The Japanese Business Card Exchange Ritual
February 10, 2017
I am in Tokyo, Japan for the next month assisting our Country Manager (Kiheita) as a technical resource on sales calls. Before I came to Japan, Kiheita requested me to get business cards printed.
Seeing as I work remotely and never interact with customers in person, this is not something I have ever needed while working for Auth0. As a matter of fact, I think the last time I had business cards was back in the 1990s in my first job as a computer sales person.
It is just not something a programmer ever really need. And in South Africa, whether you have a business card or not was never an issue - if someone ever needed my details I would just write it on a piece of paper, or take down their email address and send the required information to them.
Business Cards in Japan
So when Kiheita asked me to get business cards I first thought “what’s the big deal whether I have them or not?”, but I had some printed in any case. This morning when we left for the first meetings I grabbed a bunch of cards and put them in my jacket pocket, and just as well I grabbed a lot because oh boy, did I need them.
I quickly learned that exchanging business cards is a very important ritual in Japan. It is not just a simple handing over of business cards. Oh no, things happen in a very particular order.
Every thing needs to be done in a specific manner - how you present the card; how you receive the other cards; how you bow when you take the card; what you say when you hand over the card; how you respond when you receive the other person’s card; etc…
Also, I just grab a card from my jacket pocket to hand over. Not the Japanese. Oh no. They have dedicated card holders, made of fine leather or what have you.
Also, once you receive the cards and sit down again, you don’t simply pocket them. No, you lay them out on the table in front of you. Apparently so you can learn the names and show respect.
The little things about different cultures is why I love to travel. It really puts a smile to my face every time I notice or experience things like these. Also, this was the first time I visited another country with such a diverse culture in a business context, so I really appreciated seeing this.
Oh and another thing; when you are finished with a meeting, the people don’t just say goodbye in the meeting room. No, they walk you all the way to the elevator, and see you off there. All of them - everyone who was in the meeting. Such a cool thing :)
If you want to get more details on the nitty gritty of the Japanese business card exchange ritual, please check out this article. I’ll be studying it over the weekend to make sure I get the finer details correct ;)