lifestyle

7 things that surprise Japanese people working in offices overseas

44 Comments
By Rachel Tackett

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

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Five things that keep Japanese people chained to their jobs -- Why Foreign Businessmen are Receiving Lessons on Doing Business the Japanese Way -- Expert weighs in with his ideas on what defines the Japanese character

© RocketNews24

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

44 Comments
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The lack of overtime

Yes, efficiency is a novel concept.

Unapologetic attitudes

As my mom always told me, don't overuse the word "sorry" or it will mean very little when you actually want it to mean something.

Tons of time off

Yes it's so amazing that people overseas actually want to spend time with their families.

A focus on food

Turns out the novel concept of being efficient means you can spend some of the day enjoying yourself a little.

The obvious “I” in TEAM

I know it's hard to believe but sometimes you don't need a committee or red tape to get things done.

Reversed gender roles

I know, right? Women have brains!? And titles other than 'OL'?!

Companies not caring for their workers

OK, this one is backwards and limited to the service industry? I'm pretty sure the world over will agree that European and US companies provide a more enjoyable and caring environment than their Japanese counterparts...

33 ( +38 / -5 )

Japanese people are so reluctant to take time off from work that when they get sick they will often continue to work and make everyone else in the office sick.

32 ( +33 / -1 )

And that they have 4 seasons overseas too.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I am shocked...people WANT to spend time with their family? Give me little to do for 12 hours a day and a requirement to stay for another 2 because no one should leave first. Getting my work done quickly and going home .....the idea is absurd.

16 ( +17 / -1 )

Well they only came up with 7 things. If the article was 'things foreigners find weird about working in Japanese companies' the list would be endless.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

Majority of Japanese nationals that work in the foreign country spend their free time with other Japanese workers. They are not flexable with adapting to different cultures, and try new things. Even at lunch time, they will have lunch with other Japanese with of course, Japanese food.

Sure, Japanese employees are “working” long hours, but how much time is being spent on smoke breaks, toilet breaks, sneaky phone calls, long lunch breaks etc would probably find that the average office worker only does about 5 – 6 hours of work. Most Japanese do not work hard, they just spend countless hours wasting time on pointless paperwork and irrelevant procedures. Many foreigners make it their priority to work during their set hours, and leave when those hours are done. Many Japanese office workers give is that the hours on their contract are fairly irrelevant, as long as they are working more than those hours.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

I remember reading that the more time you give someone to do something, the longer it takes them. If the Japanese work day was reduced to eight hours - FLAT - then I'm 99% certain the work would still get done. The sense of obligation and dependence on one's company is really suffocating sometimes (coming from someone who works in a Japanese office (but refuses to do overtime, work during lunch, etc. thus is forever アルバイト)).

9 ( +9 / -0 )

People in Australia change jobs quite often.

This blew me away when I went back in 2007. People quitting at a moment's notice - and sometimes coming back six months later.

I remember 2 in particular. After going on a training course in another city worth thousands of dollars, they promptly quit their jobs because they were now "qualified" to work somewhere else for more money.

Only problem was, despite their qualifications, they were probably the laziest and most incompetent workers in the department...

Meanwhile the 3 Japanese staff working there were all serious workers and well respected. The 2 women hung out together but also got on fine with a lot of the other staff too. As was the Japanese guy also.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

yeah - HAVING A LIFE! Ha!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

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.

Obviously this person has never met any of the MLC (Japanese workers) personnel who work on any of the US bases in Japan. A problem that has been ongoing is that MLC's are taking excessive "sick leave" when in some cases they are not sick. Japanese workers on the bases can get up to 90 days off for sick leave (with a doctors note) paid. Some I know have used the "stressed" diagnosis to take plenty of time off. Also, female employees get to have one day off a month for "menstrual sick leave" and I have seen some take their day reguarly each month.

The article is funny, and is as some said may be full of stereotypes, but it has a ring a truth on some points.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

"Wow, you mean people in other places can actually be productive while not working overtime and actually having a private life? What a concept! I don't like it. Won't work here. We Japanese work hard."

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Used to work with a few Japanese people as sales staff back in my home country. I loved their work ethic (they didn't complain when we were short-handed and everyone had to work through lunch hour), but I detested their lack of initiative. They would literally stand around like automatons, waiting to be given orders, and wouldn't come to life until told what to do.

Also, female employees get to have one day off a month for "menstrual sick leave" and I have seen some take their day reguarly each month.

That's funny, I've a Japanese friend who confesses to always managing to time her "menstrual day" to coincide with long weekends and fine weather! Her supervisor is a man who dare not question her too closely, so he always signs the permission slip without complaint.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Unapologetic attitudes

I've worked in so many teams in which the members are more interested in witch hunting. Yes, they'll never say their opinions, and when things go wrong, they'll say, "I kinda knew it wasn't gonna work, so I didn't say anything to approve it".

Companies not caring for their workers

Sure, asking people without accepting a "no", to come in during weekends just because something might come up is "caring".

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Calling big-time BS on # 3...in so far as you're actually employed in the US that's actually a legitimate 8 to 5 job. As for # 2 - that would be most of the bosses / management here in the US.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The lack of overtime.

I always hear my fellow workers saying how busy they are. But then I see them doing other things. Working a long day doesn't mean you worked hard.

Unapologetic attitudes.

I just don't see this one. I've never seen Japanese apologize for much of anything. The concept of making a mistake is too embarrassing to admit you messed up. And some people are so quick to pounce on anyone who made a mistake. Schools, businesses, and groups in Japan are very quick to sweep anything under the table that is damaging to their image. This is not just Japan though.

The obvious I in Team.

I have to say I admire the "group" concept in Japan. The other day in my community of 100 houses, 60+ people showed up for the Sunday morning cleaning and flower planting. Of course there is a 500 yen fine if at least one person doesn't show up from your household. But it was amazing to see so many people in one community helping.

On the other hand, this is one of the reasons work is so inefficient at times. There are too many people for the job, and half are standing around trying to look busy.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Interesting though purely anecdotal. Clearly a translation as it's written in the Japanese way with very loose organisation.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Do a lot of Japanese companies even offer sick leave? Our company recently announced that all sick leave from 2014 has to be taken out of annual leave days. At first I was fuming, but it appears that hardly any Japanese company actually gives allocated sick leave days.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Loaded with stereotypes & truth HAHAAaaa!

Just makes me glad I am not Japanese, being Gaijin gives one SO MUCH MORE freedom in Japan, I wouldn't be able to take it otherwise

Hopefully over time more Japanese will figure out they only have one life, I see so much waste of peoples lives all over the place & most aren't really even busy workwise.............snooze ya lose!!!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

'When companies hold events outside working hours, participation is entirely optional'. If 'events' means 'drinking', the same is true for my place of work. It's just that many don't have the balls to say no.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I imagine it must come as a shock to many Japanese working overseas that, if you spend six hours a day doing "overtime work", you're expected to have something to show for it. If it just always takes you 14 hours a day to do your regular office job, the boss is more likely to demand you pull your finger out rather than shower you with overtime pay and praise you for your gaman.

It would also surprise some of the women in my office that 26 degrees isn't room temperature, and wrapping up in blankets and a wooly scarf round your face when it's 25 degrees will result in a recommendation the you seek advice from a medical professional.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

I worked with the japanese in a Kadena U.S. AFB office, and they were shocked to know that Americans were lazy and complained a lot. They also criticized how they managed to pull out "smoke break" in the middle of work hours.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

funny how everyone is so exited to read any negative news about Japan.

Seems that everybody only remembers positive aspects of their home countries. And when they go home, they complain saying "in Japan people do this and do that"

Yes yes, your home country is so great and people are happy everyday and your government does everything at the max efficiency LOL

-5 ( +8 / -13 )

Japanese people are so reluctant to take time off from work that when they get sick they will often continue to work and make everyone else in the office sick.

I usually work when I'm sick too. No point in wasting a vacation day on being sick. If you are careful and avoid each other than you'll be fine.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

This article sounds like someone went into Google, typed in "Negative stereotypes about foreign working environment from the Japanese prospective" and then passed it off as news.

People working in America and Europe will take an extended vacation whenever they so please.

Uh, really? Tell me what companies allow this so I can apply. I can't speak for Europe, but everywhere I have worked in the United States this is not an option.

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.

Not if you want to keep your job, you don't.

I can't speak for the (I can only assume) comically false information regarding to other countries, but whomever allowed this article to be published should be sacked.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

I'm not sure I see any positive reason for this article.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

funny how everyone is so exited to read any negative news about Japan.

@ Hide Suzuki: You miss the point of the article. It's main premise is that many Japanese find working overseas very different from Japan, and those who are posting here are probably responding as to why some feel that it is so different from working in Japan. No Japan bashing at all (at least with my post).

The lack of overtime

As I mentioned, working on the bases here in Japan, there is very little overtime for office workers. Sure some technical and ship maintenance Japanese workers may pull an extra shift, but when the whistle blows at 1645, you should see the mad dash of MLC workers heading for the door or parking lots to get ahead of the long lines that will follow the mad rush to leave. Military members get paid around the clock, and when duty calls, they stay. American civilians don't do overtime for that part either, but it is amazing what one can get done in an 8 hour work day, even with lunch and smoke breaks.

I understand things may come up occasionally, and one may need to work overtime to get things accomplished. But if you have a staff of over 100 people, and they are all supposedly working together and can't get things done in an 8 hour period, then what are they doing all day? Maybe it is time to relook what's being done, and who is working vice making people stay overtime excessively just to say that they are working.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

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

.Really?!?!?! Rolling eyes here, then tell me why all those guys are lined up at pachinko parlors at 9AM opening time.

For a woman to show true incentive in the workplace .......... is a very progressive concept to them.

That's only because the old oyaji's are unwilling to realize they have a HUGE pool of talent in those women that they are letting go to waste.

Fortunately times are changing and along with it these stereotypes have to get shot down too

4 ( +5 / -1 )

"funny how everyone is so exited to read any negative news about Japan." I can't speak for everyone here, but I love Japan. But just like my birth country, that I also love, it is not perfect. One of the biggest ways, IMHO, Japan is not perfect is its office and work ethic culture.

For the most part I agree with you, there are people who live in Japan, but can do nothing but say bad things about it, but I think it is a pretty large consensus that work culture in Japan is some of the WORST in the world. When they had the number #2 economy, it was defendable, when they went from bombed out WW2 nation to the fastest growing economy in the world it was a different story, but when they have been in a 20 year recession and suicide rate of 30,000 a year (and climbing) and a declining birth rate in large part because the men are too tired to get down and dirty and not even home to do so. I think commenting negatively on Japans work culture is 100% fair game even for those that LOVE this country like myself.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

It doesn't matter how busy things are. People working in America and Europe will take an extended vacation whenever they so please.

Not really. They can take the time-off as long as the rest of the company can handle the business, even if it's busy. The main difference is in the attitude in that that vacation is earned, not something to be guilty about. As long as co-workers feel that you've earned that vacation, they wouldn't mind you taking it and the extra work that they have to do - because it means when it's their turn to take that earned vacation, that you also wouldn't mind the extra work that you have to do. Reciprocity.

Spending time with the family is paramount. Work does not infringe on a person's personal life.

Always the question: to whom do you ultimately work for?

Do you work for work itself? Or do you work in order to give your family a good life?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Adding to lostrune2.

In many EU countries you get a minimum of 5 weeks leave per year. Some even state in the law that 1 leave/year needs to be taken with a minimum period of 2/3 weeks.

Very different scene and you can't compare.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

What strikes me as very typical is that the Japanese love to navel-gaze. Even if observations are about working in other countries, reflections are infallibly made on the Japanese way. The right way.

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.

Yeah, right... More likely, they'll apologize because that's the only thing they understand. How many times have I not asked my dear co-workers questions, only to be met with the deadpan: "Suumaseen, gomen nasai."

The term work-life balance that is thrown around frequently nowadays in Japan is just a word. They have no concept of the idea that time off actually can make you refreshed, perhaps even being able to come up with new ideas. Then again, Japanese worker bees don't share ideas shouldnthey have any.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

@combinibento, spot on!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Pretty much agree with the list as my husband worked abroad and made many of the same observations. I chuckled over the responsibility thing. Japan works in teams so NO ONE has to take responsibility here. Apologizing is NOT taking responsibility.

To add a few more - men playing larger parenting roles and talking about their kids at work, pictures of family on desks, world cup and other sporting events playing in the lunch room and bosses allowing workers to keep an eye on the games, social events that don't focus around getting smashed, how nice everyone is...

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Cricky,

...because no one should leave first.

Mmm, I know. As if it would be a bad thing. The cringeworthy "osaki ni shitsurei shimasu" says it all...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I enjoy standing up at my time to leave and saying in a voice to be heard, 'Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu!' and leaving. I do my job well, efficiently and ahead of the curve... then again. I am the boss. No staff stay beyond their contracted hours.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The lack of overtime

I've never done overtime... ever.

Tons of time off

This always shocks my ex - she can't understand how I can take such long holidays.

A focus on food

I eat my breakfast and lunch at my desk, and there's always tea or coffee on the go. Makes for a more relaxed atmosphere. Well there are only 6 of us working here so it's not exactly a high pressure environment.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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.

Right ok now I understand why my emails don't get answered..............................................what a lot of rubbish this stuff is.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

"Vietnam" Sure, Southeast Asia isn’t known for its enthusiastic workers, but these guys are just plain lazy.

Excuse me?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It doesn’t matter how busy things are. People working in America and Europe will take an extended vacation whenever they so please.

HAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!! Someone please tell my boss this! I work IT in a public school system and have been told to not even TRY to take a vacation of longer than 5 working days. Also, there are only small windows where even THAT will be approved.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

OK, this one is backwards and limited to the service industry? I'm pretty sure the world over will agree that European and US companies provide a more enjoyable and caring environment than their Japanese counterparts...

In the U.S. there is no mandate for companies to provide healthcare or retirement benefits.

American workers have no trade union representation (only about 8%), so companies can give you whatever contract they want.

American companies fire at will. When you do get fired all you get is 100 dollars a month from the state (SNAP).

This is paradise compared to Japan, I guess.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Overtime? I begged my employer to reduce my working hours because I was staring at my computer screen for emails to arrive. 8hrs work a day is even more than enough, I mean, WHY would someone want to LIVE their life at the office?

I always end up having arguments with Japanese people over work. They criticize me because "Southern Europeans are lazy". I think, it is just that we prefer to have a life, at home, with our family, or pets, and oh yes- hobbies.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The whole article just seems like a backdoor excuse to perpetuate nationalistic stereotypes. As with all stereotypes, the truth of these statements is dubious, at best.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In the U.S. there is no mandate for companies to provide healthcare or retirement benefits.

Perhaps you should look a little deeper into the system in Japan. Many workers here get nothing as well.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

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