The way classes are taught here is interesting. It reminds me a bit of high school, but it’s much more thorough.
We have 3 50-minute periods of class in the mornings, from 9-9:50, 10-10:50, and 11-11:50. Then from 11:50-12:40, we have lunch. After that, from 12:40-1:30 we have the last AIJP class of the day. That’s followed by a 1:40-2:30 and 2:40-3:30 block each day for electives.
Oh yeah, we have to pick electives NOW. It’s more of a big deal for me because I missed a few days.
I’m probably going to go with only two, although I can do up to four. JBPP will fill in that last 2:40-3:30 block every day… except when it doesn’t. Sometimes we’re going to have long classes that go from 5th through 6th period, and sometimes we’ll have class during 5th period only, but that’s usually on Fridays.
It’s a little confusing.
Anyway, picking electives isn’t too hard. Because of JBPP I only have a few choices. There’s a writing class I want to try, as well as the N1 and N2 grammar classes. N2 will be good review of stuff I should already know, and N1 will hopefully cover stuff I desperately need to know. The main downside is that they only meet once a week up until the JLPT, then they end.
We’ll see where I wind up!
The way classes are done here in general is intense. We start off just about every class with a quiz, except JBPP. The first class in the day is usually taught by my homeroom teacher, M-sensei (different from the M-sensei in JBPP), who is amazingly nice. She teaches two blocks or so, which is grammar and vocabulary, then in the third block (usually, not always, the schedule changes every week, or so I’m told), another teacher will come in to teach stuff like speaking or reading or writing. Then after lunch, it’s either M-sensei or another mystery block of somethingoranother.
The class is impressively diverse. America, Germany, Greece, Singapore, China, Taiwan, Brazil, and India are all represented. I’m probably forgetting someone. I apologize.
But Japanese is our common language. It’s easier that way.
The cold is almost gone. I still feel a bit lousy, but it’s not nearly as bad.
JBPP: Can I Has Meishi Koukan PLZKTHX!
One of the most important things in Japanese business is 名刺交換 (めいしこうかん, meishi koukan, or business card exchanging). It’s so important that it’s one of the first things we’re learning here. There’s an order to who offers their card first, and to whom, how it’s held out, how it’s received, what you say, and most importantly, where you put it.
The trick to understanding the whole thing from the Japanese side is understanding that business card = person. Once you understand that, many of the rules that seem kind of exacting make sense.
Also, understand that while visitors are treated as socially superior in a non-business setting, they’re not necessarily so in a business sense. If you’re coming to another company to ask for something, you need to show some humility, I guess. This is different from going into a store as a customer, because customers = gods in Japan. (Who else is going to spend money in their stores?)
Also, there’s the senior/junior dynamic as well. Seniority rules. Even if the boss isn’t going to do anything, if the boss is there, then the boss has to lead the ceremonies because s/he’s the boss.
Ok, so the basics of meishi koukan are:
First, the order of who offers cards. (For this example, we’ll use a group of people visiting a company.)
- Visiting company goes first. (You’re introducing yourselves, after all!)
- Seniors first– company seniors, that is. So the most-senior visitor goes first, followed down the ranks to the most junior.
- “Home” company goes last.
- Again, the highest-level manager goes first.
Okay, that’s not too hard to remember.
So how do you do it?
- Offer your card out with both hands, facing upside down to you. (So the other party can read it!) Don’t forget to bow as you’re holding it out.
- Introduce yourself as you’re holding out your card, saying what company you’re from, who you are + douzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu, or the proper polite variant.
- The receiving person receives the card with both hands while bowing as well.
- The receiving person takes the card and says arigatou gozaimasu or whatever variant is required due to politeness level required.
- Receiving person has to look at the card and study it for a few seconds. Really, take the chance to learn the other person’s name, or ask them about the kanji in their name, etc. Great icebreaker.
Wait, there’s more! Remember, I said that a business card is considered the same as the person you’re dealing with, so a few “don’t”s are in order:
- Don’t put it in your pocket! (Especially your back pocket!)
- Don’t use it as a tool! (Especially to pick your teeth!)
- Don’t write on it!
So we have these precious business cards… uh… what do we do with them?
Okay, now what? Where do we put the cards? The answer depends.
If it’s just meeting on the street, or at a convention, and there’s no meeting afterwards, then put them in a business card case. (You can get one for cheap at an office supply store if you need one.) You’re showing the other party how you value their card, and them at the same time.
If you don’t have your case on you, put it in your wallet. Don’t just shove it in a pocket.
It there’s a meeting afterwards, then lay them out on the table in front of you, like a little seating chart. It’s really useful that way, so you can keep everyone’s names straight. It also shows that you’re trying to learn their names. It’s very courteous to do it that way.
Anyway, you get the drift.
In the US, we use business cards like disposable ads. They’re tossed all over the place, and are only used to keep track of contact info. We write on them, pick our teeth with them, sit on them, you name it. We only see it as a piece of paper that’s handy to have every now and then… but not much more than that. (Hence the numerous goldfish bowls used to hold business cards for raffles.)
We spent a lot of time in class practicing business card exchanges, with a variety of scenarios. It was challenging at first, but I got used to it.
Still, there’s a lot of cultural stuff for me to learn just surrounding business, and we’re only at the point of exchanging business cards. I can see that I have my work cut out for me!