The Difference Between Japanese and American Workplaces

The culture in the Japanese workplace vastly differs from that of an American working environment.

Generally, while the Americans are self-motivated, the Japanese have a group mentality and consider their seniors’ approval first before making big decisions. Nevertheless, both cultures work long hours and take little to even no vacation at all through the year.

Giant companies like Facebook and Amazon have thousands of employees all over the world, offering some great opportunities abroad to employees. For an instance, Japan is currently hiring more foreign employees.

However, before hitting that send button for your application, you must be aware that each office culture differs among countries. You have to be familiar first with how many hours you are expected to work in a certain country, how you are expected to dress and how you should be dealing with your employer and colleagues. Everything can significantly change depending on a country where you’ll be working.

Apparently, there are a lot of major differences between American and Japanese work culture.

The Japanese Workplace

In the Japanese workplace, calling each other by first name is considered rude.

When it comes to dress codes, the concept of “business casual” does not exist in Japan. In fact, seeing daily commuters in vibrant colored dresses and suits is rare.

Typically, businessmen in Japan are also called “salarymen”. They usually wear gray, navy blue, black or dark colored suits, and are actually wearing ties even in summer. The exact same outfit goes to several career women – a plain white button-down shirt paired with a navy black blazer and a matching skirt, pantyhose and black kitten heels with their hair neatly tied in a ponytail.

Moreover, many Japanese companies abide to a mantra which they call “ho-ren-so”. It is a mnemonic device that combines the first syllables of three verbs – Houkoku, which means report, renraku meaning contact and soudan which means consult.

This means that employees in Japan must always keep their seniors and superiors updated about everything related to their jobs. Every decision, no matter how big and small it is, should pass through to a chain of command and gain the highest approval. If problems exist, employees should immediately notify their employers before trying to address the issue on their own.

Also, employees are expected to hang out as a group with co-workers after work hours. Although it is not necessarily required, it is socially expected to a certain point. What’s good about it is that it can be a good way to establish strong relationships and work your way up.

The American Workplace

Generally, American professionals are most focused in broadening their own careers. They usually observe a system of “structured individualism”.

Americans are good at teamwork and capable of corporate spirits, but they also value individual freedom and their initial interest is to broaden their own career.

Their Key Similarities

Well, despite their differences, the Japanese and the American workplaces still have one key similarity – they both usually work long hours and do not take many vacations compared to other well-developed companies.

Japan has been known to be notorious for its long work hours. In fact, there is a phenomenon called “karoshi” or “death by overwork” in the country. Nevertheless, according to a recent data gathered from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, American employees clocked in longer average work hours annually than their Japanese counterparts in 2016.

Further surveys also revealed that American employees only take about half of their allotted paid time off or vacation leave. They even work on their vacations actually.

Aizelle Joe