We talked a bit about wrong first impressions, and here comes one more.
Japan is known as a country of advanced technologies, no one will argue about that. Yet, when you start looking deeper, it is amazing how much manual work is involved. In the times when the Western world does not know how to get to yet another level of cost optimization, no matter the company, in Japan you will see examples where the job is either split in tiny pieces or is duplicated.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you want to open a bank account. Assuming that you can do that (very often banks will reject you just because you are a foreigner), you would witness something like this: a young girl, most likely, trainee, will fill the papers, check and double check everything half dozen of times, then will take everything to a colleague, who will check everything again, the latter might even take it to one more colleague to have the third confirmation that everything is really as it should. As a minimum, be patient and make sure you don’t need to hurry anywhere.
Another example may be in a shop. Of course, it does not happen all the time and everywhere, but do not be surprised if it will take at least three people to buy a pair of shoes. One will help to try on and take you to the cashier, a separate person will run credit card transaction, and a third one will nicely pack everything and step out to hand you the shopping bag. In case you pay in cash, change might be recalculated by two or three people before handing it back to you.
It is not likely to happen in any other country, do you agree?
The other day I happened to chat over coffee with other foreigners about working in Japan and one comment that was frequently made caught my attention. Not only will a Japanese office have many rules, but it also quite common to publicly shame those, who breach them or make a mistake. Even for things like exceeding expected amount of overtime, wearing open toe shoes, putting a wrong date on the announcement, and etc. The shaming may be in the form of company-wide email with the story and a reminder of the respective rule, a notice in the announcement board or internal website.
I am not sure whether the two are linked, but I am not surprised anymore by this striving for perfection, be it your change at a local Starbucks, or a bank account application form. In a country where it is so important to save face, no one wants to make a mistake…