If you don’t have much experience with Japanese people, you might think that they are very polite and serious. However, it is only half true. A typical Japanese person loves drinking, making jokes and talking about lots of different stuff.
But remember – not every topic is appropriate for a business dinner. Thus, we’d like to tell you about those you can talk about and those which you should leave out for good. From now on you don’t have to worry about saying something that can be considered impolite.
Topics for a dinner with Japanese clients: 6 Tips
Topics you should avoid
Japanese people usually don’t talk about politics in public. It is so because everybody has his own opinion on the matter and sharing it may trigger a conflict. At very least the discussion can easily develop into a serious argument. And this is the worst that can happen in Japanese society, as harmony, peace and conflict-free discussion are most of the Japanese people’s main virtues. Even at a business meeting you should try to share your thoughts subtly, and you can never be too direct. So if possible, try to avoid talking about politics – at least in a work environment.
- World War II
Of course, Japanese children are taught about the role of Japan in the World War II, but it is still a very sensitive topic. As in every society, there are several opinions on it, and you shouldn’t be very keen to learn them. So it’s pretty obvious that avoiding this topic is also a good idea. If you really want to have a conversation about history — this of over a hundred years ago is not a problematic topic at all. For example, you can always ask about the Edo period, and Japanese people will gladly hold the conversation.
And here we mean illegal drugs, like opioids or marijuana. For example, in many countries all over the world marijuana is legalized and usage of it is not considered as something bad. However, in Japan people are educated to have a negative image of it, as well as any other illegal drug, and many of them perceive marijuana use as bad, without even thinking about its actual medical effects. So usually if you tell about your one-time experience with marijuana, be ready for a piece of overreaction. Or better just keep it to yourself.
Topics you should definitely talk about
Drinking is a huge part of Japanese culture, and many Japanese people like beer and wine – so if it is a part of your area of interest as well, it is definitely a good topic for a dinner.
- Blood type
Blood type is like Japanese horoscope. Most of Japanese people strongly believe that each blood type (O, A, B and AB) is predictive of a person’s character. Even though not everybody is a follower of such beliefs, this is one of the most appropriate topics for a small talk.
- Romantic relationship
Contrary to many European countries, this topic is not a taboo for a business dinner in Japan. So if you want to talk about it – the floor is all yours. Just remember to not deepen into private stuff, because the other person will decide to politely do the same – and do you really want to learn about your client’s private life?
Trust is the central base of business partnerships. And Japanese business is relationship-oriented. Many Japanese businessmen think that your true nature can mostly be seen while drinking – even on business occasions. That is why we go to a bar with their colleagues after work – in order to get closer and exchange real life experience. So if you have a chance to do the same with your Japanese clients, don’t miss such an opportunity. You can drink, open up to each other and talk about the things you didn’t talk during the meeting earlier. This will help your clients to understand you better and, what is more important, to trust you more.