My background is Japanese, so sometimes I’m astonished at how casual people are in a meeting with new business prospects. Take the business card exchange, for example. The most often-talked about scenario by Japanese people is when Americans sit down in a meeting and throw their business cards across the conference table. I’ve had the experience many times where we all grab a seat and throw our cards to the other side saying, “Here you go!”
In Japan, throwing things to others is a sign of disrespect. You would never throw food or money at someone, so don’t throw your business card either. For Japanese professionals, it’s seen as degrading and demeaning to the other person.
In Japan, you always use both hands to hand yours out, and you also receive someone else’s card with both hands. The name on your card should face toward them when handing it over, so they can read it easily, instead of seeing it upside down.
In Korea, you hand your card over with one hand, but put your other hand on the elbow to be polite. You will see the same thing when Korean people pour a beer.
After you receive a business card, don’t just stuff it in your pocket. Place it nicely on the conference table if you are in a formal meeting. Place them in the order of the people sitting across from your table.
In Japan, we go a step further and place the card of the highest-ranking person on top of our business card holder, as if it is a futon cushion for his/her business card.
These simple gestures differ from casual American interaction, but they are seen as an act of respecting your business peer. So why not make the extra effort if it leaves a lasting, positive impression on a potential business partner or client?