How to Exchange Business Cards the Japanese Way
It's not just about handing it over with your two hands.
If you’ve experienced working at a Japanese company, you have probably heard of the word meishi (business card). You probably also know how important it is in the Japanese business setting.
Meishis are used when introducing yourself as a member of a certain company. This would establish the start of a meeting, when you can make a good impression. However, the exchange is like a Japanese ritual in itself, with proper steps and verbal cues that everyone in the business sector practices to perfection during their first year.
If in the future you will find yourself having to do an exchange with Japanese businessmen, we’ve got you covered! In this article, we will introduce the proper steps on how to give out, receive, and store the business card.
The Meishi Koukan (Exchanging business cards)
First of all, you must have a card case for your business cards. It is regarded as impolite and bad-mannered to exchange business cards without a card case.
Before the actual exchange, you must take your meishi out of the case, and place it flat on top of your card case. You give out the card by holding everything together with both hands. Make sure to show your card right-side-up for the reader, so that the person you’re giving it to can read it with ease.
While doing so, you introduce yourself by saying your name, department, and company name aloud (In Japanese, it will be in the opposite order of company name, department, and lastly your name).
“[Company Name] no [Division] bu no, [Your Name] to moushimasu”
When giving out your card, make sure to hand your card lower than the other person’s. After the other person has introduced themselves, you should give out your meishi with your right hand, and receive theirs with your left hand, dexterously placing your card case under the person’s business card. While receiving their meishi, you should say:
“Choudai itashimasu, yoroshiku onegai itashimasu.”
Literally: I humbly accept, please take care of me.
Who starts the exchange?
Now that we figured out how to exchange our business cards, we can go further into the process by knowing who starts it. When doing the meishi koukan for the first time, you might find yourself excited and initiate the exchange yourself. However, this is not the case all the time.
The rule of thumb is to remember home court and away, like in sports. If you are in your home court (your office), you do not initiate the exchange. On the other hand, you initiate when you are away (in another office). Thus, the meishi koukan starts with you. If you are in the position of being proposed to, then it is the other party who initiates.
Now, if you are meeting with multiple people, who do you start with? In Japan, it is considered rude to make people in high position wait, especially in a business setting. So always start with those who are on top.
Tip: Giving out the meishi over the table is regarded also as bad-mannered.
Placing business card on the table
We’re afraid it’s not yet over. There is one final step to finish the exchange. Once the meeting is over, all the cards must be placed in your card case.
Bonus: What to do when you forget your business cards?
Business cards are limited in quantity (or you simply forgot to bring it), so there are times when you are unable to provide someone with your meishi. Don’t start fretting just yet, here is the proper way to handle this situation. Apologize.
“Chodo meishi wo kirashite orimashite, makoto ni moshiwake gozaimasen.”
Loosely translated as, “I am terribly sorry for being unable to provide you with my business card.”
After saying this, you just receive the other person’s meishi as mentioned above.
That wasn’t so difficult, right? Impress your Japanese business partners in the future by practicing the proper way to exchange business cards.
(1 August 2019)