Meishi–business cards–are just about carried by almost all walks of life in Japan. I know that I have collected just about enough throughout my 6 years here to start a little art collage of all the contacts I’ve made here in Japan.
Did you know that not all business cards are made the same? The sizes can vary across different countries. Check out Wikipedia for a chart of some the size differences.
As the above article indicates, there are no consistent business cards dimensions, but I find these small cultural differences charming, but I digress. On a related note though, let’s talk about the unique ritual of exchanging business cards in Japan.
There is not as much pressure nowadays in 2016 to be that formal giving out business cards. Many Japanese businesses with experience abroad are aware of the casual nature of business-card exchanges, but it will definitely leave a favorable first impression with your Japanese counterpart if you know how to do it formally starting out.
Just follow these 5 simple steps and you’re as good as gold:
- Pull your card out of your card case. Yes, a card case is necessary for this to work.
- When you hand your card with both hands, make sure your hands are holding the top edges of the card with the words faced the receiver so they can read it clearly.
- Slightly bow as you hand the card and introduce yourself by saying,” [fill in your first name] to moushimasu.” (pronounced: TOE-MOE-SHE-MAH-SU)
- As you receive your counterpart’s card, make sure to take it with both hands holding the bottom edges, and say,” Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu.” (pronounced: YOH-ROW-SHE-KU-OH-NAY-GAI-SHE-MAH-SU), which is an equivalent of “Please to meet you”.
- Key point here is to make sure not to store the card(s) away immediately. If there is a table, place it in front of you so you can read it. There is plenty of time after the meeting to put it away. A good rule of thumb is to watch your counterpart’s actions and follow their lead.
Now for the 21st-century approach of a casual card exchange between Hara-san and Ray:
Step 5.) still very much applies regardless of whether you’re in a formal or casual setting. If your counterpart actually places your card away, feel free to do the same.
There are a lot of articles and videos online that still cover formal practices. And it still occurs in very traditional environments. My recommendation is do what personally works for you.
But if you’re unsure, steps 1 -3 are good starting points. Although feel free to make some adjustments after that depending on the actions of the other party.