6 Useful Tips about Business Cards “Meishi” to Work in Japan

6 Useful Tips about Business Cards (meishi) to Work in Japan

Business cards are common throughout the business world, but nowhere is their exchange and significance more formalised or important as in Japan. For the foreigner coming to work in Japan, this formality can seem daunting at first but, in fact, it takes much of the uncertainty out of meeting people for the first time, allowing business to flow more smoothly.

As with business cards the world over, meishi carry essential information such as one’s name, company name and logo and contact information. Some are very conservative in design, while others are more fancy. Either way, a Japanese business card carries a great deal more significance in a cultural sense, demanding the recipient treat it with the utmost reverence. To aid you in this, I have prepared a simple list of the important points relating to the giving and receiving of meishi.



 

6 Useful Tips about Business Cards “Meishi” to Work in Japan

 

1. Readiness

To avoid coming across as rude or unprepared, it is imperative that the business cards you give are pristine and free of creases, nor should you ever have to fumble for them in a wallet or bag. Buy a suitable meishi card holder from any high street stationery store and, wherever possible, have the number of cards you will require for a meeting arranged and ready on top of your card holder, one for each person you will meet.

 

2. Seniority

Seniority is extremely important in Japanese culture, so it is usual for senior figures at meetings to exchange their meishi first. Similarly, one should always first present one’s own Japanese business card to the most senior person present. Of course, this can take some getting used to for non-Japanese, so watch closely what your colleagues do and take your lead from them.

 

3. Giving

When introducing yourself in a business context, hold your meishi card holder in both hands and bow deferentially as you proffer your card. Make sure the card is the right side up for the other person to read, is pushed forward enough for them to accept easily, and that your thumbs are not obscuring your company’s logo or other information. If your meishi are bilingual, make sure you are offering the side in the recipient’s language. Now, maintaining your bow, introduce yourself. The simplest pattern for this is to say:

Hajimemashite. (your company name) no (your surname) to moshimasu.
Hello. I am (surname) from (company).

 

4. Receiving

In general, as cards are given with both hands, so should they be taken, and with a respectful bow. It is important to read the other person’s meishi and not just put it away. You should confirm you have understood the other person’s introduction using the following pattern:

Domo. (surname) samma desu ne. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
Hello, Mr (surname). Pleased to meet you.

 

5. Formality and Respect

Anyone who lives and works in Japan will soon learn when and how to bow, but it does need to become second nature. The thing to remember is that the higher the status or seniority of the other person in relation to you, the more deferential your bow needs to be. Similarly, present your meishi at a lower level to the other person if they are higher in status. Never write on a meishi you’ve received!

Once the introductions are out of the way, you can relax a little and get on with your meeting. However, out of respect for those present, it is usual to keep their meishi in front of you, typically organised by their seating positions in relation to you. This obviously helps you to keep track of names that you might otherwise forget.

 

6. Keeping Japanese Business Cards

Meishi are only ever given once, the first time you meet someone, so it is customary to keep the ones we are given until absolutely certain they won’t be needed again. They should never be discarded or treated lightly after being received, such as stuffing them into pockets or wallets, the height of rudeness! Most Japanese business people keep received meishi in special albums with plastic sleeves and only prune older ones after many years may have passed. So, when someone gives you their meishi, treat it like a winning lottery ticket!

 

Conclusion

As said, the level of formality associated with Japanese business cards can seem strange at first, but as with most ritualised routines, it allows people to approach their business with each other from a position of mutual respect, which is always a good way to foster understanding. So always try to observe the few simple rules I have laid out and follow closely the protocols employed by your Japanese colleagues. In this way, it will soon become second nature to you and all whom you meet, be they customers, clients or suppliers, will be impressed by your grasp of Japanese business culture, and this in turn will give them confidence in their dealings with you.

 

6 Useful Tips about Business Cards “Meishi” to Work in Japan

1. Readiness
2. Seniority
3. Giving
4. Receiving
5. Formality and Respect
6. Keeping Japanese Business Cards