ポリグロット(数か国語に通じる人)を目指して~
中国人の父にオランダで育てられました。 日本語を勉強しながら、ベトナム人の彼氏と一緒に暮らしています。

Monday, 1 September 2014

The differences between a Japanese and an American business environment

After working for a Japanese company for a year I went back to school for a while. After I finished school I started working for a huge American hotel chain. Some of you asked for my thoughts on both Japanese and American companies so I am sharing my experiences with you in this post today. I hope you will understand that I am not trying to compare whether it is better to work  for a Japanese or a American company. I am just reviewing the pro's and con's of both of them so you can somehow get the feel what it is like to work for one of them. For those of you in America who are thinking about working for a Japanese company, or those who are residing in Europe I hope this will be helpful for you.

Unique Japanese business culture
The one thing I want to mention first is that even though I myself am residing in Europe, working for a American company in my opinion is not that different than working for an European company. But working for a Japanese company was a total change and it really took me some time to adapt to the Japanese work environment. The Japanese business environment is a whole sub-culture by itself with it's own customs. I will write a separate post with typical Japanese work related customs because it's to much to cover into this post. In the part below I will state some pro's and con's from my own experiences working for a Japanese company.

Pro's;

1. The Japanese are highly valued in the business market. They never fail to deliver and even go beyond the expectations. This is really true. Even though many others claim to get jobs done when it obviously exceeds their capabilities, if the Japanese say they get it done they will get the job done.

2. They Japanese value and respect the elders for their wisdom. Many westerners get informal towards their colleagues and guests / customers easily. In my opinion (but I know not everyone shares this one with me) I love how the Japanese talk to their elders. In the way they speak they acknowledge the position, wisdom and status of the person, which shows great respect. I wish more companies were like this.

3. Japanese colleagues are very pleasant to work with. All the time I worked for this company, there was never anyone who has ever been rude to me or who I couldn't get along with. At the time, I was the youngest of our team and my Japanese colleagues always took the time to help me or explain things. They are also never the person who leaves first and even outside of work, they are always ready to help you.

Con's

1. You will never-ever disagree with your manager or those above you in the corporate ladder. This was actually quite new for me. Normally if I have different ideas on how something I do should be done I will just discuss it with my supervisor, manager or whoever is above me. But in Japanese business culture this is a complete no-go. In time even if you did not experience this before you will get used to it. You will acknowledge that those people are promoted to a higher level because of their skills and experience. Don't be one arrogant thinking your own decisions are always better and neglect those people and their decisions, just go with the flow and you will experience yourself that this is the right thing to do.

2. You will never be finished on time. I work in the hospitality industry so I know I never finish exactly on time. But the Japanese will never close the shop at exactly six for example. As I mentioned before they are never the first to leave, and when they leave it is only after permission of the person in charge. Although it is not really a big con, when I know my finishing time is six I'd like to know at what time I can catch the train, or tell my partner I'm home. But seriously you will never know.

The oh so typical Americans
The funny thing is, when I applied for this job I was actually quite nervous when I got it. I felt so comfortable in the Japanese business environment and now I was about to start something totally different. I had a one year contract so what if I didn't like it? I moved especially for this job to this city. So I already started off insecure which is nothing like me at all. In my very short two-day training I really felt the American atmosphere. The over-acting tacky training videos, the emphasis on how amazing the company is and so on. It was all really new for me first. But now I am already used to it. So after working there for two months I will share with you my pro's and con's.

Pro's

1. You always know what to expect. The rules are set a long long time ago and everyone is used to them. All colleagues know them by hart and in only a short while you will be able to drill them out with that oh so American pride as well.

2. They don't take them selves so serious. In my opinion, Americans are very easy to work with. They are very casual in contact with guests / customers and also with colleagues, which makes me feel very comfortable.

3. Because they are so easy-going, in my first week I was already invited by my colleagues to go for drinks outside of work. This really makes it easy to get to know your colleagues and bond with them also outside of work. For me, a good bonding with my colleague outside work brings out great communication between one another at work itself.

Con's

1.  There is always a bad apple in the team. That one negative person that is not so easy to work with but you have to work with because it is your colleague can be quite annoying. I never see this happen in a Japanese work environment, I am used having the person in charge of the team take care of that.

2. Sometimes they are really difficult to understand. It's is only a small issue I have sometimes with guests and with colleagues as well. I had a couple of moments where they act really polite when they are mad, which makes it difficult for me to guess what they actually need. Like this gentleman who asked for my manager, because he said he had the worst experience in a hotel ever. And all of this with a smile, a thank you and a please. He said it in the way you just had to turn around right away and run for your manager. I don't know if I explained this well but it was kind of creepy.


In the end every company is different, as well as the people we work with. For the people who do not like their jobs, or the environment they are working in, please do something about it. Talk with your manager, a colleague you trust or someone in human resources. Whatever it is, it is easier to try and solve it with someone else than coping with it on your own. If there is nothing to do about it, maybe it's a sign it is time for a change. You are the only one who chooses your job.



Thank you for reading.

~ mei mei