Navigating Cultural Differences While Working in Japan
navigating japanese culture

Working in a foreign country is an exciting adventure, but it often comes with its own set of challenges, particularly when it comes to cultural differences and the language barrier. If you’re an IEC-qualified Canadian working or planning to work in Japan, you’re in for a thrilling journey. However, understanding and respecting these differences while communicating in Japan is essential for a smooth experience.

Bowing – A Sign of Respect

Bowing is a customary greeting in Japan and a universal sign of respect. However, the depth and duration of the bow can vary, and this is where cultural differences come into play. Understanding the nuances of bowing is crucial, as it’s an essential aspect of Japanese culture and communication. While you may face a language barrier, a well-executed bow can often convey what words cannot.


Punctuality is a Virtue

Being on time is highly valued in Japan, and this cultural norm transcends language barriers. Arriving a few minutes early to meetings and appointments is considered polite. It’s a universal aspect of Japanese culture that helps bridge any communication gap created by the language barrier.


Group Harmony and Navigating Cultural Differences

Japanese culture places significant importance on group harmony, which can sometimes lead to cultural differences in communication styles. Teamwork and collaboration are highly valued, and understanding this cultural aspect can help you navigate these differences more effectively. Young Canadians may find that adapting to this approach fosters smoother communication in Japan.

Gift-giving Tradition and Overcoming Cultural Differences

Exchanging gifts is a common practice in Japan, and it’s an excellent way to break down cultural barriers. When you meet with your colleagues, especially in the face of language barriers, offering a small gift from Canada can be a universal gesture of goodwill. It transcends language and helps you connect on a personal level.

gift-giving tradition

Dress Code and Crossing Cultural Barriers

The dress code in Japanese workplaces is typically formal, and adhering to it is a way to bridge cultural differences. Regardless of the language barrier, wearing the right attire showcases your respect for local customs and promotes effective communication in a professional setting.

workplace dress code

In conclusion, the key to a successful experience while working in Japan, whether that’s teaching in Japan or working at a cafe, is to approach the culture with an open mind and a willingness to learn, especially when dealing with a language barrier and cultural differences. Embrace these differences as opportunities to grow both personally and professionally. By doing so, you’ll not only excel in your role but also have an incredible journey in the Land of the Rising Sun. Ganbatte kudasai, which means “do your best” in Japanese, and enjoy your adventure in Japan!


To explore other destinations, check out our list of Work and Travel destinations!


Stressed about the visa application process? Watch this webinar on how Canadians can work and travel in Japan!


Leave a Reply