Tag Archives: Japan

Beware of Your Body Language in International Business

Beware of Your Body Language in International Business

“Beware of Your Body Language in International Business”  – Business without Borders, Globe & Mail, July 31st, 2012 – Communication Coach & Body Language Expert Ric Phillips is interviewed to discuss body language and gestures for Westerners to be aware of while doing business overseas.  We specifically looked at China, Japan, Thailand and Russia, areas I have travelled to and/or worked in.  There is an article as well as a 2 minute video here:  http://www.bwob.ca/topics/administration/beware-of-your-body-language-in-international-business/
You may have to sign up for a free account to view the article and video.  I apologize for that in advance.
Thank you!

(UPDATE:  the link above does not send you to that article and video – they have expired.  It sends you to a general Globe & Mail webpage with online videos.)

10 Things the World Can Learn From Japan

Hello readers,

I don’t know who originally wrote this list, but I found it interesting. I have been to Japan a couple of times and it is a country easy to rave about, especially when you want excellent food, customer service, beautiful scenery, and great people. Since the big earthquake Japan is really struggling, and yet, as this list indicates, she does not lose her composure.

If you want to understand where all this ‘national DNA’ or ‘cultural training’ came from, I can recommend a great book to read, called “BUSHIDO: The Soul of Japan” by Nitobe Inazo. This is an old book, first published in 1905, as a way for the author to try to teach the visiting foreigners and businessmen about why the Japanese think and act the way they do. It’s not a light read, but if you are interested in the culture, then it’s a must-read.

Anyway, without further ado, here is the 10 things the world can learn from Japan:

Not a single visual of chest-beating or wild grief. Sorrow itself
has been elevated.

Disciplined queues for water and groceries. Not a rough
word or a crude gesture.

The incredible architects, for instance. Buildings swayed but
didn’t fall.

People bought only what they needed for the present, so
everybody could get something.

No looting in shops. No honking and no overtaking on the
roads. Just understanding.

Fifty workers stayed back to pump seawater in the N-
reactors. How will they ever be repaid?

Restaurants cut prices. An unguarded ATM is left alone. The
strong cared for the weak.

The old and the children, everyone knew exactly what to do.
And they did just that.

They showed magnificent restraint in the bulletins. No silly
reporters. Only calm reportage.

When the power went off in a store, people put things back
on the shelves and left quietly. That’s Japan.

TTC – Toronto Transit Commission

Oh yes…one of the favourite topics of the average Torontonian…especially those of us that frequently use the transit system.  I get the feeling that there will be many posts on this topic, but to start off I would like to say that I have been living in Toronto more or less since 1996, and I am used to the current level of blah customer service provided by the TTC.  From my experience I am happy to report though that I have never had a bad experience with a TTC employee.  As a matter of fact the vast majority of times that I have had to ask a question or get directions etc. I have found the employees to be very nice and accommodating.  I realize that is not the experience of everybody, but hey – it’s my blog!

The issues I have are with the SYSTEM (policies and procedures) of TTC.   For example, I’m on the subway (or bus or streetcar) and we have a delay for some reason.  The vehicle is not moving.  Everyone is looking around.  It’s rush hour.  We want to get to work.  We wonder why we are not moving.  We wonder if it is something serious.  We wonder if we should get off now and walk/take a taxi or wait it out.  People are shuffling.  People are grumbling.  People are sweating.  People are getting angry.  People start bitching about the TTC to strangers.

The solution is soooo simple!  TELL US WHAT’S UP!

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are unfortunately going to be delayed approximately for another 5 minutes due to (blah blah).   We apologize for any inconvenience we have caused and will get going as soon as possible.”
There – now everyone can relax, go back to sleep, or if they choose, leave.

If you communicate with your passengers they will respect you.  And if the driver/operator doesn’t know exactly what is going on, as in the case where he/she has been ordered to wait, then simply just announce that the train will be waiting at this station for approx. 5 minutes and we apologize for the inconvenience.  When there is communication people can relax and stay positive.

Fun Fact:  In Japan the subway trains are timed to the minute.  If the train is going to be delayed even for a minute, a live voice goes out over the speakers notifying people of the delay and apologizing for it.  To some that may sound like overkill, but to others, it is excellent customer service.

The Worlds Best and Worst Travellers

According to an article on Yahoo! News today, here are some best and worst traveller rankings:
French are the worst, Japanese are the best.
To learn more about this, plus Americans, Canadians, Spaniards and Greeks, please click the above title to this post or click here:

What do you think about these results?

For me, I am reminded that stereotypes are based in truth. Most of these make sense from my experience travelling and from teaching people from all over the world.

Note – this article does support my opinion that I made in a blog posting a couple entries ago, about Canadians being very adaptable. I was happy to see that.

Enjoy the short and interesting article.
Enjoy your weekend too!

GG Ate Some Seal – So What??? Connect with Cultures

There has been a lot of talk about Canadian Governor-General Michaelle Jean partaking of some seal’s heart on her trip to the North Inuit culture. Some people feel that she is great, for honoring the unique and important Inuit culture. Others think it is animal cruelty, or that this act is clearly not an accident, in that it was a political stunt to show solidarity with the Inuits and the rest of Canada in the face of the European Union ban on seal products recently.

I am not a politician, just a small-town Canadian man who has travelled a fair bit and who works with immigrants here in Toronto everyday. What do I think, dare you ask?

I say good for her. Whether it was political or not, she honored her guests with a very old tradition. To not partake of the meat would be offensive, unless you are a vegetarian.

When I lived in China for 2 years, I ate dog meat. More than once.

Will I do it again? Probably not. I love dogs and grew up with them as pets. But when in Rome, do as the Romans do. I had been ‘in-country’ for at least 6 months, and I lived in a really small community (Tongren city, Guizhou province). I tried my best to fit in. I spoke Chinese, ate their food and followed their customs where possible. In turn, they learned about Canada from me. I was an unofficial ambassador!

When I was in Thailand I ate a flash-fried cockroach to win a bet. I got a free ‘Leo’ beer!

When I was in Japan I ate horse sashimi. Yup. Raw horse! Even though I love Japanese food, I think that will be the last time I eat horse sashimi. Not my cup of tea. The point is, I try. I follow my hosts and I learn about the culture. As Canadians we expect our visitors and immigrants to do the same for us, so why not do the same for them, especially when the culture is right inside Canada!

Here is an article about our brave GG. http://www.vancouversun.com/Technology/Canada+Governor+General+criticized+eating+seal+heart/1633528/story.html

At the bottom there lists some other ‘politically-charged meals’ for others.
Bon Appetit!

Polite Customer Service in Japan

I am enjoying my time in Japan. I have spent my time in Yokohama, Tokyo and Kyoto. Although I have been working with Japanese people in Toronto for 8 years this is actually my first visit here. There are many things I could write about, but today I will focus on the politeness that is mandatory here.

Some of you may consider yourselves very polite, and/or very courteous in your job. I myself used to work in customer service so I understand how to be polite, even when handling disputes.

What I would like to mention today is how mandatory politeness seems to be here. Even if I do not enter a shop, the clerks are still greeting the people walking by. If you do enter the shop or restaurant etc. then of course they will welcome you again. And usually it is not just one person but several. When you are paying for your food or product they are very polite in how they handle your money or credit card. Very respectful indeed and very gentle. It goes without saying that all of this is happening with a smile and with a soft tone of voice. Finally, when you leave they thank you for your business.

One of the strangest things I have seen here so far was when we went through a toll booth, and both the driver and worker exchanged ‘good mornings’ and ‘thank yous’, in addition to an electronic image of a worker bowing to the driver!

I cannot say for sure how much of this society’s politeness is forced, conditioned, or genuine, but it is definitely expected, and to not act politely is a terrible social offense here.

I really like the calmness of the people and the politeness of the service industry. It certainly is better than a lot of customer service in the world, and there are a few staff workers in the past that I have dealt with that could use this kind of training. The politeness is standard here too, so you can expect it and count on it. In other countries, we seem to be thrilled to get excellent customer service or to get a happy, efficient staff worker. Here, it happens 99% of the time.

The big question remaining is, I suppose, how do the Japanese feel about it, and how do they feel about the perceived lack of social and professional courtesy when they travel or emigrate? If you know a Japanese person in your circle, why don’t you ask them?

All the best from the land of the rising sun!

FYI – In Japan

Do you know this shorthand? FYI?
It means “For Your Information.”

It’s a great way to save time and space in text mail and email.
We even can use it in actual speech!
E.g. “John, I’ll see you at 6pm for dinner, and FYI, it’s your turn to pick up the tab!”  (Pay the bill).

I am currently in Japan right now, enjoying my time in Tokyo, Yokohama, and soon Shizuoka and Kyoto.
I’ll post again soon.

Thanks for reading!

In Japan

Hello everyone,

I will be here in Japan until July 9th. Some work, some relaxation.
I am in Tokyo and Yokohama right now and soon I will visit Shizuoka and then Kyoto.

I will put together a post/newsletter soon about communication issues here in J-town.

For now, sorry that I have not posted for a while. Jet-lag is brutal.


The Rule of 75%

I had a fantastic time training the wonderful, energetic group of participants over the last weekend, at our 3V communication course. The first day focused on interpersonal skills and the second more on professional skills and public speaking.

Anyway, unfortunately due to my over-zealousness to try to give the group all of my best information, the afternoon of the second day ended up seeming a bit rushed. I had packed too much information into the course and workbooks, and although they can read it at home as many times as they like to help digest it, it still felt bad to rush material and examples. Not something I wanted to do.

So it reminds me today of the 75% rule of public speaking and presentations. Only prepare for 75% of the time allotted. That way you have time to slow down, relax, field questions, and even digress a little if necessary. You know story-telling is a natural digression and can dramatically increase audience listening and participation too. Every one likes a good (and hopefully relevant) story!

So in closing today’s brief post I am reminded of a great Japanese saying: “Saru mo ki kara ochiru.” What is the translation? “Sometimes even monkeys fall out of trees!” (Hey I fell out of the tree, but I don’t think I broke anything!)

Until next time.