Humour in the workplace in Japan, first of all some data:
We can still find some humour in the workplace, even in Japan, but I will start with the facts.
Most of gaishikei in number are of small size (10~50 peoples).
Except the large institutions like banks, finance and top 10 conglomerates of each country, you will have more chance to find companies under 100 employees.
Then you have to wonder why all those Japanese employees have joined this company.
With all my years in Japan, I could identify a series of profiles or peoples working in gaishikei and also working with gaishikei (could be a customer or distributors).
The France-Kabure type:
I use France as my first gaishikei was a French company. You could replace it easily by any country you wish, the pattern stays the same. kabure is written かぶれ in Japanese and could be translated by “mania” in Germanomania or -ized as in Americanized.
This person, mainly ladies likes France (again you can replace by the country you wish), its culture and would do anything to be near the object of her attention. She (or He) expects to meet French in the gaishikei, communicates with them, maybe use them as guinea pig for the sake of her French practice.
Hint: While inoffensive in nature, speaking to this person and only to this person in your mother language is not a good idea.
Other Japanese employees might feel alienated and you would soon or later get into trouble.
If working language is Japanese, stick to Japanese. If other employees speak to you in English, stick to English, even if she or he can speak French (or your mother tongue).
The Kikoku-Shijyo (帰国子女), meaning the “returnee”.
It refers to Japanese born and/or raised abroad and back to Japan. You can easily imagine that even sharing the same nationality there is an obvious gap between the cultures in which they were raised and the one they face when back in Japan.
If the local (Japan) management is foreign, they are often considered as a top option as they speak English (see my previous post on this). Some of them will perform very well, other will not adapt, try to bend the rules, behave like they were doing abroad and finally it will be a hire and fire situation.
Hint: They can be tremendous assets in marketing, Business process re-engineering and cross-functional projects as they have blended unique processing capabilities issued from different cultures.
You have two sub-type here. You have the one who do not want to work in a Japanese environment with all their constraints and hope that a gaishikei is lose and they will find their place there. The other sub-type is the one who is consistently fired or has to leave for some mysterious reason.
Hintregarding the first type: Make clear that you are doing business in Japan and will have to abide with local rules/behaviours.
Gaishikei can have nice working environments and enjoying it is fine, however in front of the customer (Japanese), we should respect the way to do business their way.
It’s either your way or the highway.
Hintregarding the second type: Be careful to resumes where the employee moved from one company to the other in a short time-frame, especially if with your competitors.
I saw once a sales person employed by my second company doing phone calls alone in a meeting room to “recover money” from some peoples. He apparently had a “second job”. He was quickly dismissed.
The “Gaijin Hater”:
Gaijin (外人） is a short-cut for gaikokujin/外国人 which means someone not from the country (here Japan), well shortly a foreigner or non-Japanese.
You will find time to time this person in your customers.
In my first company we received a fax (at this time e-mail was not so developped) from a Tier-one parts supplier affiliated with a major Japanese car manufacturer (now French…) and stating bluntly in the fax : “please do not bring foreigner, I hate them”. This happened once and never experienced this ever after.
I might update this post whenever I can identify new types.
French citizen in his forties living in Japan.
Almost 20 years working for foreign companies in Japan.
I have an engineering background with an extensive sales experience in highly regulated industries. I am currently the representative director and managing director for an European company's subsidiary in Japan.
I have seen all the lows and highs of foreign companies in Japan since late 90ties.
Feel free to contact me wether you are looking for opportunities in Japan.