How to Exchange Business Cards in Japan

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Bowing is a sign of respect and courtesy.
Bowing is a sign of respect and courtesy. (Image: Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

The art of exchanging business cards, or meishi, in Japan involves a strict code of etiquette. In Japan, “business cards are considered an extension of the holder's identity,” according to Colin Joyce of “The Telegraph.” Giving or receiving business cards improperly might compromise your negotiations. A person's meishi conveys their status in society by revealing their rank within the company. In hierarchy-oriented Japan, a person must know another person's status to treat them with the proper respect. Essential tips include bowing and handling cards with both hands.

Print your business cards in English on one side and Japanese on the other. Include your name, the name of your company, your title within the company, your phone number and your address. Have them printed on 2-by-3-inch cards so they will fit inside the cardholders that Japanese businessmen carry.

Stand up to give and receive business cards.

Remove your business card from a small wallet or cardholder. You might also keep several inside the pocket of your suit jacket. Use whichever method is quickest for you; never keep your host waiting while you attempt to locate your cards.

Present your card with the English print facing up and toward your host. Hold it with both hands by the upper corners. Lean forward slightly to bow while offering the card.

Receive an offered card with both of your hands. Bow slightly again.

Scrutinize the business card you received from your Japanese host. Read the name, title and all other information very carefully for several seconds. The Japanese consider it good manners to furrow your brow slightly to show your interest in the card. Continue to hold the card with both hands while you study it.

Place the card carefully on a table in front of you if you are at a meeting. This is not required, but it might help you remember each person's name.

Place the card very carefully into a cardholder after studying it or at the end of your meeting.

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