles or articles are not an official translation by the Asahi Newspaper.

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No working mother in picture books for children?

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Pick of the week from Japan, 31 July – 4 August

3 Aug. No working mother in picture books for children? Barriers blocking telling stories of various families

I am a journalist of 35 years old with a daughter of two years old. My wife who also has a full time job alerted me recently that little picture books tell stories of a family where both parents work. 

The number of double income household has surpassed the number of single income one since decades. This fact however is not reflected in children’s picture books in Japan.

The journalist in the article interviewed authors and publishers of children’s books and found a still conservative attitude of the publishers. One publisher said, “We can’t go into detail of a model of a family as one family model will make people with other types of family feel “it’s not for me”.

Is it the only reason?

Why publishers are so much afraid of including working mothers in children’s books, despite the fact that population of mothers who are housewives are less than those who have a job?

I see here a strong Japanese attitude of being afraid of the change. Any change will create unexpected consequences in expected and unexpected ways. This is what the Japanese almost automatically try to avoid.

It’s not data that convinces the Japanese, but the perception. Thus publishers stick to an outdated model of a family as it is safer than taking consequences of a change.

Such an attitude support stability of the Japanese society. This however is a double-edge sward. For the same reason, Japan is keeping a half of its population in a stereo-typed image.

  • The news items referred here are picked up from “Asahi Digital”, and translated by Europe-Japan Dynamics. The cited titles or articles are not an official translation by the Asahi Newspaper

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The green is wet in Japan

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Pick of the week from Japan, 10 – 14 July

13 Jul. Dragon flying down from the sky — the art in the rice field in Amakusa, Kumamoto

With rice of different colors, the rice field art makes in full bloom you in Yamaura district of Matsushimamachi Kyoragi, Kamiamakusa-shi, Kumamoto. The work is created by local high school students who planted five kinds of rice, including the ancient rice, in June. One may enjoy it until the middle of October.

The Japanese green is wet — every time I look down the Narita area from the window of an airplane when approaching to the Narita International Airport, I see the difference in the green color of rice field, woods and orchards between the impression of the green between Japan and Europe. The European green is dry.

The Japanese traditionally planted the young shoot of rice by hand. This still is the practice for most of the farmers.

Hence the art like the one in the photo is possible.

Rice growing is very labour intensive. It requires villagers to get together and work together to maintain infrastructure needed for rice growing. Water supply system, cultivating the land in early spring, to name just a few.

An american business man I met said that he had been frustrated by “the group culture” by the Japanese when he has been stationed there. He wanted to talk to a person but Japanese always responded him as a role player in a group to which he/she belongs to.

I think he should have modified his communication to be appropriate in a group culture, forgetting the American way. The American green is dry, as compared to Japanese.

A group culture sometimes produces such a beautiful scene by planting the rice by hand according to a carefully organised plan.

田んぼアート

  • The news items referred here are picked up from “Asahi Digital”, and translated by Europe-Japan Dynamics. The cited titles or articles are not an official translation by the Asahi Newspaper.

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Typhoons, earthquakes and Japanese culture

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Pick of the week from Japan, 3 – 7 July

4 Jul. The t typhoon 3 landed near Nagasaki-shi, 115 people gone to refuge, danger of landslide

7 Jul. Heavy rain continues in Kyushu region, death toll reached 8, continued caution called for

Since the Typhoon 3 went ashore near Nagasaki-shi, Kyushu region on 4 July, very heavy rain still continues in the order of 200 to 300 mm per day. Eight people died, 26 were lost, and 570 villagers are isolated because of the road disaster as of 7 July. Local municipalities directed evacuation to about 49,000 residents.

I am so sorry for people who lost lives, houses and had to leave home.

Japan is full of natural disasters throughout its history; typhoons, earthquakes, volcano explosions and tsunamis to name only a few. The Japanese lived with such horrible natural power, which is far beyond human control. People just had to live with it.

Typhoons and small earthquakes were not unusual in everyday life since my childhood. I have taken them for granted.

It was a discovery for me to know that there are regions where the earth never quakes, no typhoons comes and mountains do not explode all the sudden. This region is Europe. I know there are volcanos and earthquake happens in some parts of Europe, but these are in far smaller scales and frequencies than those in Japan.

What are consequences of the climate on people’s way of thinking, values or culture?

Though I don’t want to think that human mind is shaped by the climate of the place people live, I must admit that one should not neglect substantial influence of the climate on culture. Natural disasters may influence people’s way of thinking.

The Western people who live in Japan and well integrated in its society are often frustrated by the Japanese because they are patient too much. In the Westerners’ eyes, the Japanese appear to prefer to do nothing and wait for storm to go away, rather than fighting against it.

In my eyes, on the contrary, the Western people do not hesitate to take actions to remove causes of their problems, or even fight against them. People do not hesitate to ask questions when they don’t understand something, and negotiate with the neighbors to cut trees in the neighbor’s garden if they block the view of the lake from their window. Such attitude has pros and cons. I don’t judge such attitude. I’m merely talk about a simplified observation of the Western reactions to problems.

It is wrong to explain cultural differences by simple reasons such as the climate. I however think it reasonable to take into account in thinking of reasons of the differences what the climate teaches to human beings in different regions of the world. This teaching continues for centuries, generations after generations. No wonder the Japanese do not try to control or fight against the super power of the nature as they know earthquakes, typhoons and tsunamis go beyond the human power.

It is not surprising to see a trace of the habit of ” just living with it” (or being patient) in the day to day habit of the Japanese.

  • The news items referred here are picked up from “Asahi Digital”, and translated by Europe-Japan Dynamics. The cited titles or articles are not an official translation by the Asahi Newspaper.

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My “Taken for granted” is not the same as yours — Cross-Cultural Understanding with Japan

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The workshop of “Cross-Cultural Understanding with Japan” was very resourceful, participated by a good-mixture of European and Japanese people.

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Yoshiko Kurisaki is moderating discussion

Here are a summary of highlights for those who couldn’t come and those who wish to know clues underlying the Japanese business:

  • Culture is like an iceberg. Eighty percent of the iceberg is under the sea and we don’t see it. So called “typical” Japanese culture, such as sushi, high-tech instruments, kimono, bowing, are all the tip of iceberg supported by the rituals, geography, history, values, etc. hidden under the water.
  • Major factors from which Japan is made  — Geographic location and its historical consequences, climate, rice-growing culture and the peace that lasted for 700 years.
  • The Japanese trap — Unconscious bias by the Western managers visiting Japan
  • A significant difference in the meaning of silence and space between Europe and Japan. It was proven that thirty-seconds’ silence is too long and uncomfortable for the Europeans, while nothing in particular for the Japanese.
  • Uchi- Soto“, the way the Japanese position you as a European business partner.
  • Relationship, not individuals, counts

It is worth noting that discussion by participants enriched the workshop, as well as eye-opening exercises.

Listening and observing others without judgement by one’s values is a good start for understanding of other cultures. In doing so it is natural that you may get upset or find someone strange. Such moment is a wonderful opportunity for you to know your own values. Think “Against what criteria am I upset? “

Working across cultures is not always easy but rewarding. Cultural diversity enables 1 + 1 be more than 3, 4 and more, and ultimately leads to the innovation.

Last but not the least, many thanks must go to the Swiss-Japanese Chamber of Commerce (SJCC) which invited us for the workshop and Sunstar SA for the nice seminar room and warm reception!

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Veronica De la Fuente

 

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Discussion by participants was a vital part of the workshop

 

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