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The ability to read between the lines and communicate information that is subtle but still gets the message across is a highly prized characteristic in Japanese culture.This, of course, creates a challenge for managers who are leading or participating on international teams with people from less direct cultures such as Japan, China, or Korea.In the United States, for example, we typically value directness.We admire straight shooters, tell people to “stop beating around the bush” or “get to the point,” and don’t expect to read between the lines.
Those who stray from this template by meandering or providing excessive background and tangential details are perceived as unorganized or unprepared; those who reply with subtle hints and references may be viewed as sneaky or obtuse. For example, end-of-year gifts are called "oseibo" and midsummer gifts are called "ochugen."Japan gift-giving customs have certain rules of etiquette, which are important to follow to avoid any misunderstandings beteen the giver and recipient. On each gift, the giver attaches paper called "noshi" on which the word "oseibo" or "ochugen" is written.The two gifting seasons are based on the solar calendar.If you are looking for something different you are sure to find it here!In Japan, it's customary to give gifts periodically to those whom people feel indebted, such as doctors, co-workers, managers, parents, relatives, matchmakers, and teachers. Noshi is a thin and decorative piece of folded paper that is a sign of good fortune for the recipient.
But in Japan, the message again would likely be a bit subtler, something like, “Of course, we don’t want to inconvenience you, but if possible, that would be helpful to us.” Then, as a manager from a direct culture, you’d need to again filter that through your understanding of indirectness — that by stating that it could be helpful to them, the company is being quite clear (in their own way) that they’d like a quicker installation. But the quicker you can master this language — in all its subtleties — the better equipped you’ll be to do business in all arenas of the global stage. in Intercultural Relations and 20 years of experience in helping people and organizations move from cultural frustration to transformation.