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Business from West to East: Canada vs. Japan

Homogeneity is important in working in a Japanese business environment. Japan has been isolated by both geography and choice for centuries, which explains their strong sense of nationalism and pride in their culture (Bucknall, 2005, p.14).  Hence, in conducting business in Japan, one must be aware of the Japanese culture, traditions and manners of conducting business to avoid violating any of them and jeopardizing the business relationship.

One must keep in mind that the Japanese put a premium in cooperation in all aspects of life, including business. History reveals that the Japanese have long valued cooperation, since the time when rice farming was the most important economic activity in the country. Rice farming required the cooperation of families and friends in the community, not like the “individualistic hunting and gathering culture of the West” (Nishiyama, 2000,  p.84).

People shy away from individualism and favor group-centeredness and mutual assistance. In negotiating with the Japanese, one should be careful in debating with them because “quiet listening and obedience are rewarded rather than independence and debating skills” (p.85).

The Japanese society is characterized by tradition and verticality, even up to this age.  An individual’s status is determined by age, sex, education, occupation and relationship (p.85).  The

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Japanese will feel uncomfortable if the social status is ignored during negotiations. This is dissimilar to the Westerner’s way of attempting to establish interpersonal equality regardless of the status.  In doing business with the Japanese, one has to take into consideration the age, sex, education and occupation of the Japanese delegates; one has to be very careful and polite especially when the delegates are comprised of older people.

Utmost respect should be given to these people.  These things should be kept in mind because the Japanese would rather enter a negotiation based on a warm and interpersonal relationship than a rigid contract (p.84). This warm and interpersonal relationship with them is possible if they are shown respect and sincerity.

Hard work is not an extraordinary virtue in Japan; it is regarded as normal. From the low grade workers to the CEO of the big Japanese corporations, the Japanese strive for professionalism in everything they do. Zen Buddhism encourages the attitude of doing things properly and not to be “wishy-washy” about things (Bucknall, 2005, p.19).  The excellent quality of Japanese-manufactured products is that they give importance to excellence and hard work.

Also, since hard work is important, it is not uncommon for the Japanese to “give up their evenings or part of the weekend to work or engage in work-related social activities” (p.19).  The Japanese have longer working hours than most industrialized nations. Lunch times are limited to half an hour and hardly anyone will drink alcohol in the middle of the day as it may disrupt work performance (p.19).

Canada has the greatest portion of immigrants of any country in the world (Walker et al., 2003, p.163). Given that fact, it is easy to explain the low degree of discrimination and racism in Canada. Canada has been permeated by various cultures, particularly British, French and Eastern European (Whittle, 1997, p.153).  Canadians are accepting to cultural differences and their own culture has been molded by a fusion of various cultures.

Therefore, no such thing as a “Canadian work ethic” (p.152). Unlike the Japanese, they do not put too much value in homogeneity. In fact,  a Geert Hofstede study reveals that Canadians rank individualism the highest in attitudes (International Business Center, 2008).  Canada is more collectivist when compared to the United States, but it is definitely more individualistic than Japan (Guffey and Almonte, 2009, p.14). Visitors who expect to do business with a Canadian company should expect a “very flat, open system” (Global Business Media Ltd).

During negotiations with Canadians, it should be noted that an attitude of condescension is looked down upon by Canadians. Their individualistic nature dictates that all people, regardless of race, age, gender, or income category, should be treated fairly. They are interested in results, profits and fairness (Whittle, p.153). Just as long as the person can deliver results and achieve the goal, they will be willing to enter into a negotiation with that person.

Canadians are different from the Japanese in this sense because the Japanese still take into consideration various factors. For instance, the Japanese still consider women inferior and still think that women should be limited to the home (Bucknall, 2005, p.21). Canadians are also more informal in the sense that managers are seen as “one of the guys” and not someone who stands apart from everyone else (Global Business Media Ltd., n.d.).

Canadians observe the regular 8-hour workday and enjoy an ample amount of vacaticon. Canadians work” 6.4 billion hours of paid overtime” (Whittle, 1997, p.201). Time is very important to Canadians; the adage “Time is money” holds true to them.  Making people wait for business appointments is considered rude. This importance for time determines how they deal with people during meetings. Because time is valuable, Canadians tend to be direct and straightforward in meetings. Unlike the very traditional Japanese, the Canadians place less emphasis on tradition, ceremony, and social rules because this can be a source of indirectness in meetings (Guffey & Almonte, 2009,  p.14).

Indirectness is a waste of time for Canadians. However, Canadians do take time during a major decision making. One should expect negative feedback if a Canadian is forced into making a rushed decision. They usually take time to decide and consult the people concerned, even creating a committee to make decisions on a certain matter (Whittle, 1997, p.155). The Japanese also take time in making decisions but the difference lies in the factors they consider. As said earlier, the Japanese are very interested in forming a warm and interpersonal relationship with the other party. The Canadians, on the other hand, look at the detailed information and the empirical facts concerning the decision (p.155).

References

Bucknall, K. (2005). Japan: Doing Business in a Unique Culture. North Carolina: Boson Books.

Guffey, M.E. & Almonte, R. (2009). Essentials of Business Communication (6th ed). Toronto: Nelson Education.

Global Business Media Ltd. (n.d.). Canadian Business Structures [WWW Page]. URL http://www.worldbusinessculture.com/Canadian-Business-Structures.html. Accessed June 3, 2010.

International Business Center. (2008). Canada [WWW Page]. URL http://www.cyborlink.com/besite/canada.htm. Accessed June 3, 2010.

Nishiyama, K. (2000). Doing Business with Japan:Vol. Successful Strategies for Intercultural Communication. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Walker, D.M. et al. (2003). Doing Business Internationally: The Guide to Cross-Cultural Success (2nd ed.). McGraw-Hill.

Whittle, J. (1997). Canada Business: The Portable Encyclopedia with Canada. San Rafael: World Trade Press.

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