Business Cards: The Japanese Way

By Clay Crawley

Sometimes things that seem trivial can be important in business culture. For example, to an American there is probably nothing more mundane than a business card.  For us, this small piece of paper represents exactly what it looks like: a simple means to transfer contact information.  Nevertheless, in Japanese culture a business card represents so much more.

The Japanese view their business cards as an extension of themselves.  For this reason you must be very careful when accepting a business card to avoid offending your Japanese counterpart.  Keep in mind that the presentation of a business card is a ceremonial exchange.  Your counterpart will most likely present the card while holding both corners and possibly even bowing to offer it to you as a sign of respect.  When receiving the card, it is appropriate to accept it with both hands, take time to read the information, and hold it for the duration of the exchange.

Additionally, it would be considered fitting to bow as a response to accepting the card.  If you are close to your counterpart bow a little towards the left so as not to bump heads.  Do not put the business card in your wallet or in your back pocket.  This shows a lack of respect for the card.  It is preferable to carry a special case in which you may carefully place business cards.  This action will demonstrate that you are offering proper respect to your Japanese counterpart.

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