• 5 Workplace cultural shock I have experienced in Japan!

5 Workplace cultural shock I have experienced in Japan!


Hello! I’m Ema Matsumoto and I am one of the new members working at Global Produce. I was born in Japan, and raised in the U.S., but I decided to move back to Japan to attend college in Japan. Throughout my five years of living in Japan, I have been experiencing multiple cultural shocks and primarily I experience many of them at my workplace. Therefore, in this article, I want to discuss the cultural shocks I have been experiencing during work.

①Business card exchange

“Prepare your business cards in 2 seconds!”

The exchange of business cards, known as “meishi,” is a crucial ritual in Japanese business culture. I used to imagine this exchange process as a calm process, but it was totally the opposite. When exchanging cards, my boss always tells us to take out our business cards in 2 seconds! Therefore, whenever I meet someone for the first time, I grab my business card case and dash to that person. Especially when you are new to the company, keep your business cards in your pockets!

②   Working long hours

“Don’t overwork!” (especially workers new to the company)

Usually, Japanese companies make employees work late but in our company, it is quite different. When the clock hits 7pm, the superiors tell us to go home and get rest. Before joining this company, I was imagining myself working late so this was surprising. In Japan, overworking is becoming a serious issue. It only leads to employees’ stress and sleep deprivation so I really hope this idea vanishes from Japan.

③   Workers cleaning their own office

“Cleanups by new members”

I think this is a unique routine of our company but this is based upon a Japanese culture of ”younger ones doing chores for the elders”. We schedule a clean-up time two days per week, making sure that each room is neat and tidy and has enough supplies. Usually, we end this clean-up very quickly, so often times we take a walk to the Takeshita Street (2 minutes away from the office) and eat crepes.   

④   Intimate communication

“Keep others posted about where you are at/going to be”

This is one of the “報連相”(Japanese communication standards). Whenever you are leaving your desk, you must tell your coworkers where you will be. You are expected to tell where you are in cases such as leaving for lunch, going to the convenience store, or moving to different places in the building. In this way, other workers know where you are whenever they need you.

⑤   Hand out drinks to guests!


I believe that the U.S. hospitality is letting their guests help themselves to do whatever they want to do; however, Japanese people make the guests sit down and they do things for them. One of the Japanese hospitalities (“Omotenashi”) I practice oftentimes is handing out drinks to guests who came into the office. Handing out drinks to guests quickly is such a common practice in Japan, so whenever you have the opportunity to welcome guests in Japan do not forget to ask them if they need something to drink!


In conclusion, I have been experiencing many cultural differences between Japan and the U.S. . There are only so many chances where you can ask what to do in these situations. When you encounter these situations and have no idea what to do, just smile and be polite! They know that you are new to the business culture and manners in Japan so they will forgive you. I hope this article provides useful tips on working at Japanese companies and encourages those who are wishing to work in Japan!