Z.American & Japanese Cultural Differences

              By Leo G. Perkins (Professor Emeritus, Meikai University)                                       

私の敬愛する Leo G. Perkins 氏(明海大学名誉教授)には時々、私のゼミにお越しいただいて、日米言語文化についてのお話を伺っています。そのうちの1回が 「アメリカと日本の文化的差異」でした。後日、氏が、過去に書かれた同名・同内容の論文を下さったので、氏のご了承を得て、そちらを掲載させていただきます。
 日本の生活が長く、寛容精神のきわめて豊かな Perkins氏ですが、それでも氏の論考の中には、日本人への疑問や感想がいくつも、冷静な口調で述べられています。たとえば、 From an American viewpoint, most Japanese children would be considered "spoiled," "self-centered," "inconsiderate" and "ill-mannered." と書いておられます。また、Japanese has a word for equals (doryo), but people seldom use it, because almost always something makes one person inferior or superior to another. This is very strange to Americans to whom individualism and equality are very important. のようにも述べておられます。さらに、 In American companies, almost always one man has final responsibility and authority, and it's easy to identify him. You only have to ask, "Who's in charge?" In Japanese companies, usually no one person is in charge. Responsibility and authority are dispersed among the managers as a group. The bigger the company, the more people are involved. When there is a mistake or failure, management doesn't try to single out the person at fault. They try to focus on the cause of the failure, to try to find out what happened. のように、会社と社員の結びつきの米・日差を的確に指摘して下さっているところもあります。もう1例、日本人の客のもてなし方に言及したところには次のようにあります。 Not many Americans accept the Japanese custom of expressing humility. They consider it false and deceptive―it's dishonest and irritating and definitely not sincere. In American society to state something that is untrue ( e.g. "not delicious" when it's actually "delicious") is morally unacceptable. Americans believe that expressing humility when a person isn't really humble is hypocritical.  氏の論文には、日本人として熟考・再考すべき多くのことが指摘されていると思います。

   This presentation briefly outlines information on cultural background, perceptual orientations and language and communication modes, and helps explain extreme differences between Japanese and American ways of thinking and cultural behavior. It includes examples to show how perceptual orientations and communication mode relate to aspects of Japanese and American behavior.
   We normally communicate most effectively with people with similar interests, backgrounds, perceptual orientations and communication modes, and with those who share our views and behavioral patterns. It's when we interrelate with people with different cultural backgrounds, values, behavioral patterns,perceptual orientations and communication modes that we run into trouble. Often,our behavioral elements that are closest to us―things we take most for granted―are the ones we understand least and the ones that cause most communication problems.
   Japan is a small island nation with few natural resources. It's extremely crowded and isolated―geographically and socially. It's main religions are Shinto and Buddhism, with overtones of Confucian philosophy. Japan has been mainly non-materialistic, and stresses intuitive thought. It has a hierarchical, group-oriented social structure. Japanese art is delicate and sensual. Japan is extremely homogeneous. People are modest and apologetic through cultural conditioning. The Japanese language is vague and ambiguous, with people relying more on interrelationships and nonverbal aspects of communications than upon words. Japan has many interpersonal rituals and much ceremony. These characteristic have led to, and have resulted from, Japanese perceptual orientations and communication mode.
   By contrast, the United States is a very big country on a major continent. It's rich in resources and is sparsely populated. It has close ties with neighboring countries and with Europe. It has a Judeo-Christian orientation, with overtones of Greek philosophy. The United States is mainly materialistic. Americans are gifted in logic and argument. Their social structure stresses individuality and equality. Americans are strongly expressive, even to the point of being overbearing. Their art is bold and their music strongly expressive. Whereas Japanese stress self-repression, Americans stress full self-expression. Americans are extremely heterogeneous. They are direct and assertive, and sometimes even abrasive. Their language is full-expressive, specific and unambiguous. They are impatient with rituals and ceremonies. These characteristics have led to, and have resulted from American perceptual orientations and communication mode.
   Japanese are characterized as formal, serious, dependent, tense, reserved, competitive, evasive, silent, cautious, and as seeking to protect relationships.
   Americans are characterized as independent, talkative, frank, spontaneous, open, impulsive, relaxed, self-assertive, and competitive, informal and humorous.
   The Japanese use a restricted communication code that stresses the group (we), rather than the individual (I). It concerns shared or context-bound meanings. A speaker assumes that the listener knows what he (the speaker) is talking about. Messages tend to be simple and brief, syntax simple and rigid, and vocabulary standard and undifferentiated. A restricted communication code creates solidarity by minimizing verbal elaboration of individual experience or thoughts.
  Americans use an elaborated communication code that stresses the individual (I), rather than the group (we). The speaker assumes very little. He elaborates meanings to make them more comprehensive to the listener. The elaborated communication code requires a more varied and more differentiated vocabulary―one suitable for making fine, subtle distinctions―and requires and analytical style.
   For effective communication, we must recognize differences in restricted and elaborated codes and their communication modes, and different values and perceptual orientations.
   In conversation, the greater the "common knowledge” shared by participants, the less they need to communicate verbally, and the less precise they need to be. The greater the shared "common knowledge" the more can be omitted or deleted Japanese have similar backgrounds and a high degree of "common knowledge." Their parents, schools, friends, neighborhoods―every facet of their lives―are similar to those of their fellow Japanese. One the other hands, Americans, because of their heterogeneity and extremely dissimilar backgrounds, have less shared "common knowledge" and tend to rely more upon fully expressive verbal communication and tend to be more precise and complete.
   Culturally, Japanese often disclose only a small amount of information at a time, and give only information they feel is needed, possibly never giving "full information." This often annoys Americans, who tend to give "too much" information―more than is necessary from a Japanese viewpoint. In dealing with Japanese, Americans often use probing questions to draw out more complete information for better-informed decisions. This may lead the Japanese to conclude that Americans ask too many questions. Lack of full disclosure and leaving things open for interpretation often leads to misunderstanding and wrong conclusions.
   Because of extreme differences between Americans and Japanese, in background, and in verbal, nonverbal, psychological and social communication patterns, when communicating with each other (across cultures), they must communicate more clearly and more completely. Because of background differences and lack of commonality in conversational formulas, conventions and procedures, they must not omit (delete) words or information, and must communicate more completely and more accurately.
   In observing a group of Japanese and a group of Americans, we would see extreme differences. In one group, everyone bows and exchanges name cards. When they speak, they speak quietly, often in understatement. We don't hear negative or disagreeable comments. Remarks are chosen according to status. People keep their distance. In the other group, everyone shakes hands and we see some "back slapping." "No" is heard often―probably more often than "yes." They are impatient with distinctions in status. They
are very informal, they use first names, touch each other, and laugh often and loudly, in a way that would be impolite to the Japanese.
   In conversation, Japanese often pause to sense the reaction of others. They continue as long as things are agreeable and harmonious, but clam up rather than express disagreement. Americans usually don't pause for reaction. If the speaker stops talking,
others may interpret this to mean that he is finished and that they can now speak. Americans don't talk as much when things are going smoothly, but talk loudly and at length when they disagree.
   Japanese have a high "tolerance for ambiguity." They may be very happy and excited about things not being quite clear or so precise. They have a high tolerance for uncertainty, the unexpected, and the unpredictable. Americans usually have a low tolerance for ambiguity. They want everything in its place. They want rules spelled out clearly and want them to be followed. They want everything to be logical and organized. They want things to be predictable and certain.
   In Japanese, it's polite to be round-about and indirect, and impolite to be too direct. In English, the opposite is true. Being indirect and round-about, or vague wastes listener or reader time and is interpreting the "thinking" behind what is said―right to the point.
   Japanese often approach a subject in a spiral, round-about way, gradually focusing on the subject. Americans, who prefer straight-line logic, may push them to "get to the point." Problems also arise in interpreting the "thinking" behind what is said―not just the words. Moreover, in Japan, directly criticizing or disagreeing with someone in public (or even being right when someone else is in error) is a serious breach of etiquette. Yet, Americans openly express disagreement or criticism.
   In Japanese, it's acceptable to state a number of thoughts in such a way that their connection becomes clear only at the end. This isn't allowable in English, where every sentence must be understandable in light of what has been given. The connection between one thought and the next must be clear, and the thought sequence must always be explicit, even where a Japanese listener would be expected to fill in the connection for himself or herself. A Japanese may feel it advantageous to leave a certain amount of ambiguity in a statement―this isn't allowable and would be irritating in English. In English, we have to have a specific subject, clear actions, and clear explanations or conclusions. What we say should be clear, direct, specific, and concise. Japanese uses many phrases, clauses, sentences and conversational formulas that seem vague, round-about, and even redundant. Americans prefer conciseness and directness and are often irritated when others don't get to the point.
   Japanese tends to be vague and suggestive―imprecise―leaving interpretation up to the listener who must fill in from his or her feelings, emotions, or thoughts. It can have real beauty as an abstract painting with only a few lines that merely suggest an idea. Japanese is a repressive language―it holds the speaker (or writer) back from expressing things so explicitly or specifically and relies mostly upon the listener (or reader) interpreting the meaning or feeling. The listener (or reader) is primary―not the speaker (or writer). Often, in Japanese, meaning is conveyed as much by manner or by what isn't said―what remains unspoken. The language, like an an abstract painting, is suggestive and vague.
   English is fully expressive. it's complete, specific, and precise. The speaker (or writer) [or more specifically, the message itself] is important―not the listener (or reader). English has a more extensive vocabulary than any other language. It has hundreds of thousands of expressions. Besides denotation (dictionary meanings) English words have connotation (meanings suggested or implied by associations, feelings, etc.). Many English speakers consider English poetry as being very beautiful and emotional―not because of implied meanings (interpreted by the reader) but because of clearly stated and accurately described meanings that communicate precise feelings and attitudes. The meanings are in the words―not in the reader (or listener).
   In their school English, Japanese students learn standard English words and dictionary meanings, but seldom learn connotations and idiomatic expressions. English speakers constantly use idioms and figures of speech, such as simple, metaphor, and irony. Japanese students usually don't learn or understand these because they express a way of thinking, illuminate a social system, and describe moral concepts students don't understand.
   Words are primary in English, but paralinguistic aspects (and interpretations) are primary in Japanese. People have command that in Japanese words aren't so important as nonverbal aspects of communication. Japanese value implication and suggestion and don't rely so much on precise word meanings as people do in English. Japanese is indirect (round-about), wordy, abstract, passive, impersonal, vague and imprecise. English is direct, concise, concrete, active, personal, specific
and precise. The two languages are about as opposite as we can find. They're used differently and each serves the style and manner of the people who use the language. What Japanese think of as magical power of language is often personal emotion and interpretation―not actual word meanings. It's what they read into or out of what is said―not just what is said. Americans think more in terms of accurately communicating specific meanings―not in abstractions or emotional interpretations. While Japanese helps maintain harmony and smoothness and show consideration for others, English is a more effective means of communicating information accurately, and in international affairs communicating information accurately is most important.
   For decades,people have described Japanese as childlike, quaint, or naïve. This may be because not very many Japanese have spoken English well enough to convey more than the simplest ideas. Thus, Japanese intellectual ability hasn't been adequately shown to others. The English taught in schools is stilted, bookish and unnatural. This results from not teaching natural, idiomatic English and not teaching culture with language.
   More than half of the 4 billion people in the world speak and read English. English is the universal language―people in all parts of the world communicate in English. It's most important for international communication (and the only reason for language is to communicate). Even the British are changing toward American English, which is much more natural and efficient.
   Japan's survival depends on her world trade and her ability to communicate with and understand the rest of the world. Japan critically needs English, but the rest of the world doesn't need Japanese very much. Japanese is good for expressing traditional ideas and for Japanese literary works, but it isn't very practical for international communication. English is the world language―the language needed by Japan and all other countries in international affairs.
   Around any international conference table it's the Japanese delegates who are most halting and inarticulate and most poorly equipped to fill the place they're so intellectually qualified for. Japan is losing millions (or perhaps billions) of dollars in world trade because of her lack of English fluency. Japan needs to become bilingual in Japanese and English and must adopt English as the language for business and international trade and diplomacy.
   Our brain receives digital and analog information. Digital information,such as words, symbols and numbers don't have any direct meaning in themselves―they merely stand for real things. Digital information , such as words,enter the brain one unit at a time, slowly and sequentially. This is a slow, but orderly process. Analog information refers to things we perceive directly with our sense: things we feel, hear, see, smell and taste. Analog information,such as images and sense impressions, enter the brain in total configurations, rapidly and simultaneously. In general, it would seem that Americans rely on the digital mode, with its stress on words and orderliness. Japanese seem to rely more on the analog mode, which stresses feelings, atmosphere, and relationships, etc.
   English is a digital language, made up of symbols or sounds to which meaning is applied. Americans rely mostly on spoken or written words to communicate ideas and meanings.
   On the other hand, Japanese writing is ideographic and pictographic. It's more analog. Thus, Japanese can read Chinese to some extent, even though they may not be able to pronounce the Chinese words. Japanese tend to rely less on words (which are digital) and tend to rely more upon relationships, atmosphere, and nonverbal aspects of communication, all of which are analog. And the analog mode is more diffused.
   Japanese depend more on intuitive and emotional reactions―even in communication―than on logical trains of thought, and they don't distinguish analytical problems and natural sensations in the clear-cut way Americans do.
   In Japanese landscape and architecture, physical objects seem to melt or blend with the character of space, rather than oppose it. Japanese don't use many partitions. Rooms combine into sweeping space, and the garden (back yard) may recess into the house so that dwellers can be outdoors while sitting indoors. This blurring of physical barriers and natural elements may help explain the deep sense of harmony within the group that results in the social cohesion of the Japanese nation.
   This blending may also account for the Japanese flexible attitude of deciding everything "case-by-case" and of requiring consensus and avoiding individual responsibility. It may also help explain the Japanese dislike of strict and hard-fast rules and their tolerance for ambiguity, uncertainty, the unexpected and the unpredictable, and their desire for harmony. It may also help explain why, although Japanese stay within certain social restraints, they seem to derive a secret pleasure in having gotten away with something―in having violated the rules―in having beaten the system.
   Much has been said of Japanese courtesy, and Japanese are courteous when you visit their homes, or when you greet them individually or in small groups. But, in driving, in shopping, and in riding on trains, they seem to lose their individuality and become almost wild, reckless, and often inconsiderate, or even rude.
   A Japanese often keeps smiling and bowing, even when he feels more like showing anger or rebellion. Behind the steering wheel of a car, he becomes free and anonymous; he can't stand to have someone pass him. He wants to crowd in first and doesn't want to slow down to let others go first. It's almost unbelievable what some Japanese drivers do in cutting in, acrobatic overtaking, switching lanes, misleading changes in direction, and in ignoring traffic signals and signs. They don't seem to respect them as law that must be strictly obeyed. And often, Japanese policemen just look the other way, rather than strictly enforce traffic regulations. To many observers, it would seem that in Japan a green traffic light (blue light to Japanese) means "walk" and a red light means "run." From an American viewpoint, hundreds of thousands of Japanese break the law everyday in violating traffic signals and signs. Yet, this loose treatment of traffic signals, signs and regulations fits in with the flexible way of thinking and with their notion that strict conformity and absolute limitations aren't necessary nor desirable.
   In most parts of the United States, police strictly enforce traffic laws. In the United States, you don't switch lanes except to pass or turn. Also, when a car or other obstruction blocks your side of the street, you can't just swing over to the other side. You must wait until the other side is clear. The other side "belongs to" cars coming from the other direction―not to the one who gets there first. In Japan, people don't have such a strong sense of "my side of the street" and "your side of the street" ―there is more a feeling of the street belonging to everyone ―A more flexible approach.
   Japanese seem to prefer to crowd in first, instead of waiting in line for their turn. In stores and shops, there seems to be no order as to who is served first. To most Americans, who are accustomed to "waiting their turn," this seems very discourteous, but it fits the Japanese concept that strict order and strict sequencing aren't essential. Also, Japanese have a habit of holding a place ―A seat or a place in line―for their friends who haven't arrived yet. To most Americans this would be rude and may lead to a fight. In Japan, adults stand and let children sit. In the United States, it's considered discourteous for children to sit when adults are standing―especially older people. Yet, this is part of Japanese cultural conditioning and part of their way of thinking. The permissiveness shown toward children and the tolerance for children making noise and doing as they please would be unheard of in most places in the United States. From an American viewpoint, most Japanese children would be considered "spoiled," "self-centered," "inconsiderate" and "ill-mannered." 
   Many Japanese knowingly go up the down side, or down the up side, of stairways in train stations. It doesn't seem to matter than everyone could move more smoothly and with less interference and inconvenience if everyone stayed on the proper side of the stairway. This, again, may be related to the Japanese disbelief in strict adherence to regulations and rules, but rather to treat each situation differently and flexibly. This same behavior can be seen in people trying to get on an elevator or get in a train first without letting others get off in an orderly way.
   In Japan, it's common to open several bottles of beer and pour beer for each other―very much in keeping with the group concept. In the United States this just isn't done. Things must be kept sorted out. Each person has his or her own beer and doesn't pour beer into another person's glass nor offer his or her beer to someone else. This is my beer, and that is yours.
   We can readily explain many of these differences if we consider that Japanese rely more on their analog mode and flexibility, whereas most Americans rely more upon their digital mode with its strict orderliness and adherence to set procedures and rules.
   Many people say that the Japanese are poor in language, which isn't really true. Japan has the biggest foreign language program in the world. Not only that, but many Japanese speak English well―at least well enough to basically communicate. This is more than can be said about foreign languages in many countries.
   It has been said that deep down, the Japanese don't really want to learn a foreign language. It has also been said that they would like to prevent foreigners from learning Japanese, because they regard foreigners who know Japanese as intruders on their privacy. A person can't know a country well without knowing its language―and it has been claimed that the Japanese don't want to be known.
   Americans, and to some extent the British, take a chauvinistic view of language. They seem to think that, since English is the universal language, everyone should learn and use English. Therefore, many Americans don't think it's very important to learn another language. Most foreign language courses in the United States are mainly academic. Not very many students really learn to speak a foreign language or use it to communicate. When they do learn to speak a foreign language, it's usually at a very basic level that doesn't permit them to communicate effectively with people who speak the language. In the United States, most language courses are directed toward helping students who are bilingual―usually in English and Spanish. Spanish ranks as the number one foreign language in the United States, followed by French and German. Although more people are learning Japanese, the number is still rather limited.
   Japan is an authoritarian democracy; an authoritarian society without an authoritarian government. In many other countries, people have been determined to remain free, but authoritarian regimes have been forced on them; contrariwise, a democratic regime has been forced on the Japanese, who want, who need authority over them―yet need to preserve their democracy.
   In most countries, democracy has tended toward egalitarianism (equality). In the United States and Australia, the "I'm as good as the next guy" mentality is an important social force. But, while Japan is a democracy, it's not an egalitarian society; it's hierarchical, and people seem to be content with this. We may be inclined to think that a modern industrial society needs to be a shade more egalitarian to succeed, but Japan has succeeded better than most countries, and it isn't egalitarian. Japan has tried to bring Eastern and Western ideas together―it has tried to fit the unfitting and the unfittable. To some degree this has resulted in a synthesis (a new form of society that is neither totally Eastern nor Western).
   We might argue that even the United States and Australia, with all their chumminess and devotion to informality, are much less egalitarian than they claim. But, as least a person can rise and fall in these countries. Doors may not be entirely open, but they're not locked.
   Until recently, you couldn't rise in Japanese society; falling was just as hard (witness the impossibility of a royal family member to become an average citizen). Age-long habits die hard. Japan was, for many centuries, a hierarchical society and the idea of educating people to accept their lot in life was fostered and propagated with ferocious insistence during the Tokugawa shogunate when a child's status was determined by birth. "One was educated and trained from early childhood to adjust to the prescribed modus vivendi (mode of living) and to appreciate the way of life in an authoritarian atmosphere. To the extent that the individual was obedient and faithful to his allotted position and was content with his role in family and society, he could have personal security." In the old days in Japan, a person's birth determined his or her whole life. It even decided the language level a person was permitted to use. The equivalent of a Japanese cockney or Brooklynese wasn't allowed to teach him−or herself Oxford or Bostonian Japanese, or the Emperor's Japanese. Violating the unwritten, yet draconian, conformity laws meant ridicule and possible exile. Even the threat of ridicule was enough. Peasants weren't allowed to eat white rice or wear silk. Merchants had to live in mean little houses. Members of the lowest orders, the outcasts, weren't allowed to cover the floor of their houses with tatami (straw mats): they had to sit on bare, uncovered dirt. It was a caste society, with everyone fit into his or her proper pigeonhole. Those who obeyed and those who gave orders belonged to two different worlds: it was a person's birth solely and exclusively that determined to which world he or she belonged. To try to rise was as uncreditable as to sink.
   How are things today? Conditions had to change to some extent, but the heritage of the long past survives. Your birth somewhat determines your fate. The only difference is that in modern Japan, you are born twice: first in the regular way, then when you get into―or fail to get into Auniversity or get a job. There is cut-throat competition for getting into universities, particularly the top universities. Some people take the entrance examination seven or eight times ―in seven or eight consecutive years ―to get into a university and start their studies (or give up hope) at the age of twenty-five or older. Getting into Tokyo University or one of the other prestige institutions means that you are comfortably settled for life. Huge corporations will vie for your services and the door to high civil service jobs will be open wide. The greatest step is getting in the university ―not graduating.
   Graduating seems almost automatic. The entrance examination is all-important―the rest seems like child's play. Foreign educators are often shocked at the laxity and lack of high standards in Japanese universities, except for schools of medicine, engineering and other such technical fields.
   Once a young Japanese gets a job, he is settled for life. He'd almost have to throw his boss downstairs to get fired―even then he may be forgiven. He'll be promoted automatically according to seniority: it doesn't really matter how well he has worked―only how long. Japanese companies don't hire employees for specific jobs, but merely hire a given number of new employees each year. These employees are given general training and assigned to various tasks. Their jog assignments may not relate at all to what they have studied in school. Moreover, they may be rotated from one job to another to get to know various duties within the company. Usually, people come into a company at a standard low pay rate depending somewhat on school credentials, whether single or married, etc.) and will be promoted with a pay raise in their turn
   For a young Japanese businessman, it's always best to marry someone connected with his company. His life belongs to the company. He will be looked after, promoted, and get many benefits, but he must be loyal and devoted. He's not even expected to take days off that are due him. The serious minded worker gets to the office early, leaves late, goes out with colleagues and immediate supervisors, rather than going home directly to his wife and family. Recently, however, there have been many exceptions to this. If an employee is single, he's given a place to live. He may get a comparatively low salary, but a good expense account. He often travels free to work and home. In higher positions, he may have a chauffeur driven car. He may get subsidized lunches, sporting facilities and sizable bonuses twice a year. Higher executives may get a house―often rent-free―which may become their won upon retirement. His membership to costly and exclusive clubs may be paid by the company. Japanese employees are married off, entertained, looked after, treated when they are sick, pensioned off and buried, but they are almost never fired.
   Americans choose marriage partners who, normally, have nothing at all to do with the company they work for. An American may be placed in a high position in a"family owned" company if he marries the boss's daughter, but this isn't so common. American workers don't get many additional benefits. Few companies have company recreational facilities and only a few executives have company expense accounts which they have to watch carefully and fully justify. American workers don't normally get subsidized lunches, but may have a company cafeteria that serves food at reasonable prices. American companies don't pay for expensive memberships for its employees―not even for executives.
   To an American, his job and his family life are entirely separate. An American does his job and is paid for the work he does, but doesn't "belong to the company." When quitting time comes, he heads for home. Americans, in general, don't like to work on their won time, and don't stay in the office a minute longer than necessary. They usually take every free day that is coming to them―and may even try to get more. American employees usually have substantial salaries, but very few other benefits. Some companies give a small bonus at Christmas, but may have no bonus or pay a bonus only to those who have made outstanding contributions to the company.
   In Japan, many ministries and offices are staffed with aging, inefficient men occupying high positions in their sixties and seventies. Retirement age is as low as fifty-five (before sixty) but many people leave and take new jobs at fifty or so and then serve on indefinitely. Many bureaucrats "descend from heaven" and take lucrative jobs in high positions in business and industry.
   It's common to give a lot of overtime to Japanese employees―almost an expected thing―to add to their income. American managers are responsible for their operating coasts and overtime pay adds to these costs and causes an unfavorable cost / output ratio. A good manager gets word done at the lowest cost and least effort from the fewest people. Excessive overtime increases operating costs and reflects unfavorably on the manager's efficiency and his managing performance. If his costs are too high for his output, he may be fired. Moreover, need for much overtime indicates inefficiency or that more people are needed for regular work time to avoid high overtime pay rates. It indicates that more regular staffing is needed.
   American companies hire people for specific jobs, based on specific (written) job requirements and individual qualifications. Everyone doesn't start at the bottom. People are hired in and paid at different levels according to their qualifications, and may leave one company anytime to work for another that offers a better opportunity or more pay. People are promoted on merit―not according to how long they have been with the company. American workers normally get one kind of pay―their salary (or wage: hourly rate)―plus overtime. They don't get allowances for family, transportation, rank, rank, or (normally) for cost of living differential. Some American companies pay a bonus, but many don't. Some pay bonuses only to outstanding employees.
   Americans promptly stop working at "quitting time." They work overtime only when workload is heavy or to meet an important deadline. Also, they strongly distinguish between work and the employee's "free time." Employees resent the company trying to encroach on their "free time." Authority and position don't normally extend to a person's private life, as they do in Japan.
   Americans are extremely individualistic. They're outspoken and say what's on their minds, directly and unequivocally.
   In Japanese, the word for company, "kaisha" has strong connotations of "community." In reference to their place of employment, Japanese typically use the term "uchi" which means "inside" or "my house" in a possessive sense. "Uchi no kaisha" (my company) means a lot more than "the place I work for." For a Japanese, an employer-employee relationship is much like a marriage ―the association has generally been made for life. The bond―like that of marriage ―isn't to be broken. Of course this attitude is now changing, and we find many exceptions to lifetime employment.
   Nothing is sacred about an American employer-employee relationship. An employee, or even a company executive, won't hesitate to move to another company for a better position or more pay. Also, people may be "let go" or replaced by someone else. An American employee may work for a company many years and suddenly be told that his services are no longer required. Such treatment would be unimaginable in Japan.
   Japan is a country of groups. Being an overcrowded island nation, Japan naturally encourages its people to form into groups as a matter of necessity. Pushing yourself as an individual is wrong, but being ambitious for the group is creditable. Many Americans think this group mentality produces, or is produced by an avoidance of individual responsibility. The company president may make final decisions, but only after reaching consensus. Not simply after listening to various views, but after reaching a genuine consensus. Gentle,or not so gentle, persuasion may be backed by authority, pressure, forceful arguments; yet it still remains persuasion and not high-handed orders that people have to obey. The person feels that he is obeying his own order to some extent, and that he shares in the responsibility. A company president won't merely state that he plans to open a new plant in Yokohama. He'll ask others what they think of opening a new plant in Yokohama. Since the suggestion comes from the boss, as a rule everyone will think it's a good idea, but not necessarily.
   Most American executives would be lost without their secretaries, who have broad responsibilities and are highly respected and well-paid. In Japan, only rarely would we find a Japanese executive (manager) who has a secretary that even comes close to doing what American secretaries do. The reason for this scarcity of secretaries in Japan is many-fold. The Japanese management style―collective work groups, consensus decision-making, face-to-face communication, and the manager's role as a harmony-keeper instead of director―practically precludes the secretarial function. Another thing is the language. It can't be easily or quickly transcribed, either by shorthand or typewriter. Thus, the Japanese aren't prepared, psychologically or practically, for doing business through secretaries.
   In the United States, two people in any work category can often establish a deep and satisfying rapport within minutes of their first meeting, even under the most casual or incidental circumstances. Such relationships can be especially deep and satisfying if the two happen to be in the same profession, whether they are tuck drivers, bakers or doctors. In Japan, such spontaneous horizontal relationships are practically out of the question.
   Since the Japanese worker's or manager's loyalty is almost totally absorbed by his own seniority-ranked group, he can't very much establish close relationships with any outsider, including those in the same line of work. On the contrary, they have a special feeling of wariness and sometimes even hostility with professional counterparts within, as well as outside, their own companies.
   Generally,human relations in Japan are based on "vertical" (superior / subordinate) relationships between or among the people involved. This superior / subordinate structure is based on an "ego-centered" ranking and is the primary basis for social order―not only in shaping attitudes and behavior, but overshadowing everything else: character, personality, profession, ability and accomplishment.
   The Japanese also have a deep and pervasive impulse to form into and identify with groups based on proximity and activity.
   The vertical, superior / subordinate concept is most often expressed in business and educational situations by the terms "kohai" (junior) and "sempai" (senior). Japanese has a word for equals (doryo) , but people seldom use it, because almost always something makes one person inferior or superior to another. This is very strange to Americans to whom individualism and equality are very important.
   Japanese business cards (meishi) are very important. Every Japanese businessman needs to know the rank of everyone he contacts. He has to know not only the personal rank of the person, but also his organization's rating. A big, powerful company's section chief "outranks" a smaller, less important company's department head. After taking a person's card (with both hands while bowing slightly) each recipient takes several seconds to look closely at the name of the other person's company, its address, and his title, before starting conversation. Many American businessmen don't use business cards. Those who do, don't consider them much more than a way to identify the person's name, company, etc. And one person is the same as another, regardless of company size or the man's company, etc. Of course, some people―especially heads of big companies, or high government officials―are treated with deference, as V.I.P.s (Very Important Persons).
   The exclusivity inherent in the vertically ranked company system is so powerful that it makes it hard, and sometimes impossible,
for a group or company to do business with another firm it doesn't have established relations with. When a company is forced to do business with someone or some organization without having established close, personal ties, it's referred to do as "doing business with the enemy." Americans and American companies do business with anyone, as long as it benefits their company. Being introduced or having personal relations isn't the important thing ―the most important thing is the hard business decisions based on efficiency, profit and need.
   In American companies, almost always one man has final responsibility and authority, and it's easy to identify him. You only have to ask, "Who's in charge?" In Japanese companies, usually no one person is in charge. Responsibility and authority are dispersed among the managers as a group. The bigger the company, the more people are involved. When there is a mistake or failure, management doesn't try to single out the person at fault. They try to focus on the cause of the failure, to try to find out what happened. This way, the man who made the mistake doesn't lose face and everyone can learn a lesson. In American companies, the man who makes a mistake is responsible and has to take the consequences for his mistake―his boss won't take responsibility for him, as is often done in Japan.
   Discipline survives in the family and in a person's professional life―a carryover from the past. Humble and submissive respect of the father is inculcated from the earliest time. Respecting mothers doesn't count for much, but the mother is loved and she spends most time with the children. The father, in many families, remains a remote figure, hardly seen―not even after business hours when his duty may take him to a cabaret, or even to a geisha-house or some other entertainment spot. He remains the aloof and silent authority. Japan has been more or less a one-parent society. But, this is changing.
   When a Japanese is asked a question, his natural impulse is to answer in a way that will please the inquirer, even if it isn't true. If he doesn't have proper or plausible answer, he may answer vaguely or not answer at all to avoid lying. Another aspect of truth is that the individual is often strictly limited in what he can say because he can't act or judge independently. This often prevents a Japanese from saying anything about a subject. Most Americans just "let it all hang out" (say what they think very bluntly and directly―polite or not). Whereas a Japanese won't usually express an opinion whether or not it conflicts with what others might think.
   The United States is a true democracy, with a strong belief in equality and opportunity for everyone. The early colonists came to America looking for freedom to follow their own beliefs. The American Revolution was fought to gain freedom from England's authoritarian rule. Even today, Americans don't like the idea of having a king and queen or an emperor. Early colonists and pioneers believed strongly in freedom and equality in a big country with plenty of room for differences in religion and politics. Onthe frontier, one man's effort and pursuits were as good as that of anyone else, regardless of his beliefs. American women are noted for their independence. About one in every three married women has a job outside the home. Even children share in equality and take part in family activities, discussions, and planning. Americans resent anyone telling them what to do. Even on the job, if an employee resents a supervisor trying to be too bossy or infringe on the worker's rights, the employee will quickly let his feelings be known. It's not uncommon for a worker to quit his job if his supervisor tries to exert his authority too strongly.
   Two of the greatest blights on American history, however, have been their treatment of the American Indians and blacks. Taking the Indians' land from them and relegating them to reservations, the settlers from Europe did a strong injustice to the people who originally inhabited what is now the United States. Blacks were imported from「Africa in salve ships (many from the northern part of the United States) and sold into slavery in the South. Rich southern plantation owners exploited the blacks and forced them to live in very deprived conditions and to labor in the fields. Although the slaves were supposedly freed after the Civil War, it has taken a long time for them to rise about their lack of education and poverty to realize anything close to equal treatment and opportunity.
   Like the Australians, the Americans believe that anyone ought to be free to pursue anything he wants and should be able to rise as high and as fast as his talents and abilities permit. Although most Americans do get promoted mainly on longevity or service, we find many exceptions, and they don't promote people who aren't competent just because of length of service.
   The history of America has one success story after another of people who have risen from low beginnings to the top of their fields. Thomas Edison had only an eighth grade education and he was one of the most famous and prolific inventors of all time. He is noted mainly for inventing the incandescent electric light bulb, the phonograph and motion pictures.
   In the United States, a person's birth, parents and background don't necessarily determine the person's opportunities and success. Of course, those born to wealthy families do have an advantage and often inherit the family fortune and have more opportunities. Also, lack of education can be a very serious drawback, as can be seen with blacks and Hispanics.
   Americans strongly resent being forced into a mold or being treated in a subservient way. Americans will usually help anyone―whether they're asked to help or not―but won't be forced to do anything against their will.
   In the United States, it's comparatively easy to get into a university, but university courses aren't very easy, and many students fail and drop out. Getting in isn't hard, but graduating is. It's really a "survival of the fittest"―not merely passing an entrance examination. American professors are much tougher than Japanese professors, and are much more demanding. If students don't apply themselves and do well in class, with regular attendance, they will fail. And high grades are hard to get―they take a lot of hard work.
   We see very young American executives directing the work of employees who are much older than they are. It's ability that counts.
   In American life, the mother and father share responsibilities and usually share authority. Americans fathers usually come home after work, although a few don't. And these few are often social problems and cause broken homes. Many American fathers take part in little league or boy scout activities. Families often do things together as a family. However, teenagers often have their own interests and their own friends and may not have much to do with family affairs.
   In Japan, emotion or feeling is ranked very high. It's referred to as "kimochi" or "dojo." Logic as westerners think of it, is ranked low. Americans rank these almost the opposite. In America, logic (in the American sense) is primary. Operating from emotions or feeling is considered inappropriate and even weak and ineffective.
   For Japanese, American conversational rhythm is too fast. Japanese often pause during conversation for comment of agreement from the other party. The other party usually doesn't say anything until the pause invites him to speak. Such openings in conversation are necessary for successful communication among Japanese. However, Americans, used to a much faster pace, react to pauses by assuming that the other person is finished and that it's their turn to talk. In conversation with Japanese, Americans don't leave any openings in the conversation for the Japanese to continue, but jump in right away with their own comments. This often frustrates Japanese.
   The logical approach used by Americans and Japanese differ greatly. Japanese often approach a subject in a spiral, round-about way, whereas Americans use straight-line logic. When a Japanese starts to explain a subject in a Japanese way, he considers all conceivable facts or ideas, any of which may seem irrelevant to an American. The Japanese gradually focuses on the subject. The American , after hearing only the first part of the explanation, and judging it to be irrelevant, and concluding that this is all the Japanese has to say, may push the Japanese to "get to the point" in the expected way of western logic.
   The custom of serving drinks to guests differs greatly between Japanese and Americans. Americans usually offer the guest a choice, e.g. "Would you like coffee or tea?" "Would you like a coke, wine, beer, or whiskey?" Japanese on the other hand, don't normally offer a choice, because to do so would embarrass the guests, because expressing a personal preference is considered impolite, and the guest issupposed to accept gratefully what is offered―to choose one thing is to reject another, which is simply not done.
   It's up to the host to decide what the guest is offered, and therefore what the guest will drink. To Americans, it would be improper to give the guest something he doesn't, or might not, like when he could get what he really likes and wants. To choose what someone else will eat or drink is presumptuous. It's imposing your values and your lies and will on him, which is improper and inconsiderate.
   In Japan, the host must deprecate the quality of the refreshment, and the guest must protest the host's deprecation and praise the quality. To an American, the host does this is being hypocritical and is just "fishing for compliments," while the guest who praises what he doesn't think is particularly praiseworthy is likewise hypocritical and insincere. They're just lying to each other. An American host usually doesn't say anything about the quality of the refreshments. If a guest says it was delicious, the host usually answers,
"Thank you." or "I'm glad you like it." Notice that the American stresses "you" ( I hope you like it. or Thank you. )
   Not many Americans accept the Japanese custom of expressing humility. They consider it false and deceptive―it's dishonest and irritating and definitely not sincere. In American society to state something that is untrue (e.g. "not delicious" when it's actually "delicious" ) is morally unacceptable. Americans believe that expressing humility when a person isn't really humble is hypocritical. The Japanese viewpoint is very different―it's good to act humble, be even if a person isn't humble, the least he can do is to act humbly. To Americans this is living a lie and being dishonest.
   Often a Japanese wife appeals to her husband's boss for help and expresses gratitude for his kindness. This isn't done in American society. Let's consider a conversation between a Japanese wife and her husband's boss.

    Boss: How do you do?
    Wife: How do you do? Thank you very much for many kindnesses to my
        husband. (Itsumo shujinga osewani natte arigato gozaimasu ) I hope
        you will continue to help him. ( Korekara mo dozo yoroshiku onegai
       itashi masu

 Asked to comment on this exchange, Americans said that this was "fawning" (cringing,groveling, or behaving servilely, kowtowing―showing willing submission to a patron or superior). Some Americans said that the wife is interfering in her husband's business life. Others said this would indicate that the husband was incompetent and weak. One American said that such behavior would be "ass-kissing." Most Americans think it would be humiliating to ask the boss's indulgence. American wives are expected to exchange social greetings only with men's bosses. They shouldn't refer to the work situation of the man's status, progress, performance, or anything else―it's none of their business. The wife might say, "I'm happy to meet you. My husband is always talking about what a great boss he has." or "Pleased to meet you. My husband has told me a lot about you."
   Americans believe in social equality. Work and social life are kept apart. A person's work status is carried over into all areas of life. People are customarily referred to by their official titles ("Mr. Section Chief," "Mr. Department Head,"etc.), even outside the office. Complimentary titles may be given in extremely informal situations (e.g. bar hostesses flatter customers by calling them "Shacho-san"(Mr. Company President). If someone is a department head, that's part of his personal identity, and he doesn't leave his title and status behind when he leaves the office, as most Americans do.
   In American society,the husband and wife are separate and independent and public and private lives are kept strictly apart. If a wife refers to her husband's work while talking to his boss, foreigners are likely to consider her as interfering (meddling) as well as "fawning," because a man's wife is part of his private life, and foreigners (especially Americans) tend to clearly distinguish between public and private lives. Boss and employee are independent of wives and families, and their office relationship concerns only themselves. A wife isn't supposed to be concerned with her husband's work, and what he does at the office is none of her business.
   In Japan, however, neither boss nor employee is seen, by himself or others, as distinctly separate from his wife and family. Thus, the Japanese habit of being as adverse to praising one's family members as to praising himself. A man's wife, therefore, identifies with her husband's work relationships, with no clear dividing line between one's public and private lives―the boss is legitimately concerned in his subordinate's home affairs, and the wife is legitimately concerned in how things are going at her husband's office. To an American, a boss wouldn't dare interfere or express serious interest in a man's family, unless it somehow affects his work performance. Even then, it would be meddling or interfering.
   To an American, a wife's asking her husband's boss to "help him" suggests not only that the husband is weak for being dependent on his boss, but also that he is even weaker for relying on his wife to ask for favors for him, while it is normal for a Japanese to express grateful dependence, this would be a sign of weakness to an American. It violates the idea of "equality."
   Most Japanese don't like to say "no" directly. Instead, they hint at negative feelings or opinions, and expect others to perceive their meaning. To illustrate this behavior, let's consider an episode between Mr. Brown,an American, and Mr. Moto, a member of a Japanese trading firm. Mr. Brown was eager to know what the Japanese company had decided about proceeding with or dropping negotiations. Brown asked "Yes / No" questions repeatedly, hoping he would get a prompt and direct answer. On the other hand, Mr. Moto, who didn't want「to tell Mr. Brown directly about his company's negative decision, but wanted Mr. Brown to intuit the decision, asked Mr. Brown many times during the meeting if he would like a cup of tea. This, in effect, avoided answering Mr. Brown's direct questions. Mr. Moto also asked questions that seemed to Mr. Brown to be completely irrelevant (e.g.. "How many people are employed in your company?"). The way Mr. brown was offered and served tea and asked seemingly irrelevant questions indicated that Mr. Moto was waiting for Mr. Brown to discover the negative decision for himself and maybe then propose a change in negotiating terms.
   Americans say that this indirection is very baffling and annoying, because they can't figure out what's happening or where they stand. Many Americans consider such indirection as dishonest and very impolite, and often a gross waste of time. They say that people who act this way are evasive like snakes and aren't trustworthy. They claim that adults should be mature enough and brave enough to accept direct criticism and refusal, and that having someone resort to indirection (not stating a negative answer directly) is treating them like spoiled children―not as adults and equals. Americans claim that this indirection is cowardly, disrespectful, insincere and insulting. They think the only good way to face a problem is directly and openly. To do otherwise is cowardly and a waste of time. They think that only verbalized communication is trustworthy and hints or implications are indications of an intention to deceive others and isn't honest. Since Japanese hints aren't recognizable to most foreigners, they only irritate and confuse, and cause a lot of bad human relations and hard feelings.
   Japanese think that too much outspokenness or eloquence is untrustworthy, too facile. They think that to let others realize where they stand in an indirect way is considerate. They think that being suggestive, not too open or assertive, is true maturity. They think that avoiding harsh conflict and creating a smooth atmosphere by indirection doesn't mean they're treating others as spoiled children―that's the way Japanese adults treat each other. Only children or immature people use direct confrontation.
   Japanese who have been accustomed to indirection claim that it's a good custom in social situations, but people should avoid indirection in international business discussions to prevent misunderstandings. Japanese who have lived overseas for at least 4 years―who don't use indirection anymore and who have probably had problems caused by indirection―recommend that Japanese be more direct in answering yes or no questions to avoid confusion and misunderstanding.
   In recent years, the American business community has come to view Japan with decidedly mixed feelings of admiration and growing uneasiness. The admiration stems from the way in which Japan emerged as one of the world's top economics. The uneasiness stems not just from the impact Japanese economic growth had on American economy, but from the feeling that Japan may be playing the economic game under a different set of rules―one sided rules that favor Japan.
   Because of extreme differences between Americans and Japanese, in background, and in verbal, nonverbal, psychological and social communication patterns, when communicating with each other (across cultures) they have to communicate more clearly and more completely and without false modesty or humility. Because of background differences and lack of commonality in conversational formulas, conventions and procedures, they must not omit (delete) words or information, and must communicate more completely, more directly, and more accurately.