Think about a situation below.
Your Boss: Are you ready for exchanging business cards in Japan?
You: Well, I don’t have any…
In the United States, shaking hands is one of the most significant actions when you meet new people besides saying hello and introducing yourself. Needless to say, greeting is inevitable for building good relationships in any business settings. However, there are cultural differences in social etiquette depending on countries. In Japanese society, it is fundamentally important for business people to exchange their business cards, or meishi. Business cards are like their faces in Japan.
For business people, there are several basic rules and manners in exchanging business cards in Japan. If you are from outside the country, these rules may be somewhat confusing. To tell you the truth, it can be also hard for Japanese people to understand them completely.
This article clarifies those confusing rules and processes in exchanging business cards that are mistakenly understood, providing information as follows:
How to exchange cards
What to say when exchanging cards
Basic Manners When You Exchange Business Cards in Japan
- Use an appropriate direction to give cards.
Your name on your card must be headed to the person who receives your card. Do not cover your name with your fingers.
- Give and receive cards using two hands. Bow neatly at the same time.
- You must stand up in exchanging cards. Keep an appropriate distance with each other.
- People whose ranking is the highest exchange their cards first.
The Process of Exchanging Business Cards in Japan
Now, let’s look at the process in exchanging business cards step by step.
1. Make sure to have enough number of cards in advance.
This is the most basic manner and a matter of course. However, it will be a big problem if you neglect to do this. What would you do if your business cards are gone while meeting your clients? You should always make sure whether the number of business cards you have is enough before meeting somebody.
If your cards run out unfortunately, be honest. Apologize for not having your cards at the moment.
2. Make sure where to stock your cards so that you can put them out immediately.
3. Exchange your cards with a bow, and then provide a brief introduction.
Greet with people and introduce yourself. As an example, you could say…
Nice to meet you.
My name is Hirata from [Company Name.]
[Company Name] no Hirata to moshimasu.
Again, it’s so nice to meet you.
The phrase, Yoroshiku-Onegaishimasu, has many subtly different meanings. For more information about this phrase, go to this Japanese Study site.
4. When you receive a card, hold it at a low position with both of your hands.
The position should be no higher than your chest.
5. Look at a name on the card, and then remember it.
If you are not sure how to read or pronounce it, ask the person. It is not rude at all!
6. Keep exchanging cards in order of rankings from high to low until all the members finish giving and receiving their cards.
7. After you receive cards, put them on the table in order.
Now you can sit down. If there is no enough space to place the cards on the table, you can give a quick bow and put them in your card case.
＊Note that you may not exchange cards over the table.
The Order and Ranking : Business Culture in Japan
Japanese society typically has a rank, which is related to ages. Usually, old people rank higher than young people in a group. However, in a business setting, there are some rules more than ages in terms of the ranking. If you are receiving money, your rank will be lower regardless of ages. On the other hand, if you are paying money and receiving services or products, you are higher in ranking. In other words, clients or customers are always higher than vendors or suppliers in rankings no matter how old they are.
Basically, those who are lower in raking should give their cards first. Even if you receive a card from somebody higher than you, do not refuse it because refusing is the rudest thing!
You may give and get cards at the same time.
When a receiver and a sender exchange their cards at the same time, they usually hold a card on a right hand and a card case on a left hand (if you have one.)
An important thing is, do not show a hesitation!
Even if actions are off the order, people will accept your behavior as long as you show respect to them.
Exchanging business cards is the most important thing for Japanese business people. Therefore, if you work at a Japanese company, you should be familiar with those rules. Business cards identify who you are like your passport. Do not forget that there is always respect besides rules and manners!