The Most proper way to give and receive business cards in Japan

In Japa, Buisness cards are of big deal. You’ll see them exchanged at every meeting between professionals, and they’re to be treated with the utmost respect, as though they’re a thin, paper extension of their owners themselves. Because of their importance, there’s also a thorough subsection of Japanese etiquette devoted to how exactly you should go about handing over your business card and receiving someone else’s. Japanese Twitter user @nursemens4321 recently heard his parents grumbling about how young employees at their offices don’t know all the finer points.

So he decided to brush up on business card exchange manners, and was so surprised at how much he had to learn that he diagrammed what he found in illustrated form. First, you’ll want to get out one business card for each member of the meeting, and place them in a tidy stack atop your business card holder (keeping business cards loose in your pocket is considered immature and, in the case of other’s people’s cards that you’ve received, disrespectful).

Hold the stack steady with your thumbs at the corners closest to yourself, with the card’s text oriented so that it’s right-side-up from the other person’s perspective. You should hold the stack at roughly chest level. However, as a sign of polite deference, it’s best to hold your stack slightly below your counterpart’s, as Japanese etiquette dictates that things of higher importance should occupy a higher physical position.

This sometimes results in both parties going back and forth lowering their stacks, in an effort to convey their humility, but in any case, starting at around chest-height is considered the best form.

Then it’s time to actually exchange cards. Using your right thumb, give the top card a slight slide forward, to make it easier for your counterpart to grasp it. Meanwhile, with your left hand, accept the other person’s card. Place your counterpart’s card atop your case, and as soon as you’ve completed the exchange, quickly make sure you’ve got the card secured with both hands.

Holding someone else’s card with just one hand conveys the idea that the object is light, and by extension of little importance. Be careful, though, not to cover any of the card’s text, photos, logos, or other graphics with your thumbs, however. After all, doing so means that you can’t see the hidden sections, and therefore not interested in them.

Once you’ve got the card in place, take a few moments to earnestly study it and commit its information to memory. Stuffing it into the interior of your case too soon, once again, implies that you haven’t really taken the time to carefully read it, because you don’t really care that much about the person or their organization. Now it’s worth noting, just as @nursemens4321’s parents did, that not everyone in Japan is well-versed in who follows all of the steps to the letter. @nursemens4321 himself, for example, was unaware of some of the points, and thus wouldn’t have been offended if someone skipped one or two, and holding just your card in both hands, as opposed to setting it atop your business card case, isn’t a huge faux pas.

However, if you want to make a good impression and show your respect for Japanese culture and tradition to your business partner, the techniques outlined in @nursemens4321’s illustration are an excellent place to start.

Source: @nursemens4321 via Jin
Top image: Pakutaso

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