Dutch formality in Japanese eyes

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【This wouldn’t happen in Japan】


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!


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

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

Welcome to Europe-Japan Dynamics!

This is our blog page.

Please click here for what we do.
Please click here for who we are.


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

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!

Veronica De la Fuente


Discussion by participants was a vital part of the workshop



How can a non-native English speaker be a Grammarian at a Toastmasters Club meeting?

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【I defined my role as a Grammarian】

“I’ll take a Grammarian’s role next time.” —   I came to know that I had encouraged other non-native English speakers, when two people said it to me after the meeting of Geneva International Toastmasters Club tonight. It was an unexpected surprise!

I was a Grammarian of a Club meeting. Grammarian however was the last role I would take. I thought I couldn’t do it.  “How can I correct English grammar being non-native speaker?”

I however did it tonight.

I set my challenge to be a contributor of the meeting in the way I can. I’m not the right person to correct English but there must be something else I can do well.

I redefined the role of a Grammarian.

I  listened to each speech & evaluation carefully and thought in what way I could help the speakers.

I picked up good expressions and sentences that gave life to the speeches. 
After the meeting, I found my evaluation by Christina as a Grammarian super! It went far beyond my expectation.

Why did it happen?

I concentrated in listening to the speeches tonight. It was the only way to pick up good points and share them with the meeting. Concentration allowed me to notice good expressions.

It was respect to all the speakers to listen each speaker very carefully. Every one in the meeting room got what worked well in my comments.

I didn’t have to be afraid of doing bad, being a non-native English speaker.

There is always a way to utilize my resource to help others.




Personal gift for summer from “Moshi moshi, Japan?”

Started enjoying nice summer?

Wish to review your business with Japan from distance?

“Moshi moshi, Japan?” have prepared a personal gift for you for summer!

We will offer you a personal assessment of a culture gap between you and Japan, and your solutions. The offer is exclusively for members of “Moshi moshi, Japan?” and  free of charge.



What will you get?

– Clear views of your possible pitfalls you may not notice in doing business with Japan.

– Personalized culture gap analysis and suggestions of actions to avoid the pitfalls, that meet with your own business context and requirements.

How does it work?

– You will take an online assessment, needing 15 minutes or so.

– You will receive a report of the results.

– We will deliver you debriefing of the report by phone or in a face to face meeting (will take 30 minutes).

Is the assessment valuable?

Yes. I will offer “Culture Compass”, a tool to scale the different sets of values, based on the 6 Dimension Model of national cultures developed by a well known scholar of international business management, Professor Geert Hofstede. It will help you visualize the impact of your own cultural value preferences and potential behavioral pitfalls when dealing with people from other countries. Please find out more information from the link –> http://itim.org/culture-compass

  • The assessment and debriefing are free, and must be completed by Friday 5 August.
  • This opportunity is offered for 5 people only, due to the workload needed for the assessment. First come, first served.
Please write to –> yoshiko.kurisaki@gmail.com
(DO NOT use the “reply” button of this e-mail. Everyone will see your reply!)Wishing you a nice and fruitful summer!

Keys to success in cross-cultural marketing — Nestlé in Asia, Oceania and Africa

I had an opportunity to interview with Mr. Anthony LOW, VP, Asia, Oceania and Africa Region of Nestlé.


I was particularly interested in discovering the keys to success in marketing in the regions that have diversified consumer markets, including Japan. Japan is known to be a unique market for its consumer taste and preferences in the food business.

I found there was no miracle. Keys to success were but the very basics of marketing, i.e. the trust, quality, customer insights and long-term interests.

So what’s new?

Yes, there is the reason why Nestlé excels and that lead the company to a remarkable success, the thoroughness. The company’s “Can do” attitude, supported by the thoroughness led to breakthrough in its marketing.

I was happy to be assured that one may succeed in challenging markets by pursuing without compromise to the basic values of marketing, i.e. trust, quality, customer insights and long-term interests. It is not a coincidence that these values are common to the underlying principles of the corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Here is my note:

Keys to success

Customer first, “Can do” attitude = Never say, “No”.

  • To meet customer requirements in Japan, Nescafé, we changed the product. Changed its recipe from “Instant coffee” to “Regular coffee”.
  • Barista Ambassador – To facilitate access to Nescafé in offices (where tea and coffee is served less and less, due to limited budget, economic recession, etc.), offered Barista machine free of charge, including service. The customers buy the coffee products or refill from Nestlé.
    • Test market – Hokkaido. Market size is appropriate.
  • Shrinking population how do you grow business where the population is shrinking? Aging Elder people’s market.
    • Visited and listened to the elderly people. Found that loneliness is their major problem. Created “Nestlé wellness club”. With a small membership fee, send a doctor and dietitian to home.
    • Test market – Hokkaido. Market size is appropriate.
  • Trust, quality and market insights
  • To find a new market in a country where you are for more than 100 years. Creativity. Never say, “No”.

Build the trust with consumers

  •  Marketing strategy is different in each country in the AOA Region. cf. Europe – one common market
  •  There are 115 countries in the AOA Region.
  •  There are over 450 different Nescafé’s worldwide.

Long-term strategy

E.g. In India, Nestlé supports WHO to promote the breast feeding. It is not for an immediate benefit. If some mothers could not continue breast feeding, they buy Nestlé’s milk product. Nestlé infant formulae is close to mother’s milk.

“Romance the product”. Nestlé’s marketing strategy

  • Market test — Nestlé requires 60:40 preferences of Nestlé products over competition

“Then, we ‘romance’ the product to the truth.”
i.e. to make the truth to come to the life.

  • To find an answer to the question, “Why is this product perceived to be better than competition?”
  • If consumers says “this chocolate tastes fresh”, to find why is “fresh” important?

Re. Japanese market

There are over 200 KitKats in Japan,
There are over 200 KitKats in Japan,
  • MUST know how to do business in the local market
    • Perceived value is the key, e.g. Nescafé vs. Starbucks
    • MUST build the perception on quality. No failure is allowed. Must constantly work on the quality.
  • Nestlé’s response to the local market, Special-T. A system for the Japanese tea lovers to enjoy good tea without following a procedure to prepare a good tea.
    • An example of adapting to the taste of local market.
    • Originally tried with black tea but failed. Found that The Japanese wanted to take the green tea that match individual taste.
  • You can’t do cheap business in Japan. Currency rate is not in our favour while price of imported materials are rising (e.g. Cacao).
    • We can’t compete over the price. We create premium values.
    •  Japanese consumers pay for the premium.
    •  E.g. Kitkat – Those that use local materials cost less than others that use much Cacao.
  • Appeals to the emotion
    • Pepper – a robot that reads 80% of your emotion. It selects the best coffee for you. Technology invented in France, produced in Taiwan and the license bought by Softbank (one of the leading mobile phone operators known to be vanguard market strategy in Japan.

10:30 – 13:00, Vevey, 18 March 2015

Moshi moshi, Japan? (1) — Managing the Japanese from distance

We enjoyed the first meeting of “Moshi moshi, Japan?”, held Geneva, 23 January 2015.

Tokyo railway station conserves its history surrounded by hi-rise buildings
Tokyo railway station conserves its history surrounded by hi-rise buildings

Anne opened the floor by presenting her experience with a sales team in Tokyo. All the people around the table shared his/her experience and insights on Japan.

Key words:

  • “We wanted the branch in Japan to adhere to the global process. The Japanese team said, ‘yes’, but in practice, there was no change. They continued doing it in their own way as before.”
  • “To do business with Japan, one must meet people regularly, say, 3 to 5 times a year.”
  • “Meeting with the Japanese in informal opportunity is important.”
  • “It is annoying though that one must think what’s behind all the time.”
  • “Be careful, the Japanese don’t say ‘No’, but say it in very different manners.”
  • “Japan is at the highest end of the ‘High context culture’. Emotional intelligence counts in communication.”
  • “Stay open-minded, accept what it is and build the trust, before business.”

Thank you very much for all the people who participated in the meeting.

Forthcoming meetings —

Friday 13 February, The Japanese mindset seen from a recruiter

Friday 13 March, Japanese market for innovative start-ups

Friday 17 April, Uchi and Soto, the key concepts of the Japanese relationship building

Friday 26 June, Negotiations with Japanese companies (To be confirmed)


Participants: Anyone interested in business with Japan.

Time: From 18h00 to 19h15

Place: Starbucks, Rive, Geneva central area

Languages: French and English

Organisation fee: CHF 10.-

Registration: By e-mail or phone call to Yoshiko Kurisaki, Europe-Japan Dynamics

Yoshiko.kurisaki@gmail.com, Tel. 076 411 6076




Japanese eyes in Europe (1) — Geisha?!

I’m Japanese and live in Europe for 20+ years. Throughout these years, I worked in an international environment, in business, volunteer activities and off-time.

I sometimes feel Europe and Japan are far from each other. Not only due to the geographical distance, but more importantly people on both sides don’t know each other very well yet, at least. Yes, we have the Internet, Wikipedia, we travel over the globe, but still … something is missing.

I am lucky to have trained eyes to see Europe from Japanese eyes and Japan from European ones. My multifunctional eyes are well trained through variety of experiences piled up day by day in the past over twenty years.

Europe is full of interesting, sometimes funny, interfaces with Japan.

Why don’t I share with you, who are as curious as I am, these interesting topics caught by my Japanese eyes in Europe?

Please enjoy!


I am a great fan of the municipal library of City of Geneva. The library provides luxury space for endless intellectual interests with quiet study rooms equipped with free wifi. It well represents Swiss devotion to the cultural support for citizens.

That said, I was shocked this week when I opened a booklet prepared by the library. The booklet lists a number of books and DVDs to suggest for future travelers to the countries of Asia and Oceania. The information is well sorted out per country, starting from A — Afghanistan.

For the cover page of the section of Japan, three photos are placed; “Geisha”, “Tokyo by night” and “Mount Fuji” (see the photo below).

What? Geisha and Mount Fuji? Do they represent Japan?

OK for “Tokyo by night”.  Central areas of Tokyo looks like the photo, but I have reservation for the rest of the two.

Mount Fuji was listed as the World Heritage by UNESCO in 2013. In this sense, one can say that a beautiful view of the mountain may symbolizes Japan. The photograph used for the booklet, however, is strange. The mountain is with a temple colored in red. It is obviously an artificial image, that doesn’t exist in reality. It is an old fashioned and stereo type image of Fuji an Japan. The modern appearance of the Mount Fuji would be largely different.

What surprised me more is “Geisha”.

First of all, I’d say that the photograph looks like “Maiko”, not “Geisha”. “Maiko” is a trainee of “Geisha”, and these are two distinctly different status of women entertainers.

More importantly, “Geisha” is a product of a feudal era when women’s human rights were completely neglected. When rich men were having parties with “Geisha”, their wives stayed at home looking after children and housework.

“Geisha” women carried out difficult lives. Usually, they were “sold” by their parents when very young to the houses that keeps “Geisha”, that lease women for parties. These girls were often from poor families in rural Japan, and sold to those houses. They had to work hard as entertainers to pay back the large debt to the houses.

Knowing the history of Japanese women, I’m not comfortable to see Geisha’s photograph as a symbol of Japan. Though their status has largely been changed in the modern society, and they don’t work to pay back debts any more, majority of Japanese women are not Geisha.

Geisha and Fujiyama -- Still a stereotype  of Japan?
Geisha and Fujiyama — Still a stereotype of Japan?

What I saw here is the fact that Japan is not known, even to public libraries, where plenty of knowledge is kept. There must be an extreme short of information about Japan in Europe. It’s pity because there is plenty of interesting things to know, to see and to do in Japan.

I wish to bridge between Europe and Japan. Hence I started a series of blog postings.

PS. if you’d be interested in real life of Japanese women in the modern history, I’d suggest to know a story of “The Gift from Beate”, a documentary film.