Japan[ese],  Q&A

Q&A: communication in Japan

anonymous asked:

hi, ive sent you a question before about worrying of getting into the jet program and before i could finish my application one of the two big eikawas i applied to wanted to hire me on the spot! im leaving at the start of march im excited and have done my research but im worried about communication between me and my japanese co workers, being american i p much am a really direct person and i know japan isnt like that from living there for a few months, so do you have any advice on communication?

( re: this post )

congrats!! and 久しぶりです。 thanks for coming back and sharing the good news. 🙂

when it comes to advice, as i said to a recent anon, every situation is different. in fact, especially when it comes to advice, your mileage will vary no matter what i tell you, but here’s some general things to perhaps consider.

be flexible

because the sad truth of working in a workplace mainly staffed / run by Japanese people is that as a foreigner, there will be times when information that should have made it to you never does– or that makes it to you at the last minute and either way, you’ll be expected to roll with it. communication breakdowns due to language and cultural barriers are a thing, but as someone who has at least some level of competence in Japanese, it’s more likely (imho) that you’ll struggle more with the sheer lack of communication / information that comes your way. if you have foreign coworkers, watch and learn both what to do and what not to do and remember that if all else fails, hopefully you can go through a senior foreign coworker to better communicate with a Japanese coworkers.

be proactive

when it comes to getting information, be proactive while also being mindful of the line that exists between proactively acquiring information and aggressively acquiring it, as seen from the POV of your Japanese coworkers. sometimes they simply don’t know when you didn’t understand something important that was said, so it’s on you to follow up on that. other times school gets cancelled because of a ridiculous snowstorm and you don’t find out until you’re trying to get there but can’t because train service stopped, so you call someone to tell them you’ll be late and they’re like “late? what?? school’s closed today– no one told you??” that’s right, no one told you. “you’re supposed to wear a silver tie to this event! no one tol–” OBVIOUSLY NO ONE TOLD ME WTF.

*sips coffee that i ought to not be drinking but eh*

…anyway, ask questions. get answers as best you can. especially if you accidentally cross the line and begin to be seen as aggressive or “difficult” (ie. too direct), people will be more hesitant to approach you and communicate with you directly. also, if you feel like you’re missing something, chances are high that you are. and on a side note, if you have senior foreign coworkers, definitely watch, learn and information share from / with them– but more specifically, watch who they go to for information and how they go about communicating with others to get it.


do your best to perfect the unperfectable skill that is “KY” or 空気読む / kuuki yomu– or in other words, reading a situation and telepathically knowing what is expected of you without anyone actually having to tell you. it’s a fine art that Japanese people are adept at and at times forget that– surprise! you’re not! why are they expecting you to KY like the rest of them??? all jokes aside, KY is something that as a foreigner we all gradually (or less gradually) learn to do out of sheer trial + error x time spent in Japan. you’ll struggle with it, but if you do manage to do it, it pays off big time in terms of aiding communication with Japanese coworkers AND students, not embarrassing yourself at events– and just generally fitting in, which in Japan means a lot less stress on your part.

i know that some of this sounds pretty negative and may even be the opposite of reassuring, but all of the above aside, i wouldn’t worry too much about communicating with coworkers ahead of having even met them or seen what your actual work environment / situation will be like. learning how to efficiently and effectively communicate with coworkers and not run counter to Japanese social norms is something that all of us learn as we go upon arrival in this country, even if we called ourselves having read up on or studied it prior to coming.

tl;dr: i wouldn’t worry. being a direct person is fine, so long as you know when and where and how to do it and that kind of thing you’ll learn with time and experience.

YouTuber and Blogger, Vesper is an American expat currently living in Japan.

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