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Business Carding in Japan

Updated: Sep 18, 2019

Japan is famous for its intense rules around business cards. As my mentor always taught me: In Japan, even the CEO needs to know how to properly pour a beer for customers. And one of the most interesting dances of Japanese business culture is knowing how to hand out your 名刺 meishi.

In our business seminars, we often go over card designs and proper introductions at business meetings, but today I just wanted to touch on the very basics of exchanging business cards.

The basic rules are:

1) The top representative or most important person exchange cards first 2) Use both hands when presenting the card 3) Ensure the card is turned outwards so the person can read it 4) Looking at the card, shows that you respect the person you are talking to, so at meetings the cards are often left on the table in the order of people sitting.

Before the meeting:

If possible you should know exactly how many representatives will attend the meeting. If you have to take out the cards or fumble with your card case it looks nonchalant. I like to keep the exact number in the breast pocket of my jacket when possible.

During the meeting:

Because every part of the meeting should be orchestrated. Even the seating is important. The CEO must sit in the center, and preferably with their face towards the door. If you are waiting in your office and want to look strong your CEO will sit with his back to the wall in the most prominent seat. But it is generally recommended to allow your guest the privileged position.

When drinks or refreshments are offered, likewise the president or CEO will receive the drink first. Received drinks do not have to be drank, but refreshments should be available.

When the cards are exchanged, it is customary to bow. Europeans may find this a sign of weakness. But in Japan, it is considered respectful.

It is ok to place the cards in your card case at the close of the meeting, and again having things like planners, notebooks, and card cases are considered not only necessary for business people, but a sign of respect towards the people you do business with.


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