Culture/History

Business card

02/01/2020

Why exchanging business card is so important in Japan?

In Japan, exchanging business cards is one of the unique business cultures and etiquettes which demands more care and attention than is usually found in western countries. It is because the actual business card itself is thought to be the face of the businessperson and therefore, the receiver is expected to treat the card itself with the utmost respect.

Even though a lot of businessperson in Japan already use LinkedIn to connect with others, actual business cards are still a major way to share information about each other in Japanese business scenes. In 2019, Japanese business card management company Sansan Inc went IPO raising $360 million at that time.

Core steps

Although there are many nuanced steps in exchanging business cards, remembering following key steps would help avoid embarrassing situations.

  1. The highest ranking people exchange cards first
  2. Ensure the card is turned towards the receiver
  3. At the moment of exchange, pass your card using your right hand and receive the other person’s card with your left, before holding their card with both hands
  4. Keep received cards on display for the duration of the meeting

If you are not the highest ranking people in the room, then wait until your managers or boss exchange their cards with their counterparts. I understand that it is a bit confusing but you can follow what others do in the meeting room if you are not sure about the protocol. Sometimes even Japanese people feel a bit nervous at the moment of exchanging business cards.

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