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Cultural Contrasts: The

United States and Japan

By: Anuradha Srinivasan


& Sherine Mitto

Congratulations!

You have been promoted to Chief Financial Officer & have been
requested to transfer to our Japan or United Stated of America
branch, no later than 1st January 2017.

Introduction
There is no better time than now to explore and venture out of
your comfort zone and present work environment to feed your
wanderlust minds. So Congratulations!
Taking a chance on a position
overseas can bring many benefits,
so please keep an open mind
as an increasing number of individuals
are thinking about pursuing their
careers and life in other counties.
In addition, this international exposure
will display your ability to adapt to
new situations, interact with diverse
groups of people, and develop your
problem-solving techniques.

Survival Tips
Please watch the following videos for
more information:
Japan:
https://
www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3IH96HP
FCU
United States:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tglr
P82v1c

Hofstedes Cultural Values


Japan

U.S.

Individualism

46

91

Power Distance

54

40

Uncertainty
Avoidance

92

46

Masculinity

95

62

Communication
n
o
l
N
a
b
r
Ve

Body
Language

Ges

tur
es

Ve r
b
al

Communication Style in
Japan vs. the United States
Japan

America

Looking at someone straight in their eyes is considered rude,


and a means to a challenge.

Staring someone directly in the eye is seen as a sign of


confidence, a degree of attention and express interest.

Japanese people aim to avoid displaying their emotions in


public and suppress their facial expression as much as
possible.

Individuals are quite vocal and expressive in their speech,


gestures, and facial expressions.

Uncomfortable with any physical contact such as a hug.

Due to the melting pot of nationalities in the United States,


physical contact is accepted and very common when greeting
people.
A handshake is a sign of respect and welcoming gestures to a
guest. There are no inappropriate signs in the way you
approach someone to shake their hand.

Hand gestures must be done with caution as several hand


movements have particular meanings. Therefore it can be
misinterpreted as an insult or just used at an inappropriate
time.
Being quiet during a conversation shows that one is thinking
about what is being said and the parties are trying to
understand the concept behind the bigger picture or comment
stated.

Most times feel uncomfortable sitting in silence.

Vocal qualifiers of a high volume or pitch indicate loss of


control.

Vocal qualifier of high volume or tone indicates confidence


and authority

English

Cultural and Business Values


Japan

The United States

Individualism

Collectivism

Independent

Group Consensus

Goal-oriented

Group Harmony

Time is money

Relationships is key

Work to live

Live to work

Cross-Cultural Communication Tips


Characteristic

United States

Japan

Responsibilities

A managers roles are very individualized as the care Managers are required to provide their individual

for Groups

about ones own success. Still, the contribution of

contribution to the entire group, and a final decision

vs. Individual

other members of staff is important to meet the

depends on unanimous group votes. As it's said that

companys mission and goals.

they recognize that the whole team must succeed,


otherwise the individual's contribution is not
meaningful.

Return on

Businesses true focus is the ROI of revenue as

Japanese companies also focus on ROI of revenue

Investment on

managers do not care how it is achieved. And it's

but care to learn the process of how to get there as

Relationship vs.

business, not a friendship.

its a pathway to new friendships.

Revenue

Characteristic

United States

Japan

Risk Adverse vs. Managers are often times risk takers in American as Managers here are more conservative even if they
Risk Takers

most are go-getters or we can do it individuals, even are 100% sure they can do it as the aim to be

culture

its only 60% probability of being successful.

accurate and not Yes people.

Homogeneous

The US is a melting pot of nationalities, making it

Japan is mainly Japanese. As such, everyone shares

vs.

multicultural. As such, there are many this

the same or similar background; therefore, some

Heterogeneous

approaches to a task or ways of thinking due to that

unspoken words are understood based on the

culture

fact which can something prolong a final decision.

situation.

Collaborating

Conducting fewer and fewer meetings than other

Always conducting a meeting and the meeting

Time Spent vs.

countries. And during the meetings they aim to get a groups involve a significant number of staff joining.

Time Spent

lot accomplished as thats the only view of being

Japanese value the process of meetings and they

Collaborating

efficient.

spend a lot of time in a meeting.

Characteristic
Work Style

United States

Japan

The working style is very flexible and working from Regular 8 am to 5 pm working hours and managers
home is very normal. Most managers don not have

are not allowed to work from home. The office

strict working hours once they meet their deadlines. environment resembles a school like setting where
These managers always also get their own office

the head of the division is at the top of a row of

space which provides a sense of personal

desks in an open layout office.

independence and trust.

Personal Life vs. Personal and family time is the priority in America

Priority is in the work life, making ones

Professional Life as companies encourage a work-life balance. As

professional life more important than their family.

such, there is socializing outside of the office but

There is also a common activity of Japanese

usually not with coworkers.

employees to attend a social event together after


work hours; for example, happy hour or dinner
socials as it's seen as an imperative opportunity to
communicate with each, and building the
relationships within the office.

Conclusion
Japanese and Americans have always
emphasized the importance of work.
We will be fascinated to see what
country you select, and we wish you all
the best in your future endeavors.

If you have any questions, please


contact the Human Resources Division

References
Hofstede, G. (1983). National Cultures Revisited.Cross-Cultural
Research,18(4), 285-305.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/106939718301800403
Maher, T. E., & Wong, Y. Y. (1994). The impact of cultural differences
on the growing tensions between Japan and the United States.SAM
Advanced Management Journal (07497075),59(1), 40.
Rose, J. L. (2016). Laugh it up: humor in inter-cultural management
after international mergers.Strategic Direction,32(9), 1-3.
doi:10.1108/SD-05-2016-0084
Vitell, S., Nwachukwu, S., & Barnes, J. (1993). The effects of culture
on ethical decision-making: An application of Hofstede's typology.
Journal Of Business Ethics, 12(10), 753-760.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/bf00881307
Yang, C. Y. (1984). Demystifying Japanese management
practices.Harvard Business Review,62(6), 172-182.

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