7 things that surprise Japanese people working in offices overseas

By Rachel Tackett

Lifestyle Dec. 05, 2013 – 06:20AM JST ( 24 )


Here’s a collection of seven observations that Japanese people made while doing business in foreign countries.

1. The lack of overtime

In Germany and Spain, there is practically no overtime. Spending time with the family is paramount. Work does not infringe on a person’s personal life. In Australia, people go home precisely at the end of their work hours. They can be somewhat lax when it comes to meeting other deadlines, but if their work day lasts until five, then at five sharp they are out the door.

In foreign countries, business is dealt with only within one’s working hours.

A certain amount of overtime is expected at most Japanese offices, sometimes with no increase in one’s pay rate. A person is expected to remain at the office for however long it takes for them to finish their tasks and may have to come in early or late to meet with clients.

2. Unapologetic attitudes

In China, workers decidedly do not apologize to anyone. Even if they have made a mistake, rather than admit that they were wrong, they will make excuses justifying their actions. Workers in Thailand have no sense of personal responsibility. If a mistake is ever made everybody starts pointing fingers.

In Japan, if any sort of error or misunderstanding comes to light, the first thing that an employee does is apologize, even if it wasn’t their fault. They might gripe about the misplaced blame after downing a couple of beers, but they always show humility in front of their boss and their clients.

3. Tons of time off

It doesn’t matter how busy things are. People working in America and Europe will take an extended vacation whenever they so please. Working in India, it doesn’t matter if someone is late. As long as that person gets all of their work finished, there is absolutely no penalty.

Japanese people are so reluctant to take time off from work that when they get sick they will often use their paid vacation days rather than their yearly allotment of sick days to cover the time that they must miss. Time spent missing work is noted down to the minute.

4. A focus on food

The people of Mexico have a habit of taking their time to eat. It’s common to take a full two-hour lunch break. In other countries, farewell parties and the like are often held during lunch, rather than saved for after work hours. In Korea, if workers have to do overtime on their projects, they’ll all eat dinner first.

In other countries, it’s perfectly acceptable to eat breakfast or enjoy a nice beverage while at work.

Most Japanese office workers are given an hour for lunch. Still, a lot of people will eat quickly at their desks and continue their jobs through their lunch hour. As far as drinking at the desk goes, coffee and tea are often available, but it’s less a beverage to be savored and more a shot of liquid energy to keep one working through the long hours.

5. The obvious “I” in TEAM

In Russia, work is only completed on command, never at a request. Also, low-ranking employees never really interact with those above them. The higher-ups exist on their own plane, drinking together and altogether ignoring those below them. The hierarchy is obvious.

People working at offices in India really keep to themselves. If the phone at the empty desk next to them rings, they will not answer it; they only deal with their own phone.

When Americans receive emails, they will read them over, look up whatever information is required, and then do other work without actually responding to the message. It seems they hate responding to emails. In India, it’s not uncommon to leave a client waiting for more than a week for an email response. Priority goes to oneself, rather than the client.

People in Australia change jobs quite often.

When companies in other countries hold events outside of working hours, participation is entirely optional.

Teamwork is highly stressed in the Japanese workplace. Showing solidarity by attending after-hours office functions is important for getting promotions and proving that the success of the company comes first on one’s list of priorities is paramount to success.

6. Reversed gender roles

In northern Europe, a company is expected to provide men as well as women with childcare leave.

In Vietnam, women are the real weightlifters in the workplace. They’re sweating and working hard, while the men sit around doing nothing. Sure, Southeast Asia isn’t known for its enthusiastic workers, but these guys are just plain lazy.

Socially speaking, Japan is most certainly a patriarchal society with very clear-cut gender roles. Men work long hours to provide money for their families, while women stay home and raise the kids. For a woman to show true incentive in the workplace or for a man to stay home with the children is a very progressive concept to them.

7. Companies not caring for their workers

There are many places in the world where people are given tips from their customers for showing a positive attitude while providing good service. China has payment systems based entirely on productivity, and the total is basically a drop in the bucket.

Japan does not have a habit of offering tips, except for in very special situations, often requiring a certain level of ceremony. Rather, the employers are expected to pay enough for their employees to live off of.

Of course, not all of these points apply to every work environment in every foreign country, but understanding that these are the kinds of things that catch Japanese people off guard can really help us to understand what working in a Japanese office is really like. Apparently it’s quite long and demanding both in and out of actual work hours, but it’s also rewarding in many monetary and personal levels.

Source: Naver Matome


Categories: Societal

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